Seated (left to right): Milton Becnel, Elizabeth Moody, Mildred De Sargant, Scott Anderson, Lambert Boissiere, Edwina Boyer, Marie Boyer, Onelia Sayas, Onelia Bazenac
Standing (middle row): George Adams, Andree Lawrence, Wilbur Llado, Ethel Lyons, Elmira Richards, Ida Lawrence, Alice Dungey, Alice Fortune, Dorothy Jolissant, Mildred Fauria, Alphonsine Watts, George Armstrong
Standing (top row): Claudia Gasper, Anna Moore, Hilda Gautier, Wilfred Alexis, Pellam Calhoun, Andrew Haines, Sterling Jacobs, Althea Hart, Olivia Jourdain, Camille Polk, Maxine Cooper.
When McDonogh #35 opened its doors in 1917, it became the first black public high school in the city of New Orleans. In 1900 students of color could only receive an education up to the fifth grade. By 1909, under constant pressure from black community leaders, the school board was forced to add a sixth grade; and a seventh, four years later, in 1913. Finally an eight was added in 1914. As a result, graduates from 8th grade, now had the preliminary requirements needed for a high school education.
It was not until white leaders realized that if society was going to remain segregated, as they so desired, the black community would need its own physicians, teachers, lawyers, and clergymen. As a result, a black high school was needed to begin to train such professionals.
Although McDonogh #35 was the first of its kind, students were not given a new building nor all the equipment and supplies they needed. McDonogh #13, an all white school, was converted for their use and the students attending McDonogh #13 attended a newly built school. In spite of all these obstacles, the students at McDonogh #35 made tremendous progress academically. So much progress that in 1923, the New Orleans School Board voted to suspend the teaching of Spanish, Chemistry, and Physics at the school. This action definitely jeopardized the school’s standings as a college preparatory school. It was only through the protest from the black community that the decision was reversed one year later.
The students pictured above were taught by such outstanding educators as George Carpenter, Charles Rousseve, E. Belfield Spriggins, Louis and Osceola Blanchett, Oralee Baranco, and George Parker. The principal of McDonogh#35 was the legendary Lucien V. Alexis. Through the hard work of these teachers and through their own determination to succeed against all odds, the students of this sophomore class went beyond high school and became well known teachers, principals, and business leaders throughout the New Orleans area.
Sources: The Roneagle – 1931; Crescent City Schools (Devore and Logsdon); Cherrie Family Collection; Mrs. Marie Boyer Brown (pictured above) supplied students’ names.
Lolita V. Cherrie