John McDonogh is an important figure in New Orleans history, best known for his philanthropic contributions to the city. Born in 1779, he was a very successful businessman and landowner, buying real estate throughout Louisiana. After making his fortune in real estate, he devoted his time and money to helping those less fortunate.
His most notable contribution was the establishment of two schools: one for whites and one for African Americans. At the time education was only available to white children, so this act of charity made McDonogh a hero amongst black New Orleanians who had been denied access to education.
McDonogh also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support and create orphanages, charities, churches and other organizations dedicated to helping people in need. He passed away in 1850 with much of his wealth going to continue his mission as per his will. A statue honoring him sits atop Lafayette Square today as a testament to his selflessness and generosity.
McDonogh's legacy still lives on through John McDonogh High School which opened its doors in 1958 — allowing students of all races the opportunity to gain a quality education they wouldn't be able find elsewhere at the time. The school offers a wide range of courses from basic mathematics and reading comprehension courses up through more advanced classes such as robotics or pre-law curriculum.
The school boasts many inspiring alumni including Wynton Marsalis (Grammy winning jazz musician), James Carville (Democratic political consultant), Trombone Shorty (trumpeter/singer) as well as many other famous artists, leaders and innovators who have used their talents to help make the world a better place.