Dillard University, which has its roots in Reconstruction, has outlasted segregation, discrimination and Hurricane Katrina.
The university was created in 1930 from two historically black colleges – Straight University and Union Normal School – later named New Orleans University.
The two schools were both created in 1868 to educate newly freed African Americans. The schools offered professional training, including in law, medicine and nursing. New Orleans University opened the Flint-Goodridge Hospital on Louisiana Avenue that predominantly served the city’s African-Americans until it closed in 1983.
The two schools were combined into Dillard in 1930 because of economic pressures. The new school was named after James Hardy Dillard, a board member, because of his support of African American education. The school built a new campus in Gentilly over the opposition of the neighborhood. The first president of the university, Will W. Alexander, was a white man because there were concerns that a white faculty wouldn’t want to answer to a black president. When Dillard opened its new campus in 1935, it featured prominent faculty including Horace Mann Bond in psychology and education; Frederick Douglass Hall in music; Lawrence D. Reddick in history; and St. Clair Drake in sociology and anthropology.
The campus, near one of the Katrina levee breaks on the London Canal, suffered $400 million in damages, but has come back with new state-of-the-art facilities.