Straight Up History is a digital project dedicated to documenting the history of Straight University, one of the first Historically Black Colleges in the state of Louisiana, which later became Dillard University. PRC’s Operation Comeback program is renovating the last remaining structure of the Straight University campus. Read more stories about the history of Straight University here.
In 1869, the American Missionary Association (AMA) and philanthropist Seymour Straight partnered to found Straight University to provide higher education for African Americans after Emancipation. Classes were first held in a Congregational church, but by 1871, with financial support from the Freedmen’s Bureau, a main school building was erected on Esplanade Avenue and North Derbigny Street (1631 Esplanade). In the same year, Straight opened a faculty and student boarding house and dining hall at 315 Claiborne Avenue (now 1423 N. Claiborne), a short walking distance from the main building down the “Paris”-like avenue.
Students from all over the south moved to New Orleans to attend Straight’s esteemed law and medical schools for just $1 a month. As Union soldiers left New Orleans in 1877, the main campus building was set ablaze in an act of arson. The school relocated to the corner of Canal and Tonti Street, and in 1905 it lost its university status when their theology department closed, thus becoming Straight College. In 1930, Straight merged with New Orleans University to form Dillard University.
The Preservation Resource Center has had the honor of restoring the original Straight University Boarding House and Dining Hall on 1423 N. Claiborne, which is the last remaining building standing associated with any of the first three African American universities founded after the Civil War.
Student members of the Japanese Fan Drill club at Straight University, circa 1895. Photo courtesy of Amistad Research Center.