Philadelphia heiress Catherine Drexel shocks the nation when she takes religious vows. Some point out, however, that her vow of poverty "does not mean a necessary relinquishment of her private fortune to the Church."
Catherine Drexel's final vows establish her as the Mother Superior of a new order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People. Her new name is Mother Mary Katharine.
The Archbishop of New Orleans enlists Mother Katharine to fund a separate parish for black Catholics, telling her that they themselves requested it. But a black newspaper criticizes her involvement, and in her journal she later records her misgivings about the parish.
A Creole man, Homer Plessy, brings a lawsuit after he is arrested for riding in a "whites only" train car in New Orleans. The US Supreme Court rules against him, and Plessy v. Ferguson becomes the basis for racial segregation laws all across the South.
White homeowners petition to have New Orleans's Southern University and its black students "removed to the country." Black community leaders sue to keep Southern in the city. Their suit fails.
Through a series of secret business negotiations, Mother Katharine buys the former Southern University campus with the goal of creating another black university there. The school opens despite white homeowners' attempts to pass a law against it.
Mother Katharine's new school is incorporated as "Xavier University Preparatory School," although for years the Sisters and their students will also call it "Southern University of New Orleans."
Xavier opens a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It's the only Catholic college in the country established for people of color, and the first Catholic college to admit both men and women.
Pope Pius XI issues an encyclical condemning co-education as a "pernicious error." Mother Katharine secures an official exception for Xavier, which has been co-educational since its founding.
Xavier University opens a new campus at its present-day location. Hundreds of local residents attend the dedication ceremony, and Mother Katharine, knowing that black attendees will be expected to stand until all white attendees are seated, directs that no chairs be put out on the grounds.
Mother Katharine funds the NAACP's undercover investigation of the exploitation of black levee camp workers on the Mississippi Flood Control Project. US Senate hearings result.
Xavier tennis sensation Jimmie McDaniel (XU '40) plays US tennis champion Don Budge in the country's first public interracial tennis match.
Xavier's War Production Training Unit trains black men and women for jobs in war industries. Louisiana employers do not hire them, however, until Xavier strikes a deal with Higgins Industries in New Orleans.
Norman Christopher Francis (XU '52) enrolls at Xavier on a work scholarship, which includes a job repairing damaged library books. He will be elected president of his class four years in a row.
Norman Francis is one of the first two black students admitted to Loyola Law School. Under Louisiana law, however, he cannot live with white students in Loyola's dorms, so Xavier's Sisters offer him housing as part of a job overseeing Xavier's freshman dorm.
The US Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that "in the field of public education the doctrine of 'separate but equal' has no place." The decision overturns the legal justification for 60 years of racial segregation laws.
Xavier loses its foundress, protector, and primary source of financial support when Mother Katharine Drexel passes away at age 96.
The US Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board II that public schools should be desegregated "with all deliberate speed." But the Court does not define what that means, and many state and local governments simply ignore the ruling.
72 Xavier and Dillard students are arrested when, returning from a basketball game on a bus with only one white passenger aboard, they toss the bus's racial dividing sign on the floor and sit wherever they want.
Xavier's President, Reverend Mother Agatha, sends out an appeal for funding. "Owing principally to the death of Reverend Mother Foundress last year," she writes, "Xavier is now in much need of financial assistance."
Xavier's Sister Mary Elise Sisson defies Louisiana's segregation laws by putting on opera productions for interracial audiences. The shows sell out.
Xavier hosts an "interracial art competition" and exhibition for students from across the country. The event is funded by art patrons from New Orleans's black community, who at the time are not allowed to visit the city's public art museums.
Xavier Senior Class President Rudy Lombard (XU '61) is arrested at a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter. He sues, and the US Supreme Court rules in Lombard v. Louisiana that state laws denying service based on a customer's race are unconstitutional.
When a federal judge orders the Orleans Parish School District to admit four black first-graders to "white" schools, the Louisiana legislature votes to shut down all public schools in the state.
Louisiana political boss Leander Perez urges white residents to fight back against school integration, prompting a mob to attack the Orleans Parish School Administration building. The police use fire hoses to protect the building.
Xavier's Sisters publish an open letter in The Times-Picayune condemning forced segregation as a violation of Scripture. Meanwhile, the Archbishop of New Orleans continues to segregate Catholic schools.
Xavier Senior Class President Rudy Lombard helps organize the first "Freedom Ride" across the South. After the Freedom Riders are beaten, arrested, and firebombed by the Klan, Xavier Dean of Men Norman Francis arranges a safe haven for them at St. Michael's dorm.
Xavier students, staff and alumni organize to help black voters register, a process that, at the time in Louisiana, includes a written test, an oral test, and a "moral" and "character" test.
Artist and alumnus John T. Scott (XU '62) returns to Xavier, where, for the next 40 years, he will teach, produce landmark pieces of art, and, in 1992, receive a MacArthur "Genius Grant."
College protests sweep the country, including at Xavier, where students demand more black representation on the faculty and in the curriculum. Xavier's Sisters call a campus-wide meeting and ask Executive Vice President Norman Francis to lead it.
Xavier's Sisters ask Executive Vice President Francis to become the university's first black, lay president, and he accepts. In his inaugural address, he cites the "chaos" on US college campuses and says that people keep asking him "Why would anyone in his right mind accept the leadership at this time of a private, church-related institution which serves a predominantly Negro student body?"
New Orleans's new mayor, Moon Landrieu, makes integration of city government a core part of his agenda. He starts with the city's parks and recreational facilities.
Xavier hires Dr. J.W. Carmichael, who develops its Summer Science Academy and premed program. For the next 50 years, experts around the country will study his methods as a model of success for producing black doctors and scientists.
Xavier's Sister Patricia Downs and Sister Valerie Riggs organize and launch the Gert Town Resource Center and Senior Citizens' Program.
Ernest "Dutch" Morial (XU '51) becomes the first black mayor of New Orleans.
The Institute for Black Catholic Studies is established at Xavier to educate both non-ordained laity and clergy for ministry within US black Catholic communities.
Xavier Vice President Sybil Haydel Morial and Xavier Professor of Art John T. Scott create "I've Known Rivers," a New Orleans World Expo pavilion showcasing African American heritage.
Xavier begins a series of major construction projects on the campus: the Norman C. Francis Science Complex (1988), Xavier South (1990), a new library (1993), and the Living/Learning Center (1998).
Alexis Herman (XU '69) is appointed US Secretary of Labor. About Xavier, she says "we were encouraged to be a part of the movement, to be a part of the fight. For me, it helped to make me the person that I am today."
Mother Katharine Drexel becomes Saint Katharine Drexel when she is canonized by Pope John Paul II.
For the seventh year in a row, Xavier University ranks first in the nation in graduating black students who go on to medical school.
Xavier builds a new University Center complex.
Xavier achieves its longtime goal of enrolling 4,000 students.
Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans, bursting levees and flooding the city. Hundreds are trapped on Xavier's campus, with nuns cooking in their convent and administrators ferrying the food in boats to students. President Francis tells his staff that, in order to save Xavier, they must reopen it in time for spring classes.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco asks President Francis to chair the Louisiana Recovery Authority, and he agrees to do so.
Xavier reopens on January 17, 2006. The "Hurricane Class" of 2006 will graduate that summer. The US Senator from Illinois and future US President Barack Obama will give their commencement address.
65 percent of Xavier students volunteer for post-Katrina relief efforts. They also recruit about 1,500 students from other HBCUs to come to New Orleans and work with them.
Qatar donates $17.5 million to help Xavier recover from Katrina. The university uses it to build a five-story pavilion for its rapidly expanding College of Pharmacy.
In December 2006, US President George W. Bush awards President Francis the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
Dr. Regina Benjamin (XU '79) is appointed US Surgeon General. In 2013, she will return to Xavier as the NOLA.com/Times-Picayune Endowed Chair of Public Health Sciences.
Xavier commissions architect Cesar Pelli to design and build the new St. Katharine Drexel Chapel on its campus.
President Francis retires, having served the longest tenure of any university president in US history. He will return the next year for the investiture of Xavier's new president, Dr. C. Reynold Verret, a distinguished biochemist and immunologist who grew up in Haiti and Brooklyn.
President Verret gives his inaugural address, noting that Saint Katharine understood education to be "a right by justice, and a means of empowerment," and that President Emeritus Francis "is the living embodiment of Xavier’s noble mission."
LaToya Cantrell (XU '96) is elected Mayor of New Orleans. She is the first woman—and the second Xavierite—to serve as the city's mayor.
Xavier's $165 million in Katrina-related loans are forgiven by the federal government.
Xavier announces it will open a Center for Equity, Justice and the Human Spirit. "In a polarized world, universities can serve as honest brokers," says President Verret. "It's about rescuing our society."