Squandered Heritage Vintage

Lockett School

I wrote an earlier post about a trip to Lockett School.

Lockett Teachers

Here is a letter from one of the members of the Bunny Friend Neighborhood Association.

Dear Councilwoman Hedge-Morrell,

I am writing to you on behalf of Johnson C. Lockett Elementary School, the elementary school I and my sisters and brothers and my entire neighborhood attended when there was no other school for us to attend due to segregation, the only school before Lockett in this community was a church school. This school holds historical significance in that it educated African American children when we were called “colored”; it allowed for the employment of African American teachers who could not teach anywhere else because of segregation and the limited number of public schools for Negro children. Many prominent people graduated from this K-8 elementary school. As a part of our curriculum on a daily basis, we were, of course, taught the necessary reading, writing, arithmetic, we had physical education with gym suits; we were taught music, sewing, creative art, industrial arts; we had annual “May” festivals as well as military performances whereby the entire school participated and marched to the same beat taught to us by our principal Duncan Waters, Walter Wright, and other very dedicated educators. Mr. Lockett’s daughter taught us home economics and sewing. We had a first class cafeteria for that time period when the government made it mandatory that all children should have a hot school lunch. Our immunizations were given in the basement because we could not go to hospitals. For hurricanes it was a shelter. It was the only school available for African American children from Claiborne Avenue to Gentilly Blvd. and from Franklin Avenue to Poland in the upper 9th ward from the early 1920s. This school has beauty, charm, and should be renovated to serve as an anchor for this upcoming community. If there is no school, no library, no place for the meeting of minds, then there really is no true community. Let us work together to save this gem, which is a major part of our history, let us be visionaries who look beyond what a thing appears to be — even withered plants that are deeprooted when given a gulp of water to the root will spring back even bigger and brighter than before. Let us not let the powers that be destroy all of our history.

Please help us save this school so that it can serve as an anchor, a magnet to draw residents to this community. If Habitat for Humanities continues to build housing in this community, which they plan to continue to do, then certainly a school in this neighborhood will be absolutely necessary.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation,

Aletha Duncan

Lockett School is on the HCDRC agenda

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About Karen Gadbois

Karen Gadbois co-founded The Lens. She now covers New Orleans government issues and writes about land use for Squandered Heritage. For her work with television reporter Lee Zurik exposing widespread misuse of city recovery funds — which led to guilty pleas in federal court — Gadbois won some of the highest honors in journalism, including a Peabody Award, an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award and a gold medal from Investigative Reporters and Editors. She can be reached at (504) 606-6013.