The Story of Black Highschool Football in Texas

“This exhibition will bring to life the story of segregated high school football in Texas. Players from the formerly all-black league that features prominently in this exhibit went on to help break the color barrier in professional sports and many have been inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame.

Recollections from the teams, individual players, coaches, and fans who contributed to this era of Texas history paired with personal belongings and trophies will immerse viewers into the tribulations and triumphs of these brave athletes. Thursday Night Lights does more than just tell the story of the Prairie View Interscholastic League. It connects visitors to the personal side of this important time in the story of Texas.”

Billy Owens Helmet, 1949, L.C. Anderson High School, Austin Texas. Courtesy of The PVIL Coaches Association
Lewis Easley Signed #65 Jersey, Montgomery Lincoln High School. Courtesy of The PVIL Coaches Association

While there have been previous exhibits covering the history of Texas high school football, the “Thursday Night Lights” exhibit at The Bryan Museum will be the first professional exhibit devoted solely to telling the complete story of the Prairie View Interscholastic League. Displays will cover why and how the league came to be and highlight individuals involved through the years: blue chip players who went on to successful college and professional football careers, that for several ended in halls of fame, and outstanding coaches who were innovative and revered mentors.

The exhibit also shows the league’s social relevance, its place in Texas Black history, and its social impact across communities both black and white during a racially repressive time. Based on the book by historian and former sports journalist Michael Hurd, “Thursday Night Lights, the Story of Black High School Football In Texas,” (published by the University of Texas Press in 2017) this compelling history will be brought to life in a dynamic exhibit at the museum, both introducing and remembering the African American men and boys who coached and played organized football at segregated schools in Texas for half a socially dark century. Mr. Hurd also served as co-curator on this exhibit. This exhibit will be on display from April 20 through July 2, 2023.