Southern is the largest historically black university in the world. The school was established in New Orleans as an agricultural and mechanical school in 1879 during the post-Reconstruction period. Although it offered courses in the liberal arts, it was primarily viewed as a place where African Americans could learn a trade and thereby improve themselves.
Years later, university president J. S. Clark, members of the Louisiana Colored Teachers Association, and rural African American citizens petitioned the governor for a new campus to meet the needs of rural blacks. Southern was reorganized and moved in 1914 to Baton Rouge, where, under the leadership of J. S. Clark, and later his son F. G. Clark, it expanded its course offerings and emerged as a true center of learning. Many of the buildings date to the 1920s and 1930s, a formative time in the university’s history.
Today, the school encompasses three campuses, with more than 16,000 students and an international reputation. The legendary 170-piece Jaguar Marching Band is considered one of the best in the nation. The Southern University Archives Building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Southern University Museum of Art
Over the years, Southern has quietly put together one of the most impressive collections of African and African American art in the Deep South. Many of the pieces have come from the private collections of school administrators and alumni who had an interest in preserving this unique artistic legacy. Rotating and permanent exhibits highlight the traditions of African artisans alongside better-known African American artists and sculptors.
Listen to Voices from the Trail with storyteller Louis Gossett, Jr.