A Thriving Business School- YMCA School of Commerce (1941)



The photo above shows a large portion of the 200 students who were members of the 1941 class enrolled in the YMCA School of Commerce. Located in New Orleans since 1928, the school served as an important link in the training of people of color in the areas of Accounting, Bookkeeping, Typing, Speed Writing, Office Management, General College Preparatory, and Business Administration courses. This school provided the necessary training so desperately needed by blacks who were seeking employment.

 Ad placed in St. Mary’s Academy yearbook- 1947

YMCA-School of Commerce Ad- 1947- St. Mary's Yearbook p.69


Before the YMCA established the program, thousands of blacks could not afford financially to enroll in such programs or, in many cases, were barred racially from doing so.

 All four housing projects in the city employed “Y’ graduates in key clerical positions. As a result, the students shown below were trained at the YMCA School of Commerce on Dryades Street. By 1941, they were employed at the Magnolia, Calliope and Lafitte housing projects, and at the main office of the New Orleans Housing Authority (N.O.H.A.) on Carondelet Street.

 Employees of the N.O. Housing Authority

YMCA- HUD Employees  Left to right:  Daniska DuConge, Adrienne Dauphine, Grace Nelson, Myrtle Green, Olga Lavizzo Thornhill, Dolores Sykes, Virla Barnes, Grace Andry

The founders of the Dryades Street YMCA School of Commerce were leading educators who were closely associated with Straight College (now Dillard University) and Spaulding College. Some of those associated with the school as students or educators were Dr. Andrew Young, Sr. and his son Former Mayor of Atlanta, Ambassador Andrew Young; Councilman James Singleton, Mayor Ernest Morial, Mayor Sidney J. Bartholomew, C.C. Dejoie, founder and Former President of The Louisiana Weekly Publishing Company and Unity Industrial Life Insurance Company.

Graduates received employment throughout the various local business establishments as well as various public schools in the city.  An average of three “Y” students per week had been sent during the first quarter of 1942 to Washington to fill government jobs.

During the sixties, the school expanded its programs to provide services to black war veterans who sought additional training before re-entering the private sector after World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict.

In the 1941 photo shown below, lovely young ladies who were students of the YMCA School of Commerce participated in “Homecoming” activities. It was held at the Rhythm Club on the last Friday in September of that year.


YMCA School of Commerce- 1941 Homecoming Queen + Court

Left to right (seated): Selma LaCour, Rita Dwight, Geraldine Moret, Mildred Populas, Fannie Hudson and Elizabeth Dixon.

Left to right (standing): Lynn Jackson, Mittie Abadie, Mrs. Edna Decoudreaux (queen), Gloria Evans and Ruth Bartholomew.

Sources:  Photos: The Louisiana Weekly, 24 May 1941 p.6; 01 November 1941 p.4;  The Sepia Socialite (The Negro in Louisiana-78 Years of Progress) p.157; Maris Stella (Yearbook of St. Mary’s Academy) 1947; http://dryadesymcaschoolofcommerce.com

Lolita V. Cherrie






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