Grambling’s first day of school

Charles Phillip Adams founded the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School of Lincoln Parish with the purpose of satisfying the educational needs of the Black people in North Louisiana.By 1896, 1,500 ex-slaves in North Louisiana decided they needed a more organized community and an industrial school for the people of the area. The result was the establishment of the North Louisiana Colored Agricultural Relief Association.

On Monday, Nov. 21, 1898, the association purchased from John Mank (a Black man), 25 acres of land two miles west of the present site of Grambling State University. Immediately after the purchase, the association began erecting a two-story building that was to become the school and the meeting place for the association.

Before too long, the association realized it needed a better skilled person to operate the industrial school. The association mailed a letter in May 1901 to Booker T. Washington, founder and curator of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

In the letter association members asked Washington to send them a man who was capable of building an industrial school. Washington recommended the South Louisiana-born Adams.

Adams had been a prized student at Tuskegee. He was top-ranked in all of his courses and represented the Institute as a member of the debate team. He, as a result, used his debating talents to mold himself into a distinguished speaker.

So it was no great surprise that Washington selected Adams for the job. Although Adams was the perfect man, he had his sights set on Harvard University’s Law School.

Adams, with the help of Washington, realized the Black people of North Louisiana needed him. So he agreed to relinquish his lifelong dream of becoming a lawyer.

On his way to North Louisiana, Adams paid a two month visit to his grandmother and his 100 acres, in Brusly, La., which he and his uncle had purchased in 1892. While there, Adams was informed of the financial security he would have if he stayed and managed his 70 acres of sugar cane and corn crops.

But Adams stood fast to his promise to Washington, and on Sunday, Aug. 4, 1901, he arrived in North Louisiana at the age of 28.

After Adams completed a thorough tour of North Louisiana, he wrote and asked Washington for a male and female teacher. Washington sent A.C. Wilcher and Martha Adams, daughter of Lewis Adams, the man who had acquired Washington for Tuskegee.

At this point Adams was ready to open the school in the two-story building on the 25 acres that belonged to the association. The first floor was composed of a chapel and two classrooms. The second floor had 10 rooms which were used as dormitories.

With three teachers and his students, Adams opened the privately owned Colored Industrial and Agricultural School on Friday, Nov. 1, 1901.

In 1901 the enrollment of the present Grambling State University was 125 students, with 20 living on campus. Tuition was $5 or commodities, i.e., flour, peas, potatoes.

Today, Adams’ school is known as Grambling State University. Its graduates have gone on to become clergymen, entrepreneurs, doctors, judges, lawyers, pilots, police officers, professional athletes, educators, politicians, and just about any other occupation you can name.