“Grambling is a German name,” he said. “A German came over here, built a saw mill, cut down trees, and amassed a fortune.” Dupree continued, “Grambling State University opened on November 1, 1901 as the Colored Industrial and Agricultural School. It was founded by the North Louisiana Colored Agriculture Relief Association, organized in 1896 by a group of African-American farmers who wanted to organize and operate a school for African Americans in their region of the state.

In response to the Association’s request for assistance, Tuskegee Institute’s Booker T. Washington sent Charles P. Adams to help the group organize an industrial school. Adams became its founding president.

In 1905, the school moved to its present location and was renamed the North Louisiana Agricultural and Industrial School. By 1928, after becoming a state junior college and being renamed the Louisiana Negro Normal and Industrial Institute, the school began to award two-year professional certificates and diplomas. In 1936, and the curriculum emphasis shifted to rural teacher education; students were able to receive professional teaching certificates after completing a third academic year. The first baccalaureate degree was awarded in 1944, in elementary education.

In 1946, the school became Grambling College, named after P.G. Grambling, the white sawmill owner who had donated the parcel of land where the school was constructed. In addition to elementary educators, Grambling prepared secondary teachers and added curricula in sciences, liberal arts and business, transforming the college from a single purpose institution of teacher education into a multipurpose college.”

I was fortunate to meet Dupree, a man born and raised in Grambling. He is Grambling’s unofficial historian/public relations/social coordinator. Thankfully, he and I each had a hankering for some french fries, as such, we met in Jean’s cafe, the only establishment open at 10pm during the summer recess. Dupree is a tall drink of water, with a closely shorn scalp; lythe a muscular, he reminds a person a bit of Louis Gossett Jr. In addition, he is supremely intelligent and amiable.

“I’m a Black Cowboy,” he informed me. “I am a black cowboy, and I help organize 28 Black Rodeos around Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and other states. We do bull riding, roping, and pretty much everything else you would see at any other rodeo. It is a rather a new thing, but it has been extremely popular.”

Having discovered that I am an artist, he called up a friend of his who is also an artist and engineer named Naja. Naja is from San Lucia in the Caribbean. Naja just graduated from Grambling, and as such he and his sister are the first members of their family to ever graduate college. Naja’s degree in engineering ensures that that education will always be a part of his families legacy. Later generations will have the opportunity to study at university because of what he has done, but Naja related to me, his real love is art. As such we took the opportunity to draw each other.

Dupree wanted to make it a competition, but Naja and I both knew it was one artist recognizing the vision of another. A compliment and a grateful statement that someone else has learned to see. I am grateful that I have been so honored to paint and draw so many wonderful people in my path. Honored, grateful really, to meet both of these strong and inspiring men.

 

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