Dr. Hendry's interest in Old South Baton Rouge began about 25 years ago, and shortly after she was introduced to McKinley High School.
Downtown Baton Rouge Capitol Park Museum hosts a Lunchtime Lagniappe, which is an ongoing series of brown bag talks during lunch hour.
The event is free and open to the public, while the museum presents something educational to attendees. During Lunchtime Lagniappe on March 13, co-author of Old South Baton Rouge: The Roots of Hope, Dr. Petra Munro Hendry, spoke about the research and planning of the book. Carolyn Ware is the other author.
Dr. Hendry's interest in Old South Baton Rouge began about 25 years ago, and shortly after she was introduced to McKinley High School. McKinley was the first publicly funded public school for blacks in the deep south. Prior to that, they were all private.
Old South Baton Rouge: The Roots of Hope is based off 250 world history interviews conducted by the high schoolers. The students met with individuals for interviews for about an eight-week period and did all of the transcribing, as well.
"This book took years of creating relationships and doing research in Old South Baton Rouge," Dr. Hendry said. "The first year, we looked at the history of McKinley. The second year, we looked at the history of businesses in Old South. The third year, it was the history of the churches. Fourth year focused a lot on the history of the bus boycott in 1953. Then, the fifth year, we focused on social clubs and organizations and their history in that area."
In regards to McKinley, it is now a community center with a museum on the first floor, which Dr. Hendry recommends everyone visit at some point. The first principal of McKinley was James Monroe Frazier, who was an educational pioneer and established schools for African Americans in the community.
Schools that Frazier helped create include Perkins St. School, Reddy St. School, and Hickory St. School. All of these were created between 1909 and 1917.
"Old South Baton Rouge boundary at the South is where LSU is located, then goes to the North boundary, which is where Government Street is," Dr. Hendry said. "A unique thing about it is that it was called Bottoms, because it is the lowest lying land and was historically seen as unusable due to floods."
Mayor Robert E. Hart, at the time, decided to buy the Magnolia Mound plantation. The Magnolia Mound was Old South Baton Rouge until the Civil War time, when ex-slaves began to migrate and settle on the levee areas. Dr. Hendry states that Mayor Robert began to separate plots of land on the Plantation for developers to purchase and build on. A man named Swart built the first suburb near S. Boulevard.
Originally, Old South Baton Rouge was a 2.25 square mile area.
Follow Darian on Twitter @dariangshark.