Halls of Booker T. Washington High hold some rich Black history

First state-of-the-art school for Black students became known for its role in Civil Rights Movement
Published: Feb. 13, 2022 at 10:15 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — The halls of Booker T. Washington High hold some of the richest parts of Black history in the city of Shreveport.

Built in 1949, the school is considered the first state-of-the-art campus for Black students in Caddo Parish. It opened its doors the following year, in 1950.

“When it was built, it was the best of the best — it was the best school in Louisiana at the time,” said Sharon Johnson, president of the BTW High Alumni Foundation.

The school offered college preparatory courses as well as classes for vocational skills.

“Beauticians came out of cosmetology,” said Willie Bradford Sr., who graduated in 1969.

While the school was known for its architecture and focus on education, it later became known for its part in the Civil Rights Movement.

“There was an incident that happened in Shreveport at Little Union Baptist Church, where the police converged upon the church in regards to a memorial service for four little girls who were killed in Birmingham. Pastor Harry Blake was beaten by the police,” Pastor H. Calvin Austin recounted.

“That Monday, we gathered at the school. ... Somebody said, ‘Let’s go downtown.’ We started down Milam Street ... got down to the alumni building, which was the library back then, ... and police was everywhere.”

Austin and 17 other students were arrested that day in 1963. After 45 days in jail, he tried to return to school but learned he had been expelled.

“I was hurt. That was a hard pill.”

Austin went on to graduate from a school in New Orleans and said he did not return to Shreveport until 1998.

Because of that march, Booker T. Washington High was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Fast forward to 2004, and Austin was awarded an honorary diploma from Booker T. Washington High.

“I’m the only one that has two diplomas.”

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