Dr. Norman C. Francis was an honors student and president of his class all four years at Xavier University of Louisiana, the only all-Black Catholic school in the country. When he got older, he became the first Black president of the New Orleans HBCU, and the first who wasn't a member of the clergy. Dr. Francis is one of the most effective college presidents in history, and is considered the "dean" of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He was the first Black person to receive a law degree from Loyola University. A winner of the presidential medal of freedom and a man of Alpha Phi Alpha. When he retired in 2015, he was the longest-serving U.S. college president in history.
Before joining Xavier as president, Dr. Francis helped to integrate the United States federal agencies as a lawyer for the U.S. Attorney's Office. At the same time he served as a lawyer for Rudolph Lombard, who was then Xavier's student council president, who had been arrested for trying to integrate a New Orleans lunch counter. In 1972, just four years after assuming the presidency at Xavier, he helped to form Liberty Bank of New Orleans, one of the largest black-owned banks in the country, and served as the chairman of its board of directors.
During his time at Xavier, the institution graduated more Black doctors of pharmacy and sending more black graduates to medical schools than any other U.S. college. This is a legacy that has persisted since his retirement.
Dr. Francis remains a champion for Civil Rights. In a 2021 interview, he said,"People haven't really yet dealt with racism. In part, yes, but in totality to the sense that each would respect each other. It's not there yet,”
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Dr. Francis once said, "Ideas, however good they are, have to be accepted and put into action by the people who are going to carry them out." What big ideas do you have? How will you act on them?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
What does "education belongs to everybody" mean to you? For Dr. Francis to have said in 2021 that "we've got to have people who believe that education belongs to everybody," he must have felt it wasn't the case -- still. What do you think? Do you think the adults making decisions in your school, district, and the country truly believe education is for everybody? Why or why not?
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
What is the difference between equality and equity? Why does Dr. Francis say treating people equally is not enough? Based on this country's history of providing certain groups with less, why do you think people are so opposed to an equity-centered approach that would mean the groups that have traditionally gotten less would get more than those that have traditionally gotten more to ensure true equality?
Dr. Francis, one of the greatest educators of all-time, says he remembers every student he's ever had. Surely his approach to getting to know every student plays a role in the success the small institution has had with graduating such a large number of Black doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. How are you working to get to know your students individually? And then how are you using what you know about them as individuals to not provide equal treatment, which Dr. Francis says is "not enough," but to ensure equity in your classrooms?
About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.