Debates of renaming landmarks, removing Confederate monuments and even banning the Confederate flag have long been a part of the U.S. political climate. However, these debates seemed to climax when protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent and drew international attention in August.
There have been no violent protests at NSU – well, not that we could find. But these incidents beg the question: What about Leopold Caspari?
Named “Father of the Normal,” Caspari was a captain in the Confederate army and a Louisiana legislator. Both the administration building where the president’s office is located and a campus road bear his name.
The Louisiana State Normal School, now known as NSU, was established in 1884 “for the benefit of such white persons of either sex…” as a two-year institution for prospective teachers.
Speaking on the legacy of racism in our community, NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio shared a hopeful message of the future of the university’s diversity. He called on students, faculty and community members alike to engage in open dialogue about these issues and said NSU can be “a shining example for other universities.” He believes there are aspects that can be improved through conversation.
“[NSU] can be a leader in diversity,” he said.
Over the years
The university’s stance on the idea of integration in the 1950s and ’60s was displayed in several events. In the spring semester of 1954, four black students were denied admission to NSU. It wasn’t until 1965 that the university lost an integration lawsuit and allowed its first handful of black students to attend.
Staff of The Current Sauce, at the time, were among those who resented integration. A week after NSU became lawfully integrated, an editorial ran with the headline “Students Congratulated On Conduct During Recent Integration Crisis.” This article mentioned the overwhelming opposition from students but claimed they amicably accepted the decision.
The Current Sauce conducted a survey in 1971, six years after black students were admitted, where 100 NSU students shared their opinions on campus integration. Unsurprisingly, white students supported integration at a lower rate than black students, who were all in favor.
The survey found black students were greatly offended by the Confederate battle flag often displayed by white students.
During the same survey, students were asked to rate the administration on its attitude toward black students. 68 percent of white students believed the administration had an average or very good attitude. However, 55 percent of black students rated the administration as either poor or bigoted.
In recent history
In fall 2015, four student athletes posed for an Instagram photo, and one of the men was in blackface. The team members released an apology after the photo went viral, and students held a rally in response to the incident to promote peace.
Additionally, in a fall 2015 issue of The Current Sauce a student said “If the South would have won, we would have made it.” His comment was in reference to a decision made by Mayor Lee Posey to ban the Confederate flag from the annual Christmas parade.
Posey’s decision was met with protests by the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ Natchitoches chapter. The group waved their flags along the parade’s sidelines and later sued the city.
Dakota Scoggins, who is a descendent of a Confederate soldier and local business owner, said this of the flag supporters: “We are not racist; the flag has nothing to do with what it’s being twisted into now.”
Fellow students shared their own opinions on the university and city’s history with racism.
Sophomore Kennedy Butler said it is part of our heritage and believes trying to cover up what happened in the past is wrong. He went on to say he had been called the N-word by a group of white students.
“‘At the end of the day, you’re still you,'” Butler recalls his mother saying in reference to the incident.
Jacob Bennett, a junior, believes racism is not a major problem on campus, but the school should make diversity a priority. He thinks other white students should address racism as well.
Freshman Shari Wilson thinks it is wrong to honor those who fought on the side of the Confederacy. Wilson said it is divisive to name public places after members of the Confederacy, not a part of Southern heritage.
Contributions by Meg Denny