Wednesday, March 13, 2013

University of New Orleans Honors First African-American Students

Fifty-five years after the University of New Orleans became the South's first university to open as a fully integrated institution, the University's first African-American students are returning to campus to be honored.

"55th for the 55" will be an all-day affair that includes a welcome session, luncheon and president's reception for the honorees and their families at the University Center. A commemorative reunion ceremony and panel discussion will be held from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, 2013 in the University Center Ballroom. Student leaders and the media will subsequently meet with the honorees from 2 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. The event, which is sponsored by the UNO Diversity Cabinet, is free and open to the public.

A photo exhibition designed to bring awareness to the event will hang from Tuesday, March 12 to Tuesday, March 19 in the University Center Lobby.

The University opened in September 1958, four years after the Supreme Court struck down "separate, but equal" in the landmark case Brown vs. the Board of Education. Civil rights activists led by Alfred P. Tureaud, an attorney for the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP during the civil rights movement, and Ernest V. "Dutch" Morial, who later became a two-term New Orleans mayor, brought suit in federal court to allow black students to attend the new university, known as the Louisiana State University New Orleans, or LSUNO.

Fifty-five African-American students registered and attended University that year. Today, the University of New Orleans is ranked the most ethnically diverse public university in the state, according to a U.S. News and World Report diversity index, and university leaders welcome back to campus some of the men and women whose attendance at LSUNO ensured that UNO would open as an integrated university.

UNO alumnus and Professor Emeritus of History Raphael Cassimere, who entered LSUNO as a student in 1959 and played a central role in the civil rights movement in New Orleans, will lead Tuesday's recognition ceremony and panel discussion with the first African-American students at UNO, who will share their stories.

Do you know any of the original 55? Email us at