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The Earl History of the Orleans Parish School Board

1841 School Board Minutes

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection The Orleans Parish School Board Collection at the Earl K. Long Library holds the minutes of virtually every official school board meeting from 1841 until 1996. In this 1841 meeting, the school board voted to rent its first school room on Julia Street between Tchoupitoulas and Magazine, for a cost of $25 a month, and to acquire books and sample desks for future consideration and purchase.

1841 School Board Minutes

Act 20 of the February 1841 Legislature (English)

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection Act 20 of the Louisiana Legislature in February 1841 provided for funds "To authorize the municipalities of the City of New Orleans to establish public schools therein."

Act 20 of the Feb 1841 Legislature in English

Act 20 of the February 1841 Legislature (French)

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection Act 20 of the Louisiana Legislature in February 1841 provided for funds "To authorize the municipalities of the City of New Orleans to establish public schools therein."

Act 20 of the February 1841 Legislature (French)

Franklin School, a Second Municipality school for girls.

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection While public school systems were already in existence in the north (particularly in the New England states), New Orleans was one of the first cities in the South to adopt a major public school system. The Second Municipality (what is today downtown New Orleans and the Garden District) opened its school doors on January 3, 1842, and the First Municipality (the French Quarter and Farbourg Marigny) followed suit shortly thereafter. A male teacher in 1841 was paid approximately $1,500 a year; a female teacher received $800.

Franklin School, a Second Municipality school for girls

John McDonogh

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection In 1850, the will of eccentric millionaire and slaveholder John McDonogh promised half of his huge estate for the education of white and free black youth in New Orleans (the other half went to the city of Baltimore for similar purposes.) The interest and investments of his gift became known as the McDonogh Fund, used for the construction of new buildings and maintenance. However, it wasn't until the Reconstruction period that public officials began to honor his bequest for the education of black youth.

John McDonogh

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection For decades, New Orleans public school students were familiar with the annual ritual of "McDonogh Day" (which would later become known as "Founder's Day"), an homage to John McDonogh for his contributions to their education. The ceremony was originally held at his gravesite until the late 1800s, but after his remains were moved to his native home of Baltimore, a monument was constructed in Lafayette Square, where the celebration continued to be held every year in May.

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection For decades, New Orleans public school students participated in the annual ritual of "McDonogh Day" (which would later become known as "Founder's Day"), an homage to John McDonogh for his contributions to their education. The ceremony was originally held at his gravesite until the late 1800s, but after his remains were moved to his native home of Baltimore, a monument was constructed in Lafayette Square. There the schoolchildren paid tribute to McDonogh every May until 1958, when a new McDonogh Monument was placed in Duncan Plaza, and the celebration moved there.

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection For decades, New Orleans public school students participated in the annual ritual of "McDonogh Day" (which would later become known as "Founder's Day"), an homage to John McDonogh for his contributions to their education. The ceremony was originally held at his gravesite until the late 1800s, but after his remains were moved to his native home of Baltimore, a monument was constructed in Lafayette Square. There the schoolchildren paid tribute to McDonogh every May until 1958, when a new McDonogh Monument was placed in Duncan Plaza, and the celebration moved there.

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square, with protesters.

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection In the 1950s McDonogh's status as a slaveholder became a source of controversy despite his later philanthropy, fueled by the continued segregation of the school system and the ceremonies. In the 1970s the celebration was expanded to honor all those who have ever helped New Orleans Public Schools. In the 1980s-1990s a growing number of schools voted to change their names from the numbered "McDonogh" monnikers, some even going so far as to remove his name from the building facades. Protesters in the picture below can be observed carrying signs that read: "McDonogh was a racist".

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square, with protesters.

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square, with protesters.

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection In the 1950s McDonogh's status as a slaveholder became a source of controversy despite his later philanthropy, fueled by the continued segregation of the school system and the ceremonies. In the 1970s the celebration was expanded to honor all those who have ever helped New Orleans Public Schools. In the 1980s-1990s a growing number of schools voted to change their names from the numbered "McDonogh" monnikers, some even going so far as to remove his name from the building facades. Protesters in the picture below can be observed carrying signs that read: "McDonogh was a racist".

Founder's Day at Lafayette Square, with protesters.

New Orleans Public Schools

In the Orleans Parish School Board Collection To learn more about the history of UNO, visit the Louisiana & Special Collections Department in the Earl K. Long Library, where you can browse our finding aids, read through the Orleans Parish Schoolboard minutes, and explore a wealth of other historical resources related to the history of Orleans Parish schools.

New Orleans Public Schools