NewsLocal NewsIn Your ParishVermilion Parish

Actions

Family works to preserve a piece of Louisiana history

Dozier family preserving history
Posted at 3:30 AM, Dec 17, 2021

"Not accepting the norm," is what Dana Comeaux and Ethel Bernard-Ambrose said about their great-great grandparents, Robert and Francis Dozier.

"They had ten children and they wanted their children to receive an education and no one else was going to give them that," Comeaux said. "They took matters into their own hands and began to educate their children."

Robert and Francis, both former slaves, could do something many other former slaves did not have the opportunity to do--they learned read and write.

"They learned from someone," Comeaux said. "We don't know what that journey was....but they wanted to pass that along to their children."

They scraped together whatever money they had and paid a private tutor for their ten children. Word got out and the Dozier's took on even more kids.

They eventually moved the school into the church next door.

"They did it back then when there was no formal education," Comeaux said. "Hope. If they, did it then, without a road map, they've already left a road map for us to follow."

That road map passed down from generation to generation.

Both Comeaux and Bernard-Ambrose said they remembered the stories that were told to them when they were children. They knew that others would benefit from these stories, too.

They got to work trying to preserve a place of, not only their family history, but Louisiana.

"Our primary mission is to preserve and restore this church," Comeaux said.

"This was one of the first schools in Louisiana for African-American children," Bernard-Ambrose said. "You can't have a beginning and not bring it with you. Things that touch you, you can't receive it and bring it out to others. That's important for anybody. Look at what happened in little Erath Louisiana and what can happen anywhere."

Still in its infancy stage, Comeaux and Bernard-Ambrose said this project has not been easy. A big chunk of the money collected thus far has gone to fix the windows in the old church.

"Not only did they have to replace the panes but also the frames because it was rotted out," Comeaux said. "The church was built in 1912."

Covid was another setback for the women. Their annual Gala was canceled for the second time.

But, they said, these are just minor, and they will keep pushing toward the bigger picture.

"This shows how determination and having a vision, what it can do for anyone," Comeaux said. "We want it to be a staple of education. Anyone who loves history would appreciate the fact that they started from nothing."

As they continue to follow in the footsteps of their great-great grandparents, Comeaux and Bernard-Ambrose said that no matter how difficult this task they will keep moving forward.

They know that this is just part of the journey their ancestors started for them all those years ago.