Southern University and the Pursuit of Black Excellence

A Look Inside the Only Historically Black University System in America

Edwin Buggage
Editor

Southern University’s has more than 130 years of Excellence in Higher Education. From its beginning to the present day it is at the forefront of educational institutions in the State of Louisiana, their faculty, students, and alumni have positively impacted society at every level.

It continues to produce graduates that are leaders in many fields of endeavor and lighting the road to freedom, justice and equality.

Southern University and A&M College System also holds the distinction as being the only Historically Black University System in America.

When accounting for all the five campuses throughout Louisiana that includes, Southern University, Baton Rouge; Southern University, New Orleans; Southern University Law Center; Southern University, Shreveport; and the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, total enrollment exceeds more than 15,000 students coming from 46 states and from at least 40 foreign countries.

Southern University A&M (Baton Rouge) The Early Years and the Continuing the Spirit of Black Excellence

What began as a dream more than 136 years ago is today a living legacy of determination, commitment, and success. The Southern University and A&M College System is the only Historically Black University System in the United States.

Southern University and A&M College (often referred to as Southern University, Southern, SUBR or SU) is a public Historically Black College University (HBCU) in the Scotlandville area of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The campus encompasses 512 acres, with an agricultural experimental station on an additional 372-acre site, five miles north of the main campus.

The university is the largest HBCU in Louisiana. The history of Southern University is one steeped in a race of people striving for equality and a chance to live with human dignity, full equality and access to opportunities that an education would afford them after the end of the Civil War during the Reconstruction Period. This tradition continues to this day.

An example of this living spirit is Bill Tucker, who serves as a member of the Southern University System Foundation, Board of Directors where he chairs its Investment Committee. He is a member of the University Club, a charter member of the 1880 Society, and a life member of the Southern University Alumni Federation.

In addition, he is a graduate of Southern University who is a venture capitalist who believes the early investment in his potential at an HBCU planted the seeds to him being successful. Being raised by his mother after the untimely death of his father before his third birthday. Today he invests his time and resources to help young people get a quality education.

“HBCU’s continue to be important and if it were not for Southern University providing me with the opportunity for an education, I don’t know what my life would have been like. Today kids have many more opportunities and access to education, but there are still those who are like Bill Tucker who arrived at Southern in 1969 looking for an opportunity for a better life and Southern provided that for me with a supportive staff, faculty and administration.”

Freedom and a Matter of Color: A History of Southern University Law Center (Baton Rouge)

On December 16, 1946, in response to a lawsuit by an African-American resident seeking to attend law school at a state institution, the Louisiana State Board of Education took “positive steps to establish a Law School for Negroes at Southern University to be in operation for the 1947-1948 session.”

Plans for the law school were approved by the State Board of Education at its January 10, 1947, meeting. On June 14, 1947, the Board of Liquidation of State Debt appropriated $40,000 for the operation of the school. The Southern University Law School was officially opened in September 1947 to provide legal education for African-American students.

Southern University Law Center graduates, beginning with the Legendary Civil Rights Attorney, Political Leader, and Educator Jesse N. Stone, Jr., Alvin Basile Jones, Leroy White, Ellyson Fredrick Dyson, and Alex Louis Pitcher of the Class of 1950, have spread across the state and nation as trailblazers in the legal profession, securing equal rights for others. To date, the Law Center has more than 2,500 graduates and has one of the nation’s most racially diverse law schools’ background.

The mission and tradition of the Law Center continues to provide access and opportunity to a diverse group of students from under-represented racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups to obtain a high-quality legal education with special emphasis on the Louisiana Civil Law. Additionally, their mission is to train a cadre of lawyers equipped with the skills necessary for the practice of law and for positions of leadership in society.

Expanding its Vison and Mission: SU Agricultural Research and Extension Center (Baton Rouge)

Founded in 2001 in Baton Rouge, Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center’s, mission is to conduct basic and applied research, disseminate information to Louisiana residents and to help them address their scientific, technical, social, economic and cultural needs.

The Ag Center encompasses the Southwest Center for Rural Initiatives, the Center for Small Farm Research, the Cooperative Extension Program, the SU Livestock Show and its state-of-the-art arena, and a 385-acre Agricultural Research Facility.

Giving Educational Opportunities to All: SUSLA (Shreveport) Boasts Being the only HBCU in Louisiana

Founded in Shreveport in 1964 SUSLA is an institute which it’s mission ranges from community workforce training or preparing students for four-year schools. With its diverse approach to preparing and educating its students to leading the way to educational and professional success. Southern University at Shreveport in its over 50 years is committed to ensuring they leave an indelible footprint in our community and beyond.

It also holds the distinction as the only HBCU Comprehensive Community College in Louisiana, SUSLA serves an ever-growing population of full-time and part-time students. At SUSLA, they offer a high-quality education and opportunities for our students which in turn contributes to the vibrancy of our local, state, national and global economic community.

SUNO Continuing to Build Bridges of Opportunity

SUNO has been a jewel to the New Orleans Community educating and producing city leaders in many fields of endeavor. Located on a 17-acre site located in Historic Pontchartrain Park, a sub-division of primarily African-American single-family residences in Eastern New Orleans.

Wesley Bishop knows this campus well, once as a student where he was Student Body President and today where he serves as Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs; a post he has held for over two-decades.

Speaking of the history and importance of Southern University at New Orleans he says, “As the only Public, Historically Black College/University (HBCU) in the City of New Orleans, Southern University at New Orleans provides an awesome education in a small-class, nurturing environment. While it’s primary focus is to provide access to traditional students in the New Orleans Metropolitan Area, it has long educated non-traditional, working adults.”

SUNO continues to be important to New Orleans in so many ways explain Bishop, “Simply put, if there weren’t an institution like SUNO, we would need to build one today. It provides quality educational opportunities to both traditional college aged students and recently that the majority of African- Americans who have bachelor’s degrees in New Orleans earned their degrees at SUNO. Think about it – your teachers and superintendents, business people, police officers and chiefs, first responders, social workers, college chancellors, lawyers, judges and law school deans – all got their start at 6400 Press Drive.

HBCU’s and the Pursuit of Black Excellence

HBCU’s are beacons of light that lead to the road of freedom, justice and equality for African-Americans. They are sacred institutions that must be preserved.

HBCU’s continue to shape the pursuit of Black Excellence. A fact not lost on Bishop, “My experience as a student at Southern University at New Orleans embodied me with the belief that nothing was beyond my grasp and that all dreams could be achieved. It shaped my belief in Black Excellence by exposing me to HBCU faculty and graduates who had excelled in every field of endeavor. That experience let me know that it was possible for me to succeed as well and now I am passing that on to the next generation of students.”

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