Beauregard Training School

Velmer Smith -Beauregard Daily News - Sunday - July 4, 2004
When former students stand on Martin Luther King Drive and gaze at the Beauregard Parish Training School, they fondly remember the education that was received in that old stucco building. The ethics and discipline they received molded their character and transformed them into individuals who later were to make valuable contributions to home, church, education, politics, and their community.

What stands out most in the minds of former students is that no misbehaving was tolerated in those days. If one misbehaved in class, a spanking was received; and when the student arrived home, another spanking was received from the parent.

With the advent of the twentieth century, nearly two thirds of the black children of elementary school age were not enrolled in school, primarily because there were not enough school buildings or seating capacity to accommodate these children. It is assumed that some children were kept out of school for sustained periods due to the agricultural growing and harvest seasons. Another serious problem was the great shortage of black teachers.

The county training school movement for training black teachers began in 1911. By school year 1919-1920, Beauregard Parish Training School became one of 107 training schools in the South.

The school is locally significant in the areas of education and ethnic heritage because it provided very important educational opportunities within Beauregard Parish. It was the only place in the parish where blacks could receive education at the secondary level and very important, teacher training. During the time of its historical significance (1920-1945), teachers were not employed, if they danced, played cards, and engaged in kindred forms of amusement.

The curriculum included regular courses such as math, science, and English, as well as instruction in how to teach. Although each student completing the teaching program was awarded a certificate stating that he or she was qualified to teach at the elementary level in black schools, it was necessary for each to pass a test given by the state Department of Education before that certification was considered valid. After the teaching program was discontinued in the mid-1930's, students were required to attend one or two years at a normal school in order to obtain a teaching certificate.

The local training school evolved from the concept of the parish training school that was created in 1911. It was made possible through the efforts of three philanthropic foundations interested in the education of African-American youth. These foundations - The General Education Board, the John F. Slater Fund, and the Anna T. Jeanes Fund-convinced state education officials through the South to work with them to improve educational opportunities for blacks.

The training school movement had several goals. The first was to provide each parish with a central public school for blacks. With its good physical facilities and carefully chosen curriculum, this school would serve as a model for other black schools in the area.

Another goal was to provide a more thorough education by offering more courses. Thus students could attend a training school two or three years longer than they could one of their smaller rural cousins.

Early in the movement, training schools offered at least eight grades; later they offered ten or eleven. A third goal was to provide industrial and manual training for African-American children, "…laying particular emphasis upon subjects pertaining to home and farm.” The final goal of the parish training school movement was to prepare teachers who would then serve in the region's rural black elementary schools. The first training school in the nation opened in Louisiana's Tangipahoa Parish in 1911.

One of the reasons the training school concept worked was that the General Education Board placed agents within the state education departments and, in some cases, within the parishes themselves. In order to obtain a training school, parishes had to own the property where the building would be erected, recognize the school as part of the public school system, and commit at least $750 from public funds toward its maintenance each year.

Beauregard Parish met the first requirement when the Longbell Lumber Company conveyed a tract of land to the School Board on February 6, 1917. However, the parish did not receive its first "Supervisory Agent for Negroes” until July 3, 1919. This person's primary tasks were to assist teachers in writing lesson plans and to create support for black schools.

The local training school opened in 1920 with a physical plant consisting of two buildings. A large two-story structure served as a high school while a smaller one-story building held the elementary level classes.

Schools for African-American students had existed in the Beauregard Parish towns of Merryville, Ludington, Bon Ami, Carson, Longville, Center Hill, Bancroft, and DeRidder at least as early as the 1917-1918 term.

During the school's historic period (1929 - 1945) and into the postwar era, the school represented the only opportunity in the parish for blacks to receive a high school education.

In order to be able to attend the training school, nineteen out-of-town students boarded in DeRidder. Also attending the school were children from sawmill towns such as Longville, Merryville, Singer, and other towns throughout the parish.

The Beauregard Parish Training School is the first African-American related structure in southwest Louisiana to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, March 1, 1996.

In 2008, The Beauregard Parish School Board procured a federal grant for the building. With additional local tax revenue, the training school was completely and beautifully renovated. Today it is used as a part of the Head Start program as well as a reception hall for community events.