Season One: The Hidden History of African American Texans
Episode 7: Celebrating That Freedom Day
No Juneteenth celebration will ever match the initial jubilation of enslaved Texans when they got the news in 1865 about their emancipation and ventured off into a great unknown — freedom. One year later, the first Juneteenth celebrations were held from Galveston throughout East Texas, where most freedmen settled after emancipation, gathering in rural communities and burgeoning Freedom Colonies to rejoice with parades, dances, church services, hallelujahs, community feasts, and tears. Join Michael Hurd to learn how those first celebrations were held and how they evolved through the years and expanded across the nation because of the Great Migration, then to the international festivities we see today. Milwaukee boasts of having the largest Juneteenth celebration in the country, hosting as many as 70,000 celebrants who “feel a kinship to Galveston.”
Episode 6: Reclaiming Our History: Barbara Smith Conrad an Integration at the University of Texas
In the spring of 1957, Barbara Louise Smith was a 19-year-old African American music student in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas. A transfer student from historically black Prairie View A&M, Smith arrived in Austin in the fall of 1956 to study with Edra Gustafson, a well-regarded music professor. That fall, a faculty committee chose Smith—who many people said had the best soprano voice of anyone in her class—to play the female lead in Purcell’s opera, Dido and Aeneas. Based on Virgil’s “Aeneid,” the opera is a classic recounting of the tragic love between Dido, queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, the Trojan prince. Because the committee had chosen two white men—David Blanton and David Richards—to play the role of Aeneas, the opera would have an interracial cast. The consequence of Smith were heartbreaking. How ironic the opening lines of the opera proved to be: “Oh my sorrow. I am possessed with torment. Peace and I are strangers grown.”
Episode 5: African American Women’s Resistance to Violence During Reconstruction
Learn the story of African American women fighting for their rights and dignity in the aftermath of emancipation. Contrary to the myth of Reconstruction as the age of scalawags and carpetbaggers and uneducated former slaves riding roughshod over whites, the period was one of unrelenting violence perpetrated by whites against the formerly enslaved. Particularly brutal was the treatment of Afro Texan women and children who found very limited safety in the Freedmen’s Bureau and the U.S. Army. But African American women resisted violence, protected their families and asserted their freedom even in the face of formidable odds.
About the Presenter:
Dr. Rebecca Czuchry is an Associate Professor of History at Austin Community College and previously served as the Director of African American Studies at Texas Lutheran University where she also taught history and did her turn as chair of the department of history.
Episode 4: Jack Johnson
Historian Sam Collins brings us a more intimate look at the first African American heavyweight champion. Born in Galveston to parents who had endured slavery and growing up in poverty, including having the family home destroyed in the Great Storm of 1900, the tough Galveston Giant wasn’t always the fighter that we know him to be. Joining Sam Collins is Johnson’s great-great niece, Linda Haywood, who will not only uncover personal stories of the challenges he faced in his life but also recount how she fought to get her uncle finally pardoned in 2018.
Episode 3: Henrietta Wood
This 3rd episode of Hidden History featuring W. Caleb McDaniel, Professor and Chair of History at Rice University. McDaniel’s lecture, “Doom and Dawn: A True Story of Slavery in Civil War Texas” covers the story of Henrietta Wood.
Book available for purchase in the Museum Shop.
Episode 2: Jessie McGuire Dent
Learn about an African American Trailblazer, who, in June 1943, won a lawsuit against the Galveston School Board of Trustees to end the practice of unequal pay for teachers based on their race. Jessie McGuire Dent also co-founded one of the first sororities for African-American women – Delta Sigma Theta.
Episode 1: John Rufus Gibson
Historian Sam Collins, III shares the life of John Rufus Gibson, a name everyone should know. Gibson dedicated his life to the education of youth on Galveston island. His career spanned over 50 years and the impact of his influence is still being felt today. The inspiring story of this man and his family have been hidden for years. It is time to reveal it and celebrate it!