Louisiana’s oldest college is celebrating its first lifetime appointment to a Black faculty member, and discussing why this racial milestone took nearly two centuries to accomplish, reports the Associated Press.
“I think that’s the million-dollar question. It’s something I know will be highlighted and discussed” at Centenary College of Louisiana’s event Thursday (Nov. 4) honoring the now-tenured associate professor Andia Augustin-Billy, college spokeswoman Kate Pedrotty said.
Racism is why this took 196 years, said school archivist Chris Brown. “Structural and institutional and systemic racism has been present ever since the college was founded, largely by enslavers,” he said.
This history is undeniable, but it’s also in the past, said Christopher Holoman, president of the Methodist-affiliated college in Shreveport.
“Any institution that is as old as Centenary, particularly one in the South, must take account of the role that racism played in its history,” Holoman said. “As we move forward, Centenary is committed to full inclusion of all members of our community and working towards a just society.”
Augustin-Billy, known on campus as “Dr. A-B,” pronounced “ah-bay,” is an award-winning teacher of French and Francophone Studies who leads Centenary students on trips to Paris and Haiti, where she grew up as the daughter of missionaries.
She also teaches African and Caribbean literature and postcolonial, women, gender and sexuality studies to a student body described as 18 percent Black or Black and another race. That’s slightly ahead of the national percentage of college-aged Blacks: 16.7 percent of U.S. residents age 18 through 24 in 2018, according to U.S. Census figures.