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Dunn-Landry Family | Amistad Research Center

Name: Dunn-Landry Family

Historical Note:

The Dunn-Landry family were leaders in local and national politics, civil rights, education and community relations during the late nineteenth century and throughout the 20th century. Pierre Caliste Landry was an Methodist Episcopal Minister, an attorney and a politician who was the the first African American mayor when he was elected in 1868 as mayor of Donaldsonville, Louisiana. He also served in the Lousiana State House of Representative and as a Lousiana State Senator in 1874. Henderson Hollowell Dunn was a pastor of Morris Brown Congregational Church and pastor of Central Congregational Church in New Orleans where he started the first day nursery for African Americans. Dunn also served as a regional secretary of the Congregational Churches in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississppi, Oklahoma and Texas.

Pierre Landry (1841-1921) was born on a plantation owned by the Prevost family. The Prevost plantation was located in Ascension Parish and had one of the largest slave populations in Louisiana that revolved around the sugar industry. Landry was the son of a white plantation laborer Roseman Landry and Marcelite (Prevost) Landry a slave and cook on the Prevost plantation. He had two younger siblings Antoinette and Julian.

In 1854 Landry was sold in a public auction to the Bringier family. This family was very prominent in Louisiana during the antebellum period. They owned 35,000 acres of land in several Louisiana parishes. Landry was educated on the Bringier plantation in their primary and technical schools. He also received private instruction from Reverend W.D. Goodman and Reverend A.L. Atkinson during this time period.

After the Civil War in 1866, Pierre Landry moved his family to the town of Donaldsonville, Louisiana, which had the third largest black community in the state. Within his first year of living in Donaldsonville he founded two black schools, constructed a house for his family, and conducted a prosperous business, becoming an influential leader in the Black community, as well as in Ascension Parish. He served the community in various roles including as a lawyer, architect, judge superintendent of schools, juror, tax collector, president of  police jury, parish school board, postmaster, and justice of the peace.  In 1868 he was elected mayor of Donaldsonville and served for a one-year term. Landry was the first African American to hold a mayoral position in the United States. That same year Landry formed a self proclaimed faction of the Black Republicans Party in Ascension Parish. He established this faction in response to white carpetbaggers from northern states.

In 1872, Landry ran for a seat in the House of Representatives in the sate of Louisiana, with the help of Blacks and a significant number of white voters he won the election by a landslide. During his term in the House, he created numerous bills in support of African Americans, one of his more important victories came when his bill passed to establish New Orleans University, which became the third Black private college in Louisiana. In 1874 he was elected state senator where he served until 1880. During his term he was one of two black members to dine with President Ulysses S. Grant in 1875. Landry also served on the Ascension Parish School Board, served as a member of the police jury, and edited a Christian paper, The Monthly Report, during his term as a senator.

Landry began gradually relinquishing his control over the Republican Party and increased his duties in the Methodist Church.  He became pastor of St. Peter's Methodist Episcopal Church in Donaldsonville in 1878. He was elected presiding elder of the Baton Rouge District in 1881. Landry was then elected presiding elder of the Shreveport District in 1885, and in 1889 he became pastor of St Paul Methodist Episcopal Church in Shreveport. At the annual Methodist Episcopal conference in 1891 he was elected to the highest position in the Methodist Episcopal Church, a Presiding Elder of the South New Orleans District.

Landry served as a principal and dean of several high schools, including Gilbert Academy in Baldwin, Louisiana, from 1900-1905. Gilbert Academy was a nationally recognized school that had its beginnings in 1865 as an agricultural and industrial college for recently emancipated Blacks. The college had been under the administration of the Methodist Episcopal Church and, in 1919, the school merged with New Orleans University, and was renamed Gilbert Academy High School.

Landry had fourteen children, twelve children with his first wife, Amanda Grigsby, and two by his second wife, Florence Simpkins.

Henderson Hollowell Dunn (1872-1955) was born in Thibodaux, Louisiana, on December 12, 1872. His parents were Enoch ,a former slave, and Ellen Dunn. Dunn received his early education at the first school for Blacks in Lafourche Parish. The school was organized by his father. Dunn went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1900 and Bachelor of Divinity in 1904 from Straight University. He did further study in education and theology at the University of Chicago. Following his graduation from Straight University, Reverend Dunn taught school and became pastor of Morris Brown Congregational Church in New Orleans. During the years of 1906-1921, he served as pastor of Central Congregational Church in New Orleans. He started many programs to enrich the lives of African Americans in New Orleans. One such program was the first day nursery for African Americans, the Isabella Hume Child Development Center.

In 1924, Henderson H. Dunn resigned as pastor of Central Congregational Church to become regional secretary of the Congregational Churches in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. Dunn was an employee of the American Missionary Association and, as regional secretary, he founded and organized the Colored Education Alliance, an organization dedicated to obtaining a expanded number of schools for Black communities. Dunn also began a long successful career as a teacher at Milne Boys Home, where he served as director of the Summer Normal School that trained New Orleans public school teachers. Also as director, he supervised competitive examinations that determined the appointment of qualified persons to teaching position in New Orleans Public School System. In 1950 he retired from teaching.

Dunn was also a news writer for the Times-Picayune newspaper, where he wrote about African American religious and educational news. Many credit him as the first African American who wrote for the Times-Picayune. While at the Times-Picayune he was the director and an ardent worker of the Times-Picayune Doll and Toy Fund. The fund was established to help poorer families during the Christmas season.

Each year from 1911 until his death in 1955 he presented an address at the annual Thanksgiving meeting of the Louisiana Educational Alliance, where he would document the progress of the Blacks in the United States along religious, educational and economic lines. Three years after his death, the  New Orleans Public School System honored Henderson H. Dunn by dedicating a elementary school in his name.

Lillian Burdette Landry was born February 26, 1888, in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. She was the daughter of the second marriage of Pierre Landry and Florence Simpkins. In 1895, the family moved to New Orleans when her father became presiding elder of the New Orleans District of the Methodist Episcopal  Church. Lillian completed high school at Gilbert Academy in 1905, and went on to Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she completed the Teachers Normal Course and Music degree in 1906. She became a member of the faculty at Wiley College, where she taught until 1909. She then became a teacher at Haydel Private School in Wallace, Louisiana.

In 1910, Lillian was asked by her father to read his annual report to the Methodist Conference. There she met Reverend Henderson H. Dunn, her future husband of forty-five years. They were married December 28, 1910. Reverend Dunn was pastor of Central Congregational Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lillian soon joined Central Congregational in March 1911 and she served the church as an organist, solo singer in the choir, and as the choir director in 1926. Mrs. Dunn also spent her time performing community service in the New Orleans area. She served as treasurer of the Women's Auxiliary of Flint Goodridge Hospital, Ebony Fashion Fair, and B-Sharp Music Club, where she served as treasurer for forty-three years.

The Dunns had five daughters. Beatrice Ellen Dunn Wilson was a graduate of Straight University and the first black assistant supervisor of visiting teachers in New Orleans Public Schools. She also served as a president of the Women's Auxiliary of Flint Goodridge Hospital where she instituted the Miss Lady Fair Contest.

Lillian Dunn Perry was the only black music consultant in New Orleans Public Schools.

Florence Annie Dunn Swann was a graduate of Straight University, a kindergarten teacher, and assistant minister of music at Central Congregational Church.

Eloise Jocelyn Dunn Bryant Warrick was a graduate of Gilbert Academy and Spelman College and a concert artist and music teacher in the Gary, Indiana, Public Schools.

Elise Dunn Cain was a graduate of Gilbert Academy and Spelman College. She worked as a New Orleans Public School teacher and one of the first to integrate a faculty in the elementary schools in Atlanta. Cain served as a Director of Volunteer Services at Flint Goodrige Hospital.

Sources: Dunn-Landry Family Papers; James Wilson. "Pierre Caliste Landry and African-American Leadership in Louisiana, 1841-1884 (M.A. Thesis, University of Southwestern Louisiana, 1997); Jari Honora. "Pierre Caliste Landry." African American National Biography, Vol. 5, p. 145-146
Note Author: Shannon Burrell

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