While the needs of the community have changed over the years, we have retained our fundamental mission to educate children, strengthen families and build community. We are proud of our rich history of helping to improve the lives of families in the community, whether helping immigrants settle in New Orleans during the end of the 19th century, providing children and families with educational, developmental and recreational opportunities throughout the 20th century, or helping residents resettle and recover after Hurricane Katrina in the 21st century.
Founded in 1896 by the Reverend Beverley Warner of Trinity Episcopal Church, together with Rabbi I.L. Leucht of Touro Synagogue, as the first settlement house in the South, Kingsley House was established to help immigrants overcome language, cultural, social and family displacement barriers as they settled in New Orleans.
Eleanor McMain was instrumental in shaping the organization into a model of excellence in the field of social work. After taking over day-to-day operations as head resident in 1901, she ensured the programs offered were comparable to any in the country to meet the needs of residents and the surrounding community. In fact, she helped establish the Tulane School of Social Work, which was formally instituted at the historic campus in 1921 and is the fifth-oldest school of social work in the country. Her vision and legacy continue to shape the mission of the organization to this day.
Staff have always actively identified problems facing the community and worked together with key stakeholders to develop solutions. For example, staff and members gathered facts about tuberculosis and formed the Anti-Tuberculosis League, where doctors provided free health clinical visits and checkups. The organization also worked to pass a child labor law and helped eradicate yellow fever by screening windows and cisterns throughout the neighborhood. In addition, classes were offered to teach valuable trade skills and general education. In fact, the first kindergarten in the state of Louisiana was introduced by Kingsley House and was provided free of charge to children living in the neighborhood. Lighthouse for the Blind also evolved from on-campus classes for the sight impaired in 1916.
Throughout history, we have been a recreational, educational and social center for thousands upon thousands of youth in the surrounding area, particularly among residents of the adjacent St. Thomas housing development which was erected in the 1940s. Over the years, a myriad of sporting events, dances and other recreational activities have been held on our grounds. Our swimming pool, which opened in 1957, was the first integrated pool in the city of New Orleans and provided all children in the area with hours of enjoyment and much needed swim instruction during the sweltering summer months. Kingsley House is also the venue where countless young boys and girls learned to play basketball, volleyball, badminton and other sports, and continue to do so today. In fact, the New Orleans Recreation Department was first instituted at on our campus.
In preparation of our 125th anniversary celebration, our organization began exploring a rebranding effort to be more reflective of our work throughout the community. During our research it came to our attention that Charles Kingsley, our namesake, held racist views that were inconsistent with those of our organization.
We believe every institution is obligated to examine its monuments and labels, its policies, practices and programs to eliminate every possible vestige of racial oppression and cruelty. And, once we know, we must not hesitate. So in 2021, we set aside the name we have served under for 125 years, but in no way set aside the many good people and their extraordinary work, and the generous support garnered under the old name
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