After Phebe Hayes retired from her position as professor of communicative disorders and as dean of the College of General Studies at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, she immediately threw herself into a new research project. Hayes, a person whose mind is never idle, began volunteering in the genealogy section of her local library. She came across a book that listed the doctors of Iberia Parish from 1859 to 1959. “None of the doctors were Black. None of the doctors were women,” Hayes remembered.
And Hayes knew that wasn’t true, “at the time I knew of five Black doctors from Iberia Parish,” which is about 130 miles west of New Orleans. So, she started to do her own research, and quickly learned of 21 different Black doctors from the area, four of whom were women. One of those women, Emma Wakefield-Paillet, was the first woman of any race to earn her medical degree in Louisiana. There was a similar dearth of information regarding Black veterans from the area.
And with that, not only was Hayes’ next act born, but so, too, were the seeds sown for what would become the Iberia African American Historical Society (IAAHS) Center for Research and Learning at Shadows-on-the-Teche, a former sugar-cane plantation that has been a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation since 1958. The Center is the culmination of a partnership between the National Trust and IAAHS, with a goal of working with descendants of the area on preserving their history. Read article