This week many schools will honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with activities, readings, and projects related to the struggle for racial equality. For this Media Monday, I decided to look for some not-quite-so-well-known civil rights stories based in Texas. Families can visit some historic sites and learn the history together, or students may want to use the stories of these Texas struggles as jumping-off points for their own projects.
- Austin’s African-American Cultural Heritage District includes a wide variety of sites that students can visit and explore, from the Carver Museum (in what used to be the segregated African American branch of the Austin Library system) to the Texas State Cemetery, where many civil rights leaders are buried.
- The Dallas home of Juanita Craft is preserved as a tribute to a woman who started an astonishing 182 NAACP chapters and helped integrate universities, theaters, restaurants, and other public spaces in Texas.
- Bessie Coleman, an “aviatrix” and the first African American to earn a pilot’s license, has an exhibit dedicated to her at the Atlanta Historical Museum in an old railroad depot full of many other history exhibits in Atlanta, Texas.
- Calaboose African American Museum in San Marcos was formerly a jail, then a USO dance hall for black soldiers, and now features stories of African Americans in Texas, from the era of the Buffalo Soldiers to the Civil Rights Movement.
- Starr County Farm Workers’ Strike originated in Rio Grande City as part of a labor movement organized by the National Farm Workers Association in the 1960s, protesting low wages and brutal working conditions. The protests culminated on Labor Day 1966 with a march on the State Capitol in Austin.
We all know that Austin has truly amazing, world-class collections related to Texas history, African American culture, and civil rights at the Bullock Museum and the LBJ Presidential Library, and our kids are lucky to have those resources so close at hand. But I also want to point out just a few additional resources for learning Texas history that helped me find some of the stories above:
- The Texas Time Travel website, as well as its app called African Americans in Texas, available for IOS or Android
- Texas Historical Commission: African Americans in Texas: A Lasting Legacy (A Guide for Heritage Travelers), a downloadable PDF that includes a timeline and a lot of information about culture, sports, politics, and more.
- The Texas State Historical Association’s Short Review of key civil rights history events