Images of the Month
September 1997


Sept embe r means back to school for students of all ages, kindergarten to grad school. This month, as Summer draws to an end and the school doors reopen, NUTRIAS honors our educators--the teachers of New Orleans, who have the most important, perhaps the toughest, and often the most rewarding job in the world. They are, and have always been, the shapers of the city's future.

We salute them, heroes all!


The New Orleans Normal School was established by the state legislature in 1858 and opened with an initial enrollment of twenty-six "young ladies." It continued (with a few interruptions) to educate the white elementary school teachers of New Orleans for the next 82 years until the school closed in 1940. A normal school for African-American teachers was established in 1870. [Official Vertical File]

An invitation to a lecture on "The Successful Teacher" delivered at the Normal School by Professor Edwin Boone Craighead. The exact date of this lecture is unknown, but it was surely delievered between 1904 and 1912, when Dr. Craighead served as President of Tulane University. Dr. Craighead was a native of Missouri. After leaving Tulane, he became President of the University of Montana at Missoula and, later, Commissioner of Education for North Dakota. He died in 1920. [Rare Vertical File]

Warren Easton was Superintendent of the New Orleans Public Schools from 1888 until his death in 1910. A Crescent City native, Easton graduated from the University of Louisiana (Tulane's predecessor) and served as principal of various public schools and as State Superintendent of Education before heading the New Orleans public education system. During his twenty-two years on the job, the teaching force in the city increased from 414 to 1122 and the number of public schools jumped from 51 to 87. [New Orleans Public Schools. Annual Report, 1910]

Valena Cecelia MacArthur Jones was born in Bay St. Louis Mississippi in 1872 and graduated from Straight College in New Orleans in 1892. She taught in the "colored" schools of the integrated New Orleans School system from 1897 to 1901. During that time she was voted the most popular African-American teacher in the city. Although she left teaching after her marriage, she remained interested in educational and religious activities. After her death in 1917, a public school was named in her honor, and in 1923, the normal school for African American teachers was renamed the Valena C. Jones Normal School. [Louisiana Photograph Collection]

Above, a young teacher leads second graders in gymnastics at the Daneel School, corner Nashville and Annunciation, June 1917. The teacher is unidentified, but her name must be included in the list of Daneel faculty in the 1916-1917 directory of New Orleand public school teachers, shown at left. [New Orleans Public Schools, Annual Report, 1917]

Colonel George Soule was the founder (in 1856) of Soule Commercial College and Literary Institute, one of the oldest private business schools in the South. Soule also lectured and wrote widely on educational and social questions, and a number of his textbooks on arithmetic, mathematics, and "practical business" subjects were used thoughout the country. Instructors in Soule's "Commercial Course" taught double-entry bookkeeping, penmanship and billing, practical arithmetic (including shortcuts), business correspondence, spelling, commercial law, practical office work, and touch typewriting. [Rare Vertical File]

During the late 1930s and into the 1940s, the Works Progress Administration Nursery School Project provided care for pre-schoolers from families of marginal income. This photograph was taken on January 4, 1937 at the WPA Day Nursery housed at Kingsley House. A 1938 Times-Picayune artical described a typical day at another WPA-run preschoolat McDonogh 15 School. There, two teachers and two assistants cared for 25 children, their chief aim being "to keep the children well nourished and train them in good social habits." [WPA Photograph Collection]

Census data indicated that one of every eight Louisianians was illiterate in 1930. The WPA conducted adult education and literacy courses throughout the state, offering a second chance at an education to thousands of older students and employing hundreds of out-of-work teachers. This class was taught by Emma L. Brown at 1116 St. Thomas Street in New Orleans in September, 1936. Ms. Brown, who is listed as a school teacher in the 1938 City Directory, lived at that same address. [WPA Photograph Collection]

In 1937, these young men from Fortier High School won first place for "dramatic interpretation (serious)--A Division" at the State High School Rally held at LSU. Shown with them at center is their coach, Wilma Lilburn, who taught speech and drama at Fortier for 26 years. Like many teachers of her day, Miss Lilburn was a graduate of the New Orleans Normal School. She had an additional degree from Tulane University and also studied at LSU and the University of Chicago. Before taking her post at Fortier, she taught at Colton, Gayarre, and Edward Douglas White Schools. Miss Lilburn died in 1957. [Alcee Fortier High School Scrapbook Collection]

The man with the glasses at the upper right is R.H. "Doc" Erskine, who taught physics and coached basketball, football, and track at Jesuit High School in the 1930s. The 1932 Blue Jay, Jesuit's yearbook, saluted athletic staff thus: "It is very appropriate to mention and commend the work of our athletic coaches, who have always set a glowing example of sportsmanship, as much when defeat loomed dark and dreary--which was seldome--as when the coveted crown of victory encircled the brow of their proteges." [Jesuit High School, Blue Jay, 1932]

Proud students and teachers from the New Orleans Public Schools join Mayor Ernest N. Morial and Marlin Gusman (CAO in the administration of the second Mayor Morial) at the unveiling of a mural painted by students of Etienne de Bore, Fisk-Hammond, Charles E. Gayarre, McDonogh 15, and Robert E. Lee Elementary Schools. The mural was painted for "Rain," the official pavilion of the City of New Orleans at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. [Ernest N.Morial Records]

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