From 1965-1972, a small vocational school helped transform civil rights in New Orleans and the nation by empowering its graduates with the skills they needed to integrate America's largest corporations. In a tribute to the school's legacy, The 431 Exchange has been founded to honor the 431 graduates of the school and continue the school's innovative and humanistic approach to career education.

Press Release updated: Jun 13, 2019 21:24 EDT

BURBANK, Calif., June 13, 2019 ( – Real-life heroes rarely, if ever, accept that label, and Alice Geoffray was no different. When she took over the Adult Education Center as director in 1965, she was a 41-year-old grandmother and schoolteacher with seven kids, a failing marriage and no administrative experience. Yet she turned the little school, designed to help black women integrate America’s largest corporations, into a powerhouse of social change. More than 50 years later, the 431 graduates of the school have gone on to lead inspirational lives. The 431 Exchange, a non-profit corporation, is dedicated to telling the story of these incredible alums and to furthering the cause of comprehensive adult education.

Learn more about the future scholarship offerings from The 431 Exchange:

Read and see more about the history of The 431 Exchange:

In 1965, on a seedy street in the New Orleans French Quarter called Exchange Place, an experimental school began that would change the moral skyline of the Deep South’s largest city. The students of the school were underemployed mostly African-American women who would become the first secretaries to integrate the city’s businesses at a time when 100 percent of its company offices were segregated.

The goal of the school was so controversial that the first class was shut down when white residents of the community objected to black women attending a school in their neighborhood. In search of a new location, 60 landlords refused to rent them a space. Finally, one brave landlord, James Coleman Sr., offered them a home.

After its first two years, the school placed 94 percent of its graduates in jobs with salaries that were many times higher than what they had earned prior to surviving the school’s rigorous training. Those salaries were above the national average for working white or black women in comparable positions.

By 1967, the school’s success made front page news in The Wall Street Journal and was featured in many other publications, including Time Magazine. A documentary about the program called The School That Would Not Die, by Mel Leavitt, won a regional Emmy in 1968. The school was ultimately shut down in 1972, but only after graduating 431 highly skilled working women.


Alice Geoffray had many successes and accomplishments before and after the school was finally closed in 1972. After her work at the Center, she became the director of career education at the Louisiana State Department of Education in Baton Rouge. In a multi-part television series by Angela Hill called Quiet Heroes, she was referred to as “the mother of career education” in Louisiana for all the projects she took part in initiating during her tenure there and at the New Orleans Public Schools, including a pilot program that was the vision of Mary Trusty Corey and the genesis of the prestigious New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts.
After returning to New Orleans, Alice earned a Ph.D. and then went on to authoring three textbooks on career-education and college financial aid. With all those accomplishments and with all the students whose lives she touched — and whose lives touched her — the graduates and teachers of the Adult Education Center would never be too far from her mind.

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