During Black History Month, the Louisiana Board of Regents is highlighting important African American figures who have made a difference in Louisiana higher education. Regents will also share stories from our institutions across the state on social media.
To learn more about Black History Month in Louisiana higher education, follow the hashtag #RegentsBHM on Twitter and Facebook.
February 3, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Dr. Andia Augustin-Billy, Centenary College
Dr. Andia Augustin-Billy, an associate professor of French and Francophone Studies at Centenary College, made history in November 2021, when she became the first tenured Black faculty member in the College’s 196-year history.
She joined the Centenary faculty in 2015 after earning her Ph.D. in French Language and Literature with a certificate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Washington University in St. Louis.
Dr. Augustin-Billy co-teaches an immersive course examining the experiences of Black Americans in Paris as part of the Centenary in Paris program. Her ongoing research interests and published scholarship include the analysis of race, gender, and sexuality in French and Francophone African and Caribbean literatures.
An award-winning professor, Dr. Augustin-Billy was chosen for the Mellon Emerging Faculty Leaders Award in 2019.
February 6, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Chancellor John Pierre, Southern University Law Center
Named one of the 10 most dominant HBCU leaders of 2023, Chancellor John Pierre has been at the helm of the Southern University Law Center since 2016.
A 1980 graduate of Southern, he later went on to graduate school at Texas Tech and law school at SMU. After graduating from law school, Pierre served his country as a Judge Advocates General’s Corps Officer (JAG) for the U.S. Army from 1986-1990.
He returned to the Bluffs in 1990 as a faculty member at the Southern University Law Center.
He transitioned to a leadership role in 2006 before becoming the Law Center’s Chancellor in 2016. Under his leadership, SULC has thrived as a global legal institution recognized for its diversity, world-class faculty, and racial justice efforts.
February 8, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Robin Roberts, Southeastern Louisiana University
A native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Robin Roberts is an award-winning journalist, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, and a Louisiana women’s basketball legend.
A 1983 graduate of Southeastern Louisiana University with a degree in communications, Roberts was a standout on the hardwood for the women’s basketball team. She concluded her career as the school’s all-time leading scorer (1,446 points) and rebounder (1,034). She was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, and her No. 21 jersey hangs in the rafts inside Southeastern’s University Center.
She began her broadcasting career in her home state as a sports anchor and reporter at WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg (1983-1984) and WLOX-TV in Biloxi (1984-1986). She later worked at WSMV-TV in Nashville and WVEE-FM and WAGA-TV in Atlanta.
From 1990 to 2005, Roberts was a mainstay at ESPN, anchoring such programs as SportsCenter and NFL PrimeTime. She left ESPN in 2005 to become co-anchor of Good Morning America.
Since taking over as co-anchor, GMA was won six Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Morning Program.
Her dad, Colonel Lawrence E. Roberts, was a pilot with the Tuskegee Airmen, and her sister Sally-Ann was a legendary TV personality on WWL-TV in New Orleans.
February 10, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Dr. Michael Snowden, Northwestern State University
Dr. Michael Snowden has spent the past 12+ years in Louisiana higher education to create a more inclusive environment for all. Since August 2020, Dr. Snowden has served as the Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity at Northwestern State. He is responsible for the executive leadership and management of Northwestern State University’s inclusion, equity, and diversity matters.
During this time, he has established various trainings and programs dedicated to equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. These trainings include the Northwestern Inclusive Coaching Seminar Series (NICSS), a peer-led diversity workshop in which faculty/staff and students can be trained and lead interactive workshops for their peers on various topics in DEI. Since the creation of NICSS, his office has logged approximately 200 hours of DEI training for NSU constituents.
He has helped to develop the Black Male Alliance, a student organization to provide awareness on mental, social, and cultural movements and issues affecting minority students. With this, he assisted in creating a leadership course specifically for cultivating minority leaders.
Dr. Snowden was instrumental in chartering a Louisiana chapter of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE). This is the leading organization and voice for diversity professionals in higher education.
February 13, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Eddie Robinson, Grambling State University
Recognized as one of the greatest college football coaches of all time, Eddie Robinson put HBCU football on the map. During a period in college football history when Black players were not allowed to play for southern college programs, Robinson built Grambling State into a “small college” football powerhouse.
Robinson coached every single game from the field and retired in 1997 with a career record of 408-165-15. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
Robinson is arguably the most successful college football coach in NCAA FCS (formerly Division I-AA) history. He has the third-most victories in college football history.
A graduate of Leland College in Baker, Louisiana, Robinson mentored more than 200 players who went on to play professional football.
February 15, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Annie Easley, Xavier University of Louisiana
The late Annie Easley was a computer scientist, mathematician, and rocket scientist. She was a leading member of the NASA team that developed software for the Centaur rocket stage and was one of the first African Americans to work at NASA.
She began her academic career in 1950 as a pharmacy major at Xavier University of Louisiana, but she later moved to Cleveland with her husband. After moving to Cleveland, she read a story about twin sisters who worked as “computers” for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). She applied for a job and was hired shortly after, becoming one of four African Americans out of 2,500 employees at the NACA Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory.
Easley passed away in 2011 and was posthumously inducted into the Glenn Research Hall of Fame in 2015. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) named a moon crater after Easley in 2021.
February 17, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Dr. Renee Horton, Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge native Dr. Renee Horton is the Space Launch System (SLS) Quality Engineer in the NASA Residential Management Office at Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. She first began working for NASA as a student in 2009 before beginning her career as a mechanical test engineer in 2012.
A graduate of LSU with a B.S. in electrical engineering in 2002, she became the first African American to graduate with a Ph.D. in Materials Science with a concentration in Physics from the University of Alabama in 2011.
In 2016, Dr. Horton was selected as President of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) as the second woman to hold the office.
February 20, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Dr. Ernest J. Gaines, UL Lafayette
Born in 1933 on Riverlake Plantation in Oscar, Louisiana, Ernest J. Gaines was an iconic figure at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He spent a quarter century at the university as a professor and writer-in-residence.
He achieved fame and critical acclaim in 1971 with The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, a historical novel chronicling the recollections of its 110-year-old African American protagonist. Dramatizing post-emancipation conditions for sharecroppers that were often little better than slavery, the novel received praise from reviewers for its epic scope and faithful rendering of Southern history. It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and adapted into a 1974 television movie that won nine Emmy Awards.
He joined the staff as a creative writing teacher at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now UL Lafayette) in 1981. More than a decade later, Gaines published his most popular work, A Lesson Before Dying. It earned both National Book Critics Circle Award and a McArthur Foundation Genius grant and was chosen as an “Oprah’s Book Club” selection.
In 2008, UL Lafayette established the Ernest J. Gaines Center to archive and promote the study of his work. He received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2013.
Gaines died in 2019 in his hometown of Oscar. In January 2023, the U.S. Postal Service celebrated his life as the 46th honoree in the Black Heritage Stamp series.
February 22, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: P.B.S. Pinchback, Dillard University
Louisiana is home to the first two African Americans to serve as governor and lieutenant governor of a U.S. state.
P.B.S. Pinchback served as lieutenant governor from 1871-1873 under Governor Henry C. Warmouth after the death of Oscar Dunn, who was the first African American lieutenant governor and governor in U.S. history. Dunn stepped in for Warmouth for 39 days in December 1872 and January 1873. Pinchback later stepped in for Warmouth for the remainder of his gubernatorial term – 34 days.
Pinchback later served as a delegate to the 1879 Louisiana Constitutional Convention. He and fellow African American delegates Theophile T. Allain and Henry Demas were credited with gaining support to establish Southern University which was chartered in 1880 in New Orleans. The college eventually relocated to its current location in Baton Rouge in 1914.
He studied law in New Orleans at Straight University, now known as Dillard University.
February 24, 2023
#RegentsBHM Profile: Norman C. Francis, Xavier University of Louisiana
Norman C. Francis was the first Black and first lay president of his alma mater, Xavier University of Louisiana, from 1968 to 2015. He was only the second African American to ever serve as president of a Catholic university in the United States.
He began his relationship with Xavier as an undergraduate student, earning a work scholarship repairing damaged books in the university library. As a senior, he was chosen as president of the Xavier student body. He graduated from Xavier in 1952 and ventured a few miles down the road to study law at Loyola University New Orleans. He became the first African American to enroll at Loyola and would earn his J.D. in 1955.
Francis served a pivotal role in the recovery of Louisiana and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita in 2005, serving as the chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. For his service, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2006.
In 2020, New Orleans renamed Jefferson Davis Parkway to Norman C. Francis Parkway, which runs near the Xavier University campus.
February 1, 2022
Eight years before integration was enforced across college campuses in the American south, Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) made history. Clara Dell Constantine, Martha Conway, Shirley Taylor, and Charles Vincent Singleton attempted to enroll in 1953 but were denied. After a legal battle, a court ruled in their favor, leading to SLI’s desegregation in 1954. READ MORE
February 2, 2022
Did you know… Xavier University of Louisiana is the first and only African American Catholic university in the United States?
February 3, 2022
The CALL ME MiSTER program has been integral in increasing the pool of black male teachers in Louisiana. CALL ME MiSTER is on four college campuses in Louisiana: Grambling, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern State, and McNeese.
February 7, 2022
In January, Southern University joined elite company as one of two institutions to be newly designated a Carnegie R2 institution with “high research activity.”
February 8, 2022
Dr. Marcus Jones (Northwestern State University) and Dr. William Tate (LSU) became the first Black presidents in their institutions’ history. Dr. Tate is one of two Black presidents in the SEC.
February 9, 2022
A graduate of Dillard University, Dr. Ruth J. Simmons was America’s first Black Ivy League president, serving at Brown University from 2001 until 2012.
February 10, 2022
In 2016, Louisiana Tech and its Office of Multicultural Affairs created a scholarship to honor the legacy of James Earl Potts and Bertha Bradford-Robinson. The scholarship supports educational opportunities for minority students attending Tech.
February 14 2022
Did you know…
there is only one HBCU system in the United States?
It’s located right here in Louisiana.
February 15, 2022
Nearly 60 years after first enrolling as the first Black student at LSU, A.P. Tureaud Jr. received a degree from the University in 2011.
February 16, 2022
The first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. in political science was Dr. Jewel Prestage, a 1951 alumna of Southern University and A&M College.
February 17, 2022
The CROWN program does more than pairing students with a mentor. It’s a network of peers, helping Black men finish what they start at Nicholls – a college degree.
February 21, 2022
In Tulane’s final years as a member of the SEC, Stephen Martin Sr. made history as the first African American student-athlete to compete for any SEC school.
February 22, 2022
For four straight years, UL Lafayette has been honored with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award (HEED) from INSIGHT into Diversity.
February 23, 2022
Xavier University of Louisiana consistently ranks as one of the nation’s top institutions in sending African American graduates on to enroll in and complete medical school.
February 24, 2022
Dr. Dolores Spikes was a higher education trailblazer. She was the first female Chancellor of a Louisiana public university AND the first woman to lead a university system in the U.S. (Southern University System).
February 25, 2022
In 2021, the University of Louisiana System created the Reginald F. Lewis Scholars program, a three-year program which focuses on academics, social advancement, and community service.
February 28, 2022
Our final #RegentsBHM highlight is none other than Irma Thomas, “Soul Queen of New Orleans.” For 15 years, she balanced work, family, and school to obtain her degree. She graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Business from Delgado in 2001. Five years later, she won her first GRAMMY.