|Whatever Happened To The Class of 1928
The eyes of 26 determined young women look toward the future from a yellowing page of a sixty-six year old McDonogh #35 yearbook. It was the spring of 1928 and they were the Senior Normal School students, the proud graduating class of the two-year teacher certification program for the Orleans Parish school system. The women who appeared in that long ago yearbook picture went on to make a major impact on New Orleans as educators, community leaders, and moral voices. Their many efforts on behalf of the cityís knowledge hungry youth are remarkable enough. Equally compelling is the sense of sisterhood maintained through long careers of community service.
For each year since 1930 - through the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights movement, and the deaths of former friends and classmates - 1928 Normal School class members have met at least once a year for fun and fellowship and 1994 was no exception. On the first Friday in June, in the dining hall of Dooky Chase restaurant, eight of the fourteen surviving members of that memorable class again gathered to renew their class spirit. Now in their mid- eighties, the members of the class of 1928 still look toward tomorrow. But their eyes are now tempered by the satisfaction, wisdom, and joy gained from imparting the ABCís of life to numerous generations of New Orleans children.
The class of 1928ís current president is former Valena C. Jones teacher Selina Butler Tinson. She and her former classmates still recall their days at McDonogh #35 and the impact the school and its purpose had on each of their lives. McDonogh #35 opened in 1917. In the days of segregation following the U. S. Supreme Court decision of Plessy versus Ferguson in 1896, the opening of a Black public high school required a major effort by community leaders and their few allies on an a school board dominated by those who preached racial separation. In 1900, the school board stopped public education for Black children after fifth grade leaving no chance for Black public school students to ever attend a private high school, or the high school then attached to Southern University. It wasnít until 1913 that seventh grade for black students was established. Four years later, after a great deal of prodding, the school board opened McDonogh #35 in a former elementary school building. Eighty-two students enrolled in the fall of 1917. McDonogh #35 would be the only public school for black children in the city for the next twenty-five years.