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Straight University

New Orleans, Louisiana



Dillard University, the successor to Straight, has placed digital copies of some catalogues, student newspapers, and the 1931 yearbook on Internet Archive.  A sketch of Straight University also appeared in Era of Progress and Promise--including the eighth-grade photo at right.

1901 graduating class from Straight University. accessed 1-21-2017 <>)


Straight University was founded in 1869 by the American Missionary Association of New York for the “education and training upon Christian principles of young men and women.” It was named for cheese manufacturer Seymour Straight, who endowed the school.  Supported by the Congregational Church, Straight University was nondenominational but distinctly Christian.  According to its president, the Bible was used as a textbook in every class.


One of the oldest schools for Blacks in Louisiana, it had a primary-grammar school level, a college prep level, a teacher training level as well as schools of music, law, theology, and medicine.  Black New Orleans, 1860-1880 believes that between 1870 and 1877 “Straight probably had one of the strongest medical departments in the state.” Early on, the university had a listed enrollment of more than a thousand—seven hundred at primary level.  In 1884 the law school was dropped, and the Daniel Hand School for primary students was scaled back.  Era of Progress and Promise shows an enrollment of around 700 in 1910. 



The 1931 Crimson Tide shows a much smaller operation. The designation “university” had been dropped along with the professional schools and the elementary programs.  College enrollment was just under 100, high school enrollment was somewhat less, and the junior high had around 50 students.  There were also 12 commercial students and a night school class. 


At that time Straight had chapters of both the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., a student council and various vocal musical groups.  Students published a newspaper and the yearbook.


In 1930 Straight College and New Orleans University were merged to help create a major black university in New Orleans.  This merger was actually completed in 1934.

Bricks and Mortar

The first building for Straight University was constructed by the government in 1870.  A fire in 1877 destroyed this building.  The new campus was located on Canal Street in the “most healthful portion of the city.”  The Administration Building (1878) and the two dormitories—Whitin Hall (1883) and Stone Hall (1881)—occupied an entire block between Tonti and Rocheblave Streets.  The Thomy Lafon Industrial Trades Building was built with student labor to house the facilities for instruction in carpentry, printing, blacksmith and electrical work.


After the merger, the buildings of Straight University became a high school for black students.  At a later point, the buildings were razed to make way for the Pan American Life Insurance Building.


Administration Building (Era of Progress and Promise . accessed 1-21-2017)<>)


      Team name: Crimson

      Colors: Crimson


The Dr. Roger B. Saylor Football Records Collection credits Straight with playing the first recorded football game for a black college in the South, a 6-0 loss to Tuskeegee in 1908.  But as Saylor noted, Black football results are “woefully incomplete.”  By his count Straight complied a 19-14-7 record before the merger in 1934.  Extant records show that Straight played Louisiana State Normal College (Now Southern University) eleven times.  Tougaloo College and Alcorn College were also on the schedule numerous times. 


The 1931 yearbook shows a 2-1-1 football record.  The school also fielded basketball and track teams.  All sports seemed to be on a limited basis.  The Crimson Courier complained that the three Black New Orleans schools--Straight, New Orleans and Xavier-- seldom scheduled more than two games at a time so that the team often practiced for weeks without knowing when the next game was to be played.

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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