Jinx Broussard, professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication, stands in front of the LSU Journalism Building, some 43 after she became the first African American to graduate in journalism. (Credit: Lauren Myers)
Jinx Broussard, professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication, stands in front of the LSU Journalism Building, some 43 after she became the first African American to graduate in journalism. (Credit: Lauren Myers)

By Lauren Myers | LSU Student

For Jinx Broussard, becoming the first African-American graduate in journalism at LSU was difficult. Stepping foot on campus just three years after the first African-American undergraduates had enrolled at the university, Broussard knew the atmosphere could be hostile.

In a time when the Ku Klux Klan was still responsible for murdering blacks in rural Louisiana, racial tension ran high throughout the state. Although Broussard did not always feel welcome at LSU, she was not one to retreat from a challenge.

"The mere fact that I was black and came from a black high school didn't deter me from coming [to LSU]," she says. In late summer1967, she set off for Baton Rouge with only one dress and had to hitchhike to campus. And yet, she was committed to being successful, regardless of the difficulties ahead of her. Four years after arriving on campus, Broussard graduated in 1971.

Forty-six years later, Broussard has achieved that success. After career in journalism and public relations, she has returned to her alma mater as a professor. She has counseled numerous students on their paths to careers in mass communication and has published two books in her field.

However, Broussard will be the first to tell you that getting there was not easy.

In fact, little about Broussard's life could be considered easy. As one of six children, Broussard and her family lived and worked on a plantation in Vacherie, La., with no running water. She says the only way for them to get to school was to walk about a mile to the bus stop, regardless of the weather.

Still, her parents, whom she describes as her "heroes," knew the value of education. They always told her and her siblings they were "on the plantation, not of the plantation," she explains. They touted education as an opportunity for their children to excel past their circumstances.

From an early age, Broussard knew she wanted to be a journalist. She reminisces about watching the NBC Nightly News with her parents. Those nightly broadcasts convinced her of her career aspirations. She says she also knew the best place for her to pursue that career path was LSU.

"LSU had journalism, and Southern didn't."

Broussard knew being on a campus where she wasn't welcome would be hard. Her first day at LSU, she remembers clutching her rosary and praying that she was not the only black student on campus. Luckily, she quickly found a support system in four other black female students whom she calls "her best friends [still] today."

While living in the dorms, Broussard was also good friends with the white girls, but she stresses that was only "in the dorm." If she saw the same girls on campus, they would not acknowledge her. She explains that she and her friends "soon learned that this was how it [was]." As they dealt with the racism, they "learned to take strength from each other" and focused on their goals.

Broussard and her friends had come to LSU to get an education. They were a support system for each other, spending most of their time studying together. They didn't even have time for football, using game days to study in the library. The one game Broussard did attend, in 1967, was a racist experience during which her classmates called her and her friends vulgar names. She hasn't been to an LSU football game since.

Broussard also experienced racism in the classroom. If she sat down in a row in class, the white students on that row would get up and move. Professors would overlook her hand if she wanted to give an answer. As she explains, "I had nerve," and would politely call their attention to allow her to participate.

Broussard found a home in the journalism school. Calling the school her "salvation," she said professors there were supportive, helping her obtain scholarships for her final two years of school.

In 1990, she was named to the Manship School of Mass Communication Hall of Fame.

After graduating from LSU, Broussard held many jobs as a journalist and public relations professional, once working for the Clinton presidential campaign and another for the mayor of New Orleans.

Broussard calls working for Mayor Sidney Barthelemy "one of the best experiences of [her] professional life." She was the mayor's press secretary and director of public information for the city of New Orleans.

Working with the second African-American mayor of the city, Broussard said the administration was "making history" every day, with such things as bringing the Republican National Convention to New Orleans in 1988.

After than stint, Broussard opened her own public relations firm – one of three African American-owned PR firms in the city. She only had black clients.

Today, she notes, African-American women have many more opportunities to work diverse public relations roles. Still, she believes there could be more opportunities available. Her advice to all students is to "do [their jobs] well, get the internships, [and] be aggressive." The opportunities will present themselves.

Broussard credits her success to the Manship School of Mass Communicaiton, which this year celebrated the 100th anniversary of a journalism program at LSU. That is one she wanted to return to LSU as a professor.

Not all of Broussard's friends had positive experiences, however. In other departments, professors' racism manifested itself through giving black students grades lower than they deserved. To this day, one of Broussard's friends refuses to donate money to LSU, due to her experience as an undergraduate.

Even for Broussard, the decision to return to LSU was difficult. She spent more than 20 years at Dillard University in New Orleans as director of University Relations and an assistant professor. At Dillard, a historically black university, Broussard believed she had "a role to play" in inspiring fellow African-American students with her experiences. Broussard says she had a strong "loyalty" to the school.

John Hamilton, former dean of the Manship School, began recruiting Broussard for his faculty in 2001. Hamilton recognized a lack of gender and racial diversity in faculty positions. He felt Broussard would be a solid addition, but he also knew she had a commitment to Dillard.

Originally, Hamilton said he suggested Broussard work part-time at both Dillard and LSU. And she did, working as an affiliate faculty member while remaining at Dillard. By 2006, Hamilton was able to convince her to join LSU fulltime. He calls her an "extraordinary human being" and "model faculty member."

For her part, Broussard attributes the school with giving her the opportunity to publish two books. The first, "Giving a Voice to the Voiceless: Four Pioneering Black Women Journalists," was published in 2003. This past July, she published her second book with the LSU Press entitled, "African-American Foreign Correspondents: A History."

The genesis of the latter publication was Hamilton suggesting Broussard do some research about John "Rover" Jordan, a black foreign correspondent. In finding information about him, Broussard uncovered research about multiple other African-American foreign correspondents' work. She quickly decided a book was needed to tell their stories.

Broussard notes changes on the LSU campus since her days as a student – an increase in student diversity among students, student-athletes, and faculty, especially. Broussard calls the Manship School a "leader when it comes to diversity," in terms of students and faculty of color and in being "more welcoming."