T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History
Attending an all-black school aided her education and confidence
Enola Margaret LaTour-Pitre by Stephanie Dragoon, 2015.
ENOLA MARGARET LATOUR PITRE: What I realized was being in an all-black school was a real benefit, I think, for me, I will say that, because I think the support we had in the school, a lot from the teachers as well as you’re in a community where you all know each other. We’re from the community, and it was a small community, small school. That also, I think, helped. But the teachers were really good teachers. They were really intent on trying to make us understand and teach us how to advance and go out into the world. And we had a lot of that one on one. There was a sense of pride. Our teachers were very proud of who they were, their accomplishments, and that they were educators. They dressed appropriately. They demanded respect. We were ordered and made sure they got respect. Everybody from the bus driver to the janitors. So it set up a respect and understanding of ourselves, and the fact that we happened to be African Americans or the minority, that gave us a sense of pride in who we were. When you’re accomplishing in an environment like that, then you get that sense of accomplishing.

After I started seeing what happened to minority children once the schools were completely integrated, they get lost in such a sea of everybody else. And I think maybe in a lot of cases, a genuine lack of understanding of what’s needed for these kids so that you can motivate them the right way and get them and turn them in the right direction, that’s not there. It gets missed. When that happens, now you have a kid looking at, “Why am I here, I don't know why I’m here. I hate being . . .” If I was in a fog when I was in high school, surrounded by my community, you can imagine what it might be like for a kid who’s maybe like me in an integrated community, where nobody is stopping to say, “Hey, you’re okay here. You’re safe. You can feel comfortable here.” And I think sometimes that’s what the problem is. They don’t feel safe, they don’t feel comfortable, because it’s just too big, it’s too overwhelming, and it’s just not nurturing enough. Maybe that just happened across the board overall. But from a minority perspective, and what I got out of being at Mossville, that’s what I see for the minority children who are now not in an environment like that. So Mossville provided us not only an environment for education and for learning, but for confidence-building and for security, being in an all-black school.
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This project is a collaboration between the Imperial Calcasieu Museum and LSU Libraries to document the history of Mossville, a historic African American community in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.
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