NEW IBERIA, La. (KLFY)– Six years ago, Dr. Phebe Hayes was inspired to open The Iberia African American Historical Society. With the help of her team, she hopes to piece together forgotten black history in Iberia parish.

The Iberia African American Historical Society’s mission statement is ‘Celebrating the true and inclusive history of Iberia Parish.’ Dr. Hayes says this mission started after a shocking discovery she made.

“I started doing research and I found and counting 21 African American doctors associated with our parish, including four black women beginning in 1897.”

One of the women uncovered was Dr. Emma Wakefield. The New Iberia native was the first woman to practice medicine in Louisiana. Now, a monument in her honor, and others, line main street in New Iberia.

This research gained the attention of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, leading to a partnership between the two organizations. This partnership allowed IAAHS to take up residence in the second floor of The Shadows, once a plantation house in New Iberia. Dr. Hayes says this space fulfills her vision of giving the public a place to come and access records to learn about the history of the area.

Jordan Richardson, head of Digital Collections for IAAHS, is in charge of compiling family pictures, journals, charters and other objects to contextualize their historical importance.

The Iberia African American Historical Society Center for Research and Learning is open to the public Thursday- Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fill out a form on their website to make an appointment.