UNO Administrators and Integration
Stop 6 of 7 in the 55 in '58: Integrating the University of New Orleans tour
Head back toward the bus stop, passing the amphitheater on your right and the administration building on your left. The administration building is a rather nondescript edifice, reflective of the role played by LSUNO's early administrators in the school's integration process.
To help ease initial hostilities and bring order to the campus, the founding dean, Homer Hitt, released a statement to the student body, threatening suspension or expulsion of any student “found to be guilty of disorderly conduct,” as reported by The Times-Picayune on Sept. 18, 1958. The day after this statement, the KKK flags and signs had showen up on campus.
By October, four white students were suspended for “conduct unbecoming college students,” according to the newspaper. However, there was little to no other action taken by the administration to curb harassment, according to members of the 55.
The year before, the U.S. Army had shown up to escort black students to Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas. The black students who showed up at LSUNO in 1958 were on their own. The administration provided no security - not even anyone in authority - to ensure the students' personal safety, members of the 55 recalled.
In fact, a local TV news outlet was allowed to set up cameras on top of one of the school buildings everyday. Black students came to dread any time they had to enter Building 5, because when they did, white students would gather to play for the cameras. For more of this story, see the first video below.
And while security officers were assigned to guard a parking lot where black students parked, their presence apparently didn't deter vandalism, some of which could have had deadly consequences. Fontenette recalled returning to a friend's car at the end of the day for a ride home. As soon as his friend started up the car, all the wheels fell off. Someone had entered the guarded lot, removed all the car's lug nuts, and replaced the hub caps. Despite the fact that a more capable vandal may have killed these students (by only loosening the nuts so that the wheels would fly off when the vehicle was moving), school officials took no action, Fontenette said.
In the second video below, Fontenette also recalls the first time he ever saw the dean come out of his office to address a situation. Fontenette arrived at school to find a female friend, Pi, unable to enter the campus because white students barred her way. Most often, the only recourse for students was to try and wait it out.
Walk past the bus stop to Milneburg Road.
In the 19th century, Milneburg was the name of the town where UNO now stands. The five miles of cypress swamp and farm land between the town and New Orleans proper provided enough space for Milneburg to develop into a small resort. There, musicians of all ethnicities formed bands and, together, they helped to develop jazz. Half a century later, in the same place, black and white people were not even allowed to eat together in the university cafeteria.
Cross Milneburg Road and walk toward the cafeteria, located in the University Center (the large building on the left, across from the administration building).