Black History Month: Formerly all-Black high schools have stories to share
McKinley High School is listed as a national historic landmark as the first high school for African Americans in the state, but it certainly was not the only school for Black students.
Of the dozens of Black schools in all 64 parishes across the state, many people remember those schools and the stories behind them, and T.A. Levy High School in Rosedale was one of those schools.
“I graduated from Thomas A. Levy and two of my brothers. Maxine Crump did as well,” Thomas Levy.
The school bears Levy's family name and that of his grandfather, Reverend-Doctor Thomas A. Levy.
“He was in administration at the Leland College,” Levy said. “He was minister at quite a few churches in Maringouin and Rosedale. He was a big man about educating other people... In Maringouin, there was no place for school children to go to. So they went to church for school. Church had school classes there."
Levy, who walked from Rosedale to Baton Rouge to attend McKinley High School, helped facilitate the first Black, consolidated school in Iberville Parish.
Back in 1924, Levy bought the land on which to build the school, and they eventually named it after him.
Over in the northeast part of East Baton Rouge Parish is another school now known as the Northeast High School Vikings, formerly the Chaneyville High School Dragons.
“I was fortunate enough to have gone to Chaneyville, who turned into northeast and played on that same football field that was named for me,” said Doug Williams, graduate of Chaneyville High School and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. “Chaneyville High School is going to always be dear to me, because that's where I grew up."
First started in the late 1800s on the site of a church, Black families in the area donated $25 each to build the original one-room facility that would later be Chaneyville High School.
Williams, who was the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl, was part of the first classes integrating Chaneyville High in 1970.
“During my high school career as a football player, I only played with two white kids on my whole football team after integration. Because everyone else went to Central Private School or they went to Silliman Private School to keep from going to Chaneyville,” Williams explained.
With the school's new name, Northeast High School, Williams returned as a coach in 1993 with more history-making moments.
“Peyton Manning played his last high school football game on Northeast High School field. We beat Peyton Manning back in 1993,” Williams said.
Whether it's big wins on the field or a big push for equality in education, schools like T.A. Levy and Chaneyville pushed their students to greatness and to make their place in history.
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