At the May Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors meeting, the board approved the naming of the African American Cultural Center as the “Clarence L. Barney Jr. African American Cultural Center.”
A New Orleans native, Barney became the first African-American to serve as chairman of the LSU Board of Supervisors in 1992. As a result of his leadership and commitment, the African American Cultural Center, or AACC, became a reality.
“The African American Cultural Center exists today because of Clarence Barney,” said LSU Board of Supervisors member James Williams.
During the 1960s and 1970s, many students made demands for spaces such as this at colleges around the country. In 1972, LSU created a Harambee House just off campus, but it fell into disrepair and was closed shortly after opening. In the 1980s, LSU students, this time with the help of the Black Faculty and Staff Caucus and others, began to raise requests for a center on campus. Barney helped champion their cause and was able to influence the board to not only approve such a center, but to support it as well. Many have asserted that were it not for Barney’s persuasive ability and dogged determination, the AACC would not have come to be in 1993.
Williams said the naming of the center honors the legacy of Barney and his family, a legacy that he called “an important part of the fabric of the university.” It also will encourage the university to tell of the history of Barney’s service to the university.
“We can look to Mr. Barney’s example and realize that we have hope that what we do will matter, that small things we do today will have a lasting impact on the university in the future,” Williams said.
Barney was also a member of several other boards, including the Superdome Commission and the Board of Dryades Savings Bank. A tireless advocate for human rights, he was president of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans for more than 30 years, retiring in 1996.
“This will give us another naming opportunity where people from all walks will be able to see with pride the commitment that this institution has for its diversity,” said Dereck Rovaris Sr., LSU vice provost for diversity and chief diversity officer.
Barney died in 2005 at the age of 70 after a lifetime of service and commitment.
“He was an important figure in building bridges between the black and white communities in New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s,” said National Urban League President Marc Morial, the former mayor of New Orleans. “He built the Urban League of Greater New Orleans into an important, respected and effective organization that helped thousands of people find jobs and gain the skills to move into the economic mainstream.”
The university plans to hold a rededication ceremony for the Clarence L. Barney Jr. African American Cultural Center later this year.