The Fillmore Boys School

The Fillmore Boys School:

Overview

Fillmore School in the 1900s

The Fillmore School ca. 1900s. (renamed as McDonogh No. 16 in 1884.) Courtesy of the New Orleans Public Library.

The Fillmore Boys School was one of the desegregated schools in Reconstruction New Orleans. It was located on Pauger St. between Marais and St. Claude Ave (around 1812 Pauger St.), in the New Marigny neighborhood, one of the predominantly and historically Creole neighborhoods in downriver New Orleans.  The school was officially categorized as a grammar A school that consists both grammar and primary level classes. Grammar A schools were gateways to high schools. In each year of Reconstruction, the Fillmore School recorded some students who passed the high school entrance exams. The Fillmore School was desegregated in 1871.

The School Register:

The Fillmore Boys School’s 1877 register is part of the Orleans Parish School Board Collection of the Earl K. Long Library Special Collections at the University of New Orleans. This record is the city’s oldest individual school record remaining from the 1870s. The register contains a The School Registerstudent admission list that shows students’ name, age, birthplace, address, admission date, parent’s name and occupation. The register contains 658 student data entries. However the school principal reported the number of actual attendance was 484 during the 1877-1878 school year.

Fillmore School

The Fillmore School Register, Orleans Parish School Board Collection (MSS 147), Louisiana and Special Collections Department, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans.

Many New Orleans Reconstruction school records do not have any racial information. Likewise, the Fillmore School admission list does not contain students’ racial information. However, some students were recorded as “transferred to colored school” in the list. It was due to the resegregation decision made by the school board in July in the same year. The Fillmore School was a white school again in 1877. The list poses some very interesting question. Why are there students of African descent in the 1877 admission list?  

While white students varies from the children of French, German, Irish to Italian descents, most of the ‘non-white’ students were children of Creoles of color. The Fillmore Boys School demonstrates the strong commitment to integration among them. From 1877 to 1879, the Fillmore Boys School served as a legal battleground for the three parents of Creoles of color who insisted upon the unconstitutionality of school resegregation. The list also shows the complex racial identities and characteristics among Creoles of color as some of them are not noted as “transferred to colored school.”

All in all, the Fillmore School list offers an insight into desegregation and anti-segregation experiences among Creoles of color at the end of Reconstruction at a granular level.

 

The Fillmore School after 1878

McDonogh No.16

The Fillmore School continued to be designated as a white school and it became a school for both boys and girls in 1880. In 1884, the school was supported by the McDonogh Fund, the educational fund established by the will of John McDonogh, and renamed McDonogh No. 16 School in 1884. In 1908, the city school board bought lots adjacent to the original school site and remodeled the school building. Without the original building or name, the Fillmore School and its desegregation struggle was forgotten.

The Civil Rights Movement

After the Brown v. Board of Education and Bush v. Orleans Parish School Board court cases, the McDonogh No. 16 School once again admitted black children in 1962 onward. The enrollment of black students steadily increased while concurrently, the number of white students decreased. In fewer than five years, McDonogh No. 16 became a majority black school.
The McDonogh No. 16 School closed on October 27, 1978 due to decreased enrollment and the financial crisis of the school system. For a time, the school building was used for adult education. In 2005, the school building was closed due to the destruction brought by Hurricane Katrina. In 2011, the school board sold the lot and the building is currently being remodeled as a condominium.

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The McDonogh No. 16 school building (June 2014, photo taken by author)