Category Archives: New Orleans

Anyone knows former McDonogh No.16 students or teachers?

Dear readers,

It has been almost a year since I launched this online project. I have many things I want to add to this project, but time is always limited.

Nonetheless, little by little, I have kept studying more about the history of the Fillmore School. For the past few month, in particular, I have tried to do more research about Fillmore in the mid-twentieth century. One of the interesting things about this school is that it was operated as McDonogh No.16 in the twentieth century. Similar to Fillmore during Reconstruction, McDonogh No.16 accepted African American children for the first time in the 20th century in 1962 as part of the city’s gradual desegregation plan. Yet, the lack of sufficient records make further research difficult.

If at all possible, I would like to meet and interview former McDonogh No.16 students and teachers. I would like to learn their experience of McDonogh No.16. I believe their experiences are important in understanding the long influence of race over public school history in New Orleans. I appreciate any kinds of information about McDonogh No.16 and its students and teachers.




The 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

I am a historian of New Orleans but I have never seen pre-Katrina New Orleans with my own eyes. I assume I am one of the first generation of New Orleans historians that has never experienced the city before the hurricane. And, perhaps my most emotional conundrum in commemorating the 10th anniversary of Katrina is that I would not be studying New Orleans if there had been no Katrina. When the levees broke, I was a college student in Japan learning about racism in America and questioning neoliberalism. Katrina as depicted by the media looked to be an example of what I was hearing during lectures: poverty, racial inequality and urban crisis in America. Yet, New Orleans was not part of my world.

One year and a half had passed when I visited southern Louisiana for the first time in March 2007 as a volunteer worker. It appeared to me that New Orleans was still a city with debris, empty neighborhoods, and poverty, except the French Quarter, of course. But thanks to suggestions from my undergraduate advisor, I learned from books that New Orleans history was indeed full of community power and activism. Whereas massive devastation hurt communities, there was more history for me to salvage and learn to understand New Orleans. Since then, albeit indirect, history has been my means to communicate with New Orleans and its people.


As time passed, I saw fewer and fewer materials labeled as “currently unavailable due to restoration.” I began to see more projects that featured the voices of New Orleanians and their vernacular culture. Outside of the archives, I saw more and more new houses and stores on the streets.  Louis Armstrong Park was reopened. I can now set foot in Congo Square. A lot of things did change. Probably because I am not always there, it is exceptionally spectacular to see changes all at once.


Yet, when I talked to people, things were different. I have heard many stories. Every story is different but there are certain patterns: relocations, economic difficulty, separation of families, charter schools, gentrification, and distrust in government. There are also many individual historical resources that were forever lost to water. Now the only means to recover the history is by listening. A lot of people did indeed raise their voices and these voices reflect the history of New Orleans. But there is always a stark contrast between people who want to leave all the problems in dark water and people who have to live with them.

I never saw New Orleans before Katrina. Yet, as a post-Katrina historian of New Orleans, the hurricane always reinforces my research. The Fillmore/McDonogh No.16 School stopped its operation as an educational facility since Katrina. Activism at the Fillmore School was forgotten and now the physical evidence of Mcdonough No.16 is being forgotten as well. My small project is perhaps my tribute to a long history of community struggle that is still not fully acknowledged and rather covered by multiple layers of forgetfulness.

To New Orleans

It took me about four months to publish my second post. I wish I have a good reason, but I just have been busy!

But I have never forgotten about the Fillmore School project.

In fact, I will present part of this project outcome at the Louisiana Reconstruction Conference at Southern University at New Orleans this weekend.

At our TAAHC workshop today, I had a mock presentation and my Tarheel cohorts gave me great feedback and comments. Their thoughts are so helpful to finalize my paper before I leave for New Orleans.

I will arrive in New Orleans on Friday (and let’s hope the weather in the South will be a bit better by then. Chapel Hill is snowing right now.) I am looking forward to meeting new people, learning about their history and seeking possibilities to expand my research for the future.