Celebrating the 150th birthday of Dr. J.H. Lowery capturing the perspectives of rural scholars through photography

Allison B. Hudson

Dr. John Harvey Lowery in 1894 became the first African American physician in Ascension Parish, Louisiana. In addition to practicing medicine, he also owned sugar and rice plantations that afforded employment to 200 men and women in the river road Parishes. Until his death, Dr. Lowery was active in Fraternal Societies. He was Secretary of the Endowment Department of the District Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows for the State of Louisiana for a number of years. He was a stockholder and served on the Board of Directors and Finance Committee of the People’s Life Insurance Co. in New Orleans. Lowery was very active in the politics of Louisiana. He was a member of the Republican Party and served as a member of the State Central Committee. He was also a delegate to every National Republican Convention in the United States since 1884.

Dr. Lowery's interest in the education of rural black youth led to him sponsor a movement to build modern schools in Donaldsonville. His generous contributions led to the school being named the Lowery Training School in his honor. The elementary and intermediate schools in Donaldsonville still bear his name. He also donated land for a school in Modeste, a rural community between Donaldsonville and White Castle.

During the week leading up to October 18th, Dr. Lowery will be remembered, exactly150 years after the date of his birth, for his pioneering efforts in education throughout the city of Donaldsonville. A week-long city-wide educational tour of the River Road African American Museum and buildings of historical significance, will conclude in a unique project with participating scholars from local area schools.

The River Road African American Museum, Lowery Elementary School, Ascension Catholic School and the John Harvey Lowery Foundation will jointly celebrate Dr. J.H. Lowery’s 150th birthday by engaging ten young leaders in a ”photovoice” project that encourages dialogue and photography to document youth perceptions of their community and environment.

Photovoice is an innovative technique that uses cameras as a tool for communities to document issues of concern within the environment. Caroline Wang and Mary Anne pioneered the technique Burris in 1997 and has been employed with various populations around the world to document health and social issues ranging from environmental conservation to traffic safety.

The Donaldsonville Photovoice Project will end with a public program featuring the photographic images taken by the young scholars showing their images and perspectives on their community.