Black Tulanians continue to fight for recognition, anti-racism on campus

Emily Rubino, Staff Reporter

Tulane University was founded in 1834 and the first Black students to graduate were Deidre Dumas Labat and Reynold T. Décou in 1966 and 1967, respectively. Tulane did not admit their first Black students until 1963, and these students were not admitted without a fight. 

The experiences of Décou and Labat reflect a climate under which students of color continued to live during the early years of Tulane’s integration. 

 “While Décou was also faced with racism during his time at Tulane, his experience was different. Unlike Labat, Décou lived on campus for the first few months of his college career, and because of this, he endured constant harassment from his fellow residents. This included residents knocking on his door and calling him racial slurs … When Décou witnessed the sight of a burning cross outside his room accompanied by a sign telling him to leave, he decided that living at home would be the best for his safety,” Jasmine Davidson said in Tulane Today.

The first African American student organization at Tulane was recognized in 1969. At the time the organization was called the African American Congress at Tulane University, and since then, the organization has changed its name to the Tulane Black Student Union in order to be more inclusive of all individuals with Black identities. The current president of the Tulane Black Student Union is junior Raven Ancar. Since 1969, Tulane Black students have given demands to the university.

“So the university over the decades has met some of the demands but not all of them and also the approach to the demands from the universities has been very slow,” Ancar said.

In March of 2020, Tulane University took down the Victory Bell located on Tulane’s uptown campus. This bell was a donation to Tulane University by alumnus Richard W. Leche in 1825 which once resided on a Louisiana Plantation and was used to call enslaved people.

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education” reported that “In a letter to the campus community, President Mike Fitts and Board Chairman Doug Hertz, stated that ‘it is terribly disheartening to learn that it is, in fact, a vestige of a horrific part of our nation’s past. Now that we understand its history as an instrument of slavery, continuing to use this bell in a celebratory manner would run counter to our values.’” Before its removal, the bell was rung during convocation and commencement.

Tulane’s Africana studies department has both a major and minor and offers a variety of courses. The director of the Africana Studies Program is Amanda Kearney-Bagneris.

In order to foster racial diversity at every level — administration, faculty, staff, and students — Tulane must both make this a priority and be intentional about it,”Bagneris said. “This means moving beyond statements about the value of diversity.  For example, when recruiting people to join Tulane’s faculty, staff, student body, or University administration, Tulane must look to research and to evidence-based best practices that have been shown to work,” 

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