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Southern University History

More than 140 years ago, three delegates to the Louisiana State Constructional Convention presented a vision for an institution of higher learning that would serve anyone — particularly Black Americans — who desired to further their education. As a result, in 1880, Legislative Act 87 called for a 12-member Board of Trustees and for a faculty of “arts and letters” competent in every branch of liberal education.


That vision — presented by P.B.S. Pinchback, T. T. Allain, T. B. Stamps, and Henry Demas — became a reality when Southern University opened its doors in New Orleans that same year with a budget appropriation of $10,000 and 12 students. It was subsequently relocated in 1912 by order of Legislative Act 118, placing the university in a rural area of Scotlandville, Louisiana. Receiving a portion of a $50,000 national land-grant appropriation in 1914, the “new” Southern University opened in this part of Baton Rouge, the capital of the state. Throughout the 20th Century and beyond, the university has made great strides.


Southern University is a trailblazer in the higher education community. With more than 30 academic programs awarding bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and representation from more than 20 countries, Southern University is a melting pot for culture, education, and service. Its arts, nursing, engineering, computer science and business programs, among others, continue to grow to become among the best in the state and nation. The university’s athletic programs have witnessed a resurgence and its world-acclaimed marching band — the Human Jukebox — is inarguably one of the most elite college marching bands in the nation.


Southern is also a leader in economic and workforce development on local, state, and national levels. Recent projects and collaborations include a partnership with energy company Entergy to support classroom and lab infrastructure improvements to increase the number of minority engineers; partnership with international technology company DXC, which aims to expand the number of degrees awarded annually in computer science, management, and STEM-related fields; continued relationships with Fortune 500 companies and government agencies such as NASA, and the establishment of the Valdry Center for Philanthropy, which offers programming in the philanthropic and nonprofit fields.


Southern University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. It is part of the five-campus Southern University System, the only historically Black university system in the nation.