Southern University

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Not to be confused with Sewanee: The University of the South. This article is about the main Southern University campus. For the system, see Southern University System.
Southern University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
SouthernUniversityLogo 2.jpg
Southern University Logo
Former names
Southern College
Established April 1, 1880 (1880-04-01)
Type Public flagship university
Land grant
Endowment $9.6 million[1]
Chancellor Flandus McClinton (acting)
President Ray Belton
Provost VerJanis Peoples
Administrative staff
Students 6,304[3]
Undergraduates 5,302[3]
Postgraduates 1,002[3]
Location Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
30°31′29″N 91°11′24″W / 30.524674°N 91.190034°W / 30.524674; -91.190034Coordinates: 30°31′29″N 91°11′24″W / 30.524674°N 91.190034°W / 30.524674; -91.190034
Campus Urban; 512 acres (207 ha)
Colors Columbia blue and Gold
Athletics NCAA Division I FCSSWAC
Nickname Jaguars / Lady Jaguars

Southern University and A&M College is a historically black college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The campus is on Scott’s Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in the northern section of the city. The campus encompasses 512 acres, with an agricultural experimental station on an additional 372-acre site, five miles north of the main campus. The university is a member-school of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the flagship institution of the Southern University System.


President William McKinley speaks at Southern University in New Orleans, 1901.

At the 1879 Louisiana State Constitutional Convention, African-American political leaders P.B.S. Pinchback, T.T. Allain and Henry Demas proposed founding a higher education institution "for the education of persons of color." Louisiana before the American Civil War had an established class of free people of color, who were often property owners and educated; they kept that tradition for their children.

In April 1880, the Louisiana General Assembly chartered what was then called Southern College, originally located in New Orleans. Southern opened its doors on March 7, 1881 (1881-03-07) with 12 students. The school was held for a time at the former Israel Sinai Temple on Calliope Street, between St. Charles and Camp streets.

In 1890 the legislature designated Southern as a land grant college for blacks, in order to continue to satisfy federal requirements under the land grant program to support higher education for all students in the state, despite having a segregated system. It established an Agricultural and Mechanical department. Because of continued growth and a lack of land for expansion, in 1914 the university moved to Scotlandville, along Scott's Bluff facing the Mississippi River and north of Baton Rouge. Now absorbed into the capital, this area is included as a historic destination of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.

The first president of what is now known as Southern University at Baton Rouge was Dr. Joseph Samuel Clark. Clark, an African-American leader from Baton Rouge, presided over Baton Rouge College and the Louisiana Colored Teachers Association.

In 1921, the Louisiana Constitutional Convention authorized the reorganization and expansion of Southern University; Legislative Act 100 of 1922 provided that the institution be reorganized under the control of the State Board of Education. Clark presided over Southern University during its resulting expansion. Student enrollment grew from 47 to 500, and many of the school's early buildings were built during this time. Clark presided until his retirement in 1938.

His son Dr. Felton Grandison Clark was appointed as president that year. He generated considerable expansion, with 33 of 114 current buildings erected during his 30 years of tenure. The student enrollment grew from 500 to nearly 10,000 students. In addition, the State School for the Negro Deaf and Blind was established here in 1938, under supervision of Southern. In 1943, the university was visited by the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Southern University Laboratory School System began operating in September 1922. The Laboratory School was first accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1936 and has conferred more than 5,000 high school diplomas since its inception.[4]

Under the segregated state education, LSU Law School had refused to admit African Americans, who filed a lawsuit to gain professional education. A special Louisiana Convention established a law program, now Southern University Law Center, in 1947 at Southern University. During Clark's tenure, Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) (1956) and Southern University at Shreveport/Bossier City (SUSLA) (1964) were founded. They were incorporated into the Southern University System in 1974.

In 1969, the university saw a changing of the guard, when Clark retired and Dr. Leon G. Netterville was selected as president. On November 16, 1972, Denver Smith and Leonard Brown, two students involved with "Students United," a student activist group, were shot and killed outside the Old Auditorium (now the Southern University Museum of Art). The murders have never been solved.

The institution continued to grow. In 1974 a special session in the Louisiana Legislature established the Southern University System, with Jesse N. Stone of Shreveport as its president. The system consists of Southern University and A&M College, Baton Rouge, (SUBR); Southern University, New Orleans (SUNO); Southern University Law Center; Southern University Agricultural Center; and Southern University, Shreveport. SUSLA is a two-year, commuter college. The Southern University Museum of Art at Shreveport has also been designated as a destination of the Louisiana African American Heritage Trail.

In 1978 the legislature merged the Southern School for the Deaf with the Louisiana School for the Deaf, moving the students temporarily into the Mayflower North Campus, during construction of the new South Campus. In 1985, they entered the new buildings in the South.

Southern University is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The Jetson Chair of Public Policy was endowed by former State Representative Kevin P. Reilly, Sr. and his wife Anna Lamar Switzer Reilly of Baton Rouge. Reilly is the former CEO of Lamar Advertising Company.


University rankings
U.S. News & World Report[5] RNP (South)
Master's University class
Washington Monthly[6] 104

The university is the largest HBCU in Louisiana. Lake Kernan flows through the center of the campus and the Mississippi River forms its western boundary. Since 1960, buildings containing more than 2,000,000 square feet of floor area have been constructed. These buildings include:

  • Smith-Brown Memorial Union
  • F. G. Clark Activity Center
  • J. S. Clark Administration Building
  • E. N. Mayberry Dining Hall
  • Music Recital Hall
  • Isaac Greggs Band Hall
  • John B. Cade Library
  • SU Museum of Art
  • School of Nursing Building
  • Health Research Wing of Lee Hall
  • Rodney G. Higgins Hall for Social Science
  • Augustus C. Blanks Hall for Special Education and Psychology
  • Baranco-Hill Student Health Center
  • A.A. Lenoir Hall
  • College of Engineering Building, P.B.S. Pinchback
  • Dolores Spikes Honors College
  • T.T Allain College of Business
  • SU Law Center

The Smith-Brown Memorial Union, a 66,200-square feet multipurpose building which serves as a major center for extracurricular activities. The recently renovated Union features a 6 food court with popular food outlets; barber and beauty shops; television rooms; 12 bowling lanes; a game room for billiards, video games, and quiet games; an art gallery; a browsing room; a ballroom, meeting and conference rooms; and a U.S. post office. The building also houses offices for student organizations.

The F.G. Clark Activity Center has accommodations for theater, athletic events, conferences, convocations and recreational activities. The building houses the Athletic Department.

The J.S. Clark Administration Building contains the offices of the Southern University Board of Supervisors, the Southern University System officers, the Chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus, and other campus administrative officers.

E.N. Mayberry Dining Hall contains the Magnolia Room, the Cypress Room and the Oak Room, which is for student dining. Dunn Cafeteria is in the Freshman Complex.[7]

Student activities[edit]


The Southern Jaguars and Lady Jaguars represent the university in NCAA intercollegiate athletics. Southern's sports teams participate in Division I (FCS for football) in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Southern University and its northern Louisiana SWAC rival, Grambling State University, annually participate in the Bayou Classic on the Saturday following Thanksgiving Day in New Orleans. NBC has carried the game live for more than 20 years.

Southern's other most notable SWAC rivals are Jackson State and Texas Southern.

Southern University "Human Jukebox" Marching Band[edit]

Southern's Human Jukebox and Dancing Dolls in 2008

The Southern University marching band, known as the Human Jukebox , has been featured in numerous television commercials, music videos and invited to participate in the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, Presidential Inauguration ceremonies and 6 Super Bowl halftime presentations. The band was also featured in the music video for the Jonas Brothers song, "Pom Poms". In 2008, The band was named "Best Dressed Marching Band" by, and named "#1 Band In The Nation" by USA Today. The band is well known for their powerful and dominating sound in the stands, precise, show stopping, high stepping, and entertaining drills on the field, and as being the only HBCU marching band to feature one drum major during performances.

SU media[edit]

The university's weekly student produced newspaper is known as The Southern Digest. The award-winning newspaper was established in 1926 and operates under the Southern University Office of Media Services.[8][9]. "The Bluff" is an online radio station managed by students that offers a mixture of news, interviews, and music.[10]

Representation in other media[edit]

The first season of the reality television series College Hill on BET premiered in 2004. It featured the Southern University campus in Baton Rouge.[11] The show was one of the first nationally televised reality show set on a college campus in the nation.


See also[edit]


External links[edit]