Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) was founded on Sept. 4, 1956

It was a time of change in America as African Americans fought for equal rights during the Civil Rights Movement. In the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional and Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a public bus in 1955 led to a successful 381-day bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama.

In New Orleans, noted civil rights attorney A.P. Tureaud, who worked for the NAACP, had filed lawsuits against teacher pay disparities between Black and White teachers in the city, voting discrimination and the whites-only admissions policy at Louisiana State University’s law school. 

Tureaud led a group of concerned citizens who called for a public institution of higher learning for African-American students in New Orleans. The two historically Black colleges in the city, Xavier University and Dillard University, were private schools. The Louisiana Legislature responded to Tureaud’s group by creating a “branch unit” in New Orleans of Southern University and Agricultural  & Mechanical College in Baton Rouge on Sept. 4, 1956. 

SUNO’s historical sketch notes that the campus was built on a 17-acre site in Pontchartrain Park, a subdivision created for African-American middle and upper-class residents during segregation that was located in the city’s Gentilly neighborhood. 

Southern University at New Orleans opened in 1959 as a public historically Black college in New Orleans. According to SUNO, the school’s inaugural freshmen class had 158 students who took classes in four academic disciplines. At its start, the school operated out of one building and had only 15 faculty members.

Today, SUNO serves more than 2,300 students and offers 23 degree programs.

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New Orleans native Nigell Moses graduated summa cum laude from Xavier University of Louisiana with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication. She is a published contributing writer, with stories in The...