The history of the Lone Star State is a well-worn yet ornate shawl, delicately embroidered with rich indigenous, European, and Mexican designs. Parts of it are torn, showing painstaking efforts toward liberation, and others are stained with the blood, sweat, and tears of those whose legacies toward the Texian people live on. It’s a piece of art, which few truly appreciate or come to respect. For it is rare that one takes the time to look deeply at the fabric of the shawl, coarse and gritty, that belies a truth and a reality rarely revealed. It’s our hidden history.
To shed light on the esoteric truth that is the history of the African American community in Texas, especially Galveston, The Bryan Museum launched its Hidden History series, the first season of which recently culminated in a celebration of Juneteenth, presented by Prairie View A&M University’s Michael Hurd. The season covered African American trailblazers including Jessie McGuire Dent, Barbara Smith Conrad, Jack Johnson, and John Rufus Gibson, whose stories were presented in depth and detail by historian Sam Collins, III, Dr. Rebecca Czuchry, Rice Professor and History Chair W. Caleb McDaniel, Dr. Dwonna Naomi Goldstone, and Michael Hurd. The first season of the Hidden History series broached topics such as slavery and discrimination during Reconstruction, encouraging members of the African American community, as well as other groups, to learn more about their culture and “reclaim” it.
To truly grasp how crucial it is that we as Texans learn the history of a major racial community in our state, just watch one episode of the series. I recommend the third and fifth episodes, about slavery and violence during Reconstruction respectively, as the hard-hitting subject matter and amount of detail – emotional, factual, and otherwise – which presenters provide is enlightening. Viewers are guaranteed to exit an episode with more knowledge about their state, the history of the African American community, and about specific figures themselves. For example, most Texans have heard of the first African American heavyweight champion, Galveston’s own Jack Johnson. However, did you know that his house was destroyed in the Great Storm of 1900? This and many more revelations are discussed as historian Sam Collins is joined by Johnson’s great-great niece Linda Haywood in episode 4. The two uncover personal stories about Johnson: his highs, his lows, and his in-betweens. It’s a very special episode because of the deep emotional connections that are displayed.
Each episode is shot either using a videoconferencing app or at the magnificent Bryan Museum itself; in the latter case, a multi-camera setup truly provides many dimensions to the viewing experience, allowing for a History Channel-esque feel. High-quality audio, beautiful surroundings, intriguing stories: what more would you want from a historical series?
With incredible production quality as well as enlightening and incisive commentary and content, the Hidden History series is one that you shouldn’t miss! Visit: https://thebryanmuseum.org/hidden-history/ to watch episodes from season 1!