Coleman College

Gibsland, Louisiana

1890-1937(?)

E-Travel

The web article “Memories of Coleman College” by Mary K. Hamner summarizes research on the school by Ms. Freddie Blow.  Negro Education, a bulletin by the Federal Bureau of Education, profiled Coleman College in both 1916 and 1928.   The John F. Slater Fund: Proceedings and Reports gave attendance, personnel, and financial reports for 1919, 1922 and 1929.  Building photos appear in History of Louisiana Negro Baptists: from 1804 to 1914 by William Hicks.  The image of O.L. Coleman (right) is from Evidences of Progress Among Colored People by G.F. Richings. 

History

Oliver L. Coleman began the education of Blacks in the Palestine Baptist Church at Gibsland in 1887, beginning with eight students in grades 1-8.  Coleman College, called “the first black institution of higher learning in North Louisiana,” opened in 1890.   It drew support from local Baptist churches, but ultimately much of the funding came from the American Baptist Home Missions Societies of Chicago, Boston, and New York.

 

By 1916 Negro Education lists enrollment as 274—42 secondary, the rest in elementary—taught by 12 teachers.  Coleman had a traditional college prep curriculum:  four years each of English, mathematics and bible study; three years each of Latin and history; two years of physics; and one year each of education, psychology, physiology.   Ms. Blow adds music and chemistry to that list.  Coleman trained teachers, using the elementary school for practice teaching.  

 

The Slater Fund report shows 323 students in 1919. Eighty-seven of these were high school students.  And though Negro Education states that college-level work did not begin until 1926, 11 students were listed as doing so in 1919.  By 1922 overall enrollment had dropped to 307—including four college students.  A major fire in 1926 and the death of Mr. Coleman in 1927 greatly hampered the school. The Slater Fund report shows only 153 students in 1929.  Negro Education gives an even lower number of 75—in adition to two college students and three theology students.

 

Negro Education states that students had a general literary society, a music lovers club, the Coleman College Choir, a glee club, and several quartets. 

 

Coleman College served as an education center for Blacks in Northwest Louisiana.  In 1919 newspapers reported that it was host for a summer normal school to help Negro teachers obtain a license.

 

Dates of closure are vague.  Hamner states,“During this time period [1934-37]Coleman College moved to Shreveport and operated there for about 10 years as a bible college.”  "Gibsland, Louisiana-Revolvy" gives 1944 as the closing date at Gibsland. 

A group of Coleman College students of various ages.  Image from the 1907 Baptist Home Mission Monthly (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89077054815;view=1up;seq=68)  accessed 12-12-2017

Bricks and Mortar

C.R. Moore gave Coleman College a 90-acre parcel of land, including a 10-acre campus site.  Hicks describes the Gibsland campus thus: “The ridge on which sits two three-story brick buildings; one two and a half story brick building; and two two-story frame buildings, is nearly a complete horse shoe made by the hand of nature’s God.”  The first permanent building—the Administration Building--was built of bricks, fired on the spot in 1908.   Reynolds Hall, the girls’ dormitory, and a boys’ dormitory were soon added.  By 1914 the three brick buildings had been joined by five more frame buildings.  

 

The Administration building burned on April 8, 1926.  Other buildings began to suffer from lack of maintenance.  In 1929 Negro Education describes the dormitories as “firetraps.”

 

After the school moved to Shreveport, the site was purchased by the Bienville School District.

A view of the Administration Building shortly after it was built.  Image from Era of Progress and Promise.  (http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll37/id/4282)  accessed 12-12-2017

Sports

      Team name: Bulldogs

 

Negro Education notes that Coleman had a large playground so that most students enjoyed “recreational games.”  There was a student athletic association but no conference affiliation.  College Football Data Warehouse shows games in 1929 and 1930, but I can’t find confirmation.  “History of Coleman” notes that the chief athletic rival was Grambling College.  

 

 

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