“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
Oprah Winfrey, 2018 Golden Globes
The mission of The 431 Exchange is to be a gathering place for first-hand stories related to the school known as The Adult Education Center so that by looking back we can help our society move forward.
The Adult Education Center (or “AEC”) was a ground-breaking and controversial adult training school sponsored by St. Mary’s Dominican College, the U.S. Government, and private funding. The school was founded by a Catholic priest, Father Timothy Gibbons. The director for all of its years in existence was Dr. Alice Geoffray. The school’s first experimental class of 90 disadvantaged, mostly black women, started on December 13, 1965. A documentary about the AEC called The School That Would Not Die, won a regional Emmy Award in 1969.
Over the course of seven years, 431 women graduated from the school that was located at 112 Exchange Place in a run-down section of the New Orleans French Quarter. It changed their lives, it changed the face of business in New Orleans as the AEC’s graduates became the first black stenographers and secretaries to integrate Shell, Exxon, Texaco and other major establishments in New Orleans. Before coming to the AEC, these women were unable to find worthwhile employment. But, after the training at the AEC, and after more than 35 years in the work force, not only had their lives been changed but so had the lives of their children.
The AEC had a 94% placement rate for each of the seven classes. Businesses throughout New Orleans felt the positive impact of the AEC students in their business world between 1965-1972. When the first graduates of the AEC were employed, salaries ranged from $175.00 to $475.00 a month. When classes met on July 16, 2000 for a reunion, many reported annual salaries of $45,000 a year or more. As of the latest study in 2001, the highest salary recorded was $200,000 a year.
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Tell us your stories of the AEC and its impact.