Centenary College's historian recalls stories of integration in Shreveport

Jan 21, 2014

Dream Week is underway at Centenary College. The programs are designed to honor the legacy and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Centenary College's historian Lee Morgan taught at the college for 44 years, and provides a first-hand account of integration at the college.

Centenary’s historian and emeritus professor of English, Lee Morgan, spoke Tuesday about integration in Shreveport and on Centenary’s campus. He taught at the college for 44 years, and called it an "island of liberalism" in a conservative city. The first African Americans didn’t enroll until 1965, but he said, it could have happened much earlier.

"There was nothing in Centenary’s charter to prevent black students from enrolling, and as a private institution, it could admit who it wanted to," Morgan said. "That may not be generally known, but it’s true. But, of course, it was such a moral issue behind the thing, it began to get to the college in that respect.”

In the late 1950s, the Civil Rights Movement ramped up in Shreveport, according to Morgan. He, and a host of professors, went on the record in opposition of state legislation that took a hard line against integrating public schools. Morgan said a year after he had sided with a civil-rights organization and signed an ACLU petition, a cross was burned in his yard.

“The newspapers had wind of it before it took place. They called me and told me it was going to happen," Morgan recalled. "I said, How about getting someone out here and stopping it? No, something’s got to happen first. They caught them the same night and charged them with creating a fire hazard. It was in December.”

Morgan's speech is Tuesday, Jan. 21, at 11:10 a.m.  in Centenary’s Bynum Commons. A history exhibit about African Americans at Centenary prior to 1956 is on display in the lobby. Almost 300 students and faculty participated in various service projects Monday to kick off Dream Week.