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This Day in History: September 27th

Xavier University of Louisiana, First Black Catholic College in the U.S., Opens

On September 27, 1915, Xavier University of Louisiana opened its doors to Native Americans and Black students in the south. Xavier University was founded by St. Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

There are more than 100 historically Black colleges and universities and more than 250 Catholic colleges in the United States, yet there is only one that both is both Black and Catholic. XULA has the distinction of being the only Catholic historically black college or university in the country. 

Due to a lack of Catholic-oriented education available to Blacks in the South, St. Katharine came to New Orleans and established a high school on the site previously occupied by another HBCU, Southern University. This high school would go on to evolve into a college of liberal arts and sciences by 1925. In 1927, a College of Pharmacy was opened and serves as one of only two pharmacy schools in Lousiana. 

The small liberal arts college sought to combine the best attributes of both its faith and its culture. St. Katherine received funding through a substantial inheritance from her father, banker-financier Francis Drexel (Philadelphia banker whose brother Anthony founded Drexel University). She also founded and staffed other institutions across the United States. 

Due to the rapid expansion of student enrollment, the campus was moved from its original location to its current location just outside of New Orleans. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament presided over the university until 1970, when control of the school was transferred to a Board of Trustees.

Students attending or looking to attend XULA can pick from subject areas including fine arts, humanities, business, biological and applied health sciences, the social behavior sciences, education and counseling and mathematical and physical sciences. Post-graduates can complete a master’s program in education, counseling, public health and theology or a doctoral program in educational leadership.  

Xavier University of Louisiana is home to notable alumni that which includes Dr. Regina Benjamin, a U.S. Surgeon General appointed by former President Obama; Ernest Dutch Morial, the first African American Mayor of the City of New Orleans; and Dr. Norman C. Francis, the former President of Xavier University of Louisiana who served in the position for 47 years.

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