Keeping a Legacy Alive

Article excerpt

Ronald Roach's article, "A Rich, but Disappearing Legacy" (see Black Issues, Aug. 14), brought much needed attention to the historical significance of Black boarding schools. Gilbert Academy, which was located here in New Orleans, appeared on a partial listing of closed historically Black boarding schools.

The academy was named after William L. Gilbert, a wealthy Connecticut businessman/philanthropist, who contributed approximately $50,000 and a $40,000 endowment to the enterprise. It initially served as an orphanage for the children of deceased slaves, who had fought for the Union during the Civil War.

Gilbert Academy operated under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church between 1865 and 1949. In 1919, it officially became part of New Orleans University. Eleven years later, in 1930, New Orleans University merged with Straight College to form Dillard University, and Gilbert Academy inherited the St. Charles Avenue facility. Gilbert Academy later became the first standard four-year high school for Blacks to be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, a Dillard University trustee emeritus; noted writer, the late Tom Dent, author of the critically acclaimed 1996 civil rights movement retrospective, Southern Journey; jazz pianist and Dillard alumnus Ellis Marsalis, father of Grammy and Pulitzer prize-winning trumpeter Wynton Marsalis; and Mickey Patterson, a track star and the first Black woman to win an Olympic medal, all graduated from Gilbert Academy. Dent was the eldest son of former Dillard University president, the late Dr. …