Graduates Of Tulsa's First Black Catholic School Reunite

Friday, August 23rd 2013, 10:54 pm
By: News On 6

One of the first Catholic schools for the black community after the 1921 race riot is having a huge reunion this weekend.

A lot of history has happened within the walls of St. Monica Catholic Church and School. We spoke with students who went to the school in the '30s.

The church and school - run by whites - played a critical role in the black community after the 1921 race riot.

"The race riot was about the strong black businesses and taking their property," said St. Monica graduate Lorenzo Vann.

It first opened in 1925 along Greenwood, but it's legacy continues at a new building, almost a mile away.

"It was unbelievable, the quality that came out of St. Monica School," Vann said.

Vann started school at St. Monica in 1936. He said his father moved his family here in a wagon.

"My father was an illiterate man. During the territory days, he never went to school, but he insisted that all of his kids go to the Catholic school," he said.

This is the first time former students have been under one roof in quite some time. They are there to celebrate the good that has come from St. Monica School.

"They also gave us the foundation of our education. The basics were important to them: reading, writing and arithmetic," said former student Marilyn Troupe.

The nuns helped teach and discipline the kids, but the man who gets credit for making the school so great is Father Bradley.

"Father Bradley was a very outspoken man and he broke down racial barriers in North Tulsa," said Leon Barre.

Class of 1956 graduate Leon Barre said Father Bradley helped blacks get jobs they didn't have before.

"Before Father Bradley, there were not any black police officers. He also was able to get black garbage workers, street workers, firemen. He did it all," Barre said.

"It was one of the greatest things that ever happened to us, the catholic school, to this community," Vann said.

Organizers of the reunion say the school had a high rate of graduates who went on to college.

Many of those graduates now live in other states and have traveled miles to be at the reunion this weekend.