Martinez Nursery School Graduating Class – 1939

Martinez School 1939

Barichere, Michael… Blache, Jr., Louis John… Borris, Melva Dier… Collins, Lorraine Marie… Crusto, Marc Eugene… Diaz, Joan Mary… Dominique, Audrey Mae… Edmonds, Henriette Highland GarnettGreen, Dorothy Mae… Gueno, Ethelyn Ann… Humphrey, Allister Mathieu… Jeffrion, Lorraine Ann… Johnson, Shirley Mae… Jordan, Rose MarieJulian, Wesley Joseph… Martinez, Jr., Maurice Manuel… Montegut, Jr., Ferdinand Joseph… McEwen, Calenthea Lillie… Populus, Warrine Catherine… Saulny, Orianna Rose… Smith, Mandel… Stevens, Carolyn Ann

{Names listed above in alphabetical order. If any of our readers know exactly where students are positioned in this photo, please send us the information through our comment section.}

Pictured above are the twenty-two members of the 4th graduating class of Martinez Nursery School. This event was held in Xavier University’s Stadium on Sunday, May 11, 1939 before an overflow audience composed of adoring parents and friends.

The class valedictorian that year was Maurice Manuel Martinez, Jr. with Melva Dier Borris serving as salutatorian. A presentation of flowers was made by Joan Mary Diaz to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament (founding order of Xavier) in appreciation for the use of their auditorium. In addition to a processional and presentation of diplomas, a beautiful pageant was staged for attending guests. Students involved in the pageant were: Clarence J. Walker, Myra Narcisse, James DeSobry Jr., Barbara Preston, Donald Frank, Peter Willis, Calenthea McEwen and Ferdinand Montegut, Jr.

The Martinez Kindergarten School was founded by Miss Mildred Bernard in 1934 after she was forced to resign her teaching position in the New Orleans Public School System following her marriage to Maurice Martinez, Sr. Having graduated from both McDonogh#35 High and Normal Schools, Miss Mildred had previously taught at Danneel and Valena C. Jones Public Schools.

When the doors opened to the Martinez School for the first time on September 9, 1934, the building was located at 5315 LaSalle Street (Apartment B). It would remain at this location until 1940 when Mildred Bernard Martinez decided to move it to 1763-65 North Roman Street.

By the 1950s the school’s name was changed from Martinez Nursery School to Martinez Kindergarten School. Educating 3-4-5 year olds since 1934, Martinez is said to be the first and only pre- kindergarten school for children of color in Louisiana. Thousands of children throughout the New Orleans area have received their early education from Martinez and often speak of the high academic standards set by Mildred Martinez which started them on the road to academic success.

Mildred Bernard Martinez was honored in June of 1979 for fifty years of dedicated service to education in the New Orleans community. In 1986, she was named one of a hundred “Women at the Forefront” of civic endeavor. Four years later (1990), the mayor and City Council of New Orleans honored her for her work in operating one of the oldest minority businesses in this city.

After a lifetime of educating so many young people, Mrs. Martinez passed away on October 22, 1991 at 85 years of age. A Mass was held at Corpus Christi Catholic Church and her remains were interred in the Martinez family plot in St. Louis #3 Cemetery on Esplanade Avenue.

{The photo shown above is the earliest one found of the Martinez graduating classes. If any of our readers know of any existing photos from the 1936- 1937- 1938 classes, please get in touch with us at .}

For further information read: Martinez School Royal Court- 1952 (posted on CreoleGen 28 October 2012) + 1952 Graduates of Martinez School (posted on CreoleGen 03 November 2012)


Sources: Amistad Research Center, Martinez Kindergarten School Records, 1948-2003; The Louisiana Weekly, 24 June 1939 page 6 + 17 June 1939 page 6; The Times Picayune (obituary section 25 October 1991)

A special thank you to Mr. Numa J.Martinez for sharing the above photos with me and also all his memories of his mom and the school she was determined to make a success in order to provide opportunities for children of color at a time when such opportunities were available to only white children.

Lolita V. Cherrie

11 thoughts on “Martinez Nursery School Graduating Class – 1939

  1. Thank you, Numa and Lolita, for that picture and reminiscence. Each one of your articles brings back many memories. My grandmother – Marceline Bucksell Taylor – designed the costumes for all of those graduation exercises and the pageants that went with them – for decades.

    It is/was an incredible school. I remember graduation gowns all over our house as time for the ceremonies came close. Each graduate had their own cap and gown and there was the part of the ceremony when those tassels were moved from one side to the other with great seriousness.

    I also remember the kings, queens and court coming to our house to try on their outfits with their families. It was a special time for everyone. Most college graduations are not the extravaganza that the Martinez School’s graduations were and the young people involved left with impressions they will never forget.

    It was the only school which taught a ‘foreign’ language to its students at that Nursery/Kindergarten stage of life. And the performances – Mildred Martinez demanded that they be professional and they were. They were not times when little kids looked like clumsy little kids, they looked like professional dancers and actors because that is what was demanded of them.

    I could go on for paragraphs with my memories. Mrs. Martinez was at our house often going over the plans, designs and future graduations. I will send you pictures – I have dozens along with the books which were a part of the graduation. You had a book which had pictures of the graduates, the court and all those in the different pageants along with ads from community businesses which supported the school. Those graduation ‘books’ were not pamphlets they were bound and about an inch thick.

  2. WOW! Thank youi Numa! Thank you too staff of CreoleaGen for yet another eye popping telling of the storied underpinnings of Excellence seeded in Black history of New Orleans. We llived on Derbigny Street. I can remember walking my sisters to Ms. Martinez’s Nursery school on my way to Valena C. Jones on Galvez in the 1950s mornings. Remembered also are the annual fund raising pageant contests and the 4:00 recitation of the Rosary while kneeling on the hard wood floors of the nursery class room.

  3. Thank you forf sharing. To this day I still say the rosary, and I thank Mrs. Martinez for inviting my family every Saturday to recite the rosary. She was a brillant educator!!!! I’m thrilled to have been apart of the very successful community she and her family helped organize!!!!

  4. Thanks for sharing. I still remember going to Martinez in 1944. Transportation was provided. I remember being pickup in a car every day. I remember the sugar cookie we got every day after lunch, and graduating in a cap and gown.It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget.
    Lois Milton Roux

  5. The following students in the above Martinez graduating class of 1939 have been identified: Allison Mathieu Humphrey is on the top row- 8th student from the left. Info sent to us by his niece, Brandy Humphrey Jacobs.
    Calenthea McEwen is standing in the 1st row- 5th student from the left. Info sent by her sister, Patricia Wade Hamilton.
    We also know that Maurice Martinez is 1st row, 6th from the left.
    Melva Dier Borris is 1st row-7th from the left.

  6. I would like to identify two students of the Martinez Graduating Class of 1939. My sister, Ethelyn Ann Gueno Slush, is 2nd row, first student. My first cousin, Warrine Catherine Populus, is 1st row, 10th student from left. They were so elated to see the photo, and shared with me many great memories.

    Lolita, congratulations on the wonderful work you have accomplished at CreoleGen.

  7. Thank you Lolita for a great article on an Afro-Creole institution. And, from those of us who know Numa, we thank him for his collaboration.

  8. The tiny first student on the left in the bottom row is my sister Carolyn Stevens Mohr. Carolyn was born in July, 1935. From Martinez she was placed directly into third grade! at St. Mary’s Acadamy. She graduated from Xavier University in 1954 at the age of 18. At present, Carolyn is a practicing psychiatrist in California.

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