NEW ORLEANS— February is Black History Month, a month-long celebration remembering the important contributions that African Americans have made in our nation’s history.
In honor of Black History Month, News with a Twist is featuring the people and places of New Orleans and beyond that helped to shape our community.
Today we salute Dr. Raphael Cassimere Jr., UNO’s first black professor.
In Cassimere’s words he told us, “In 1971, we walked on campus and forever changed the color palette of UNO’s staffing. On the first day, two white students walked out of the class and tried to get another class and when the department chair asked why, they replied, for obvious reasons, the chair replied for obvious reasons we are not going to give you a transfer. That really bothered me long time until I realized that with 35 students, there was only one black in the class.”
Cassimere continued, “The thing that I remember is maybe two or three weeks later, because it was a class on the end with windows you could look into, two maintenance men who were standing outside the class said, ‘there he his, I told you he was teaching that class’, and that was important for them and also for the black students. I was only a teaching assistant really and not much longer after that they did begin hiring black instructors a few here and there in other departments. That as a seminal experience because I realized how important it was for students as well as workers. Many had been there 10 or 12 years and not seen much evidence of progress.”
Our Black History Month series is brought to you by The King Firm.