Black History Month began with Carter G. Woodson, a historian and trailblazer in the scholarship of African American history. In an effort to promote the history of African Americans, which was so often misrepresented or simply ignored by scholars at the time, Woodson in 1926 pioneered “Negro History Week,” later extended to a whole month, during the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Woodson’s dedication to bringing the overlooked minority figures of the past out of the shadows reverberates to this day through the celebration of African American culture that is Black History Month.
Bessie Coleman, a contemporary of Woodson, was also forging paths for African Americans. Born in Atlanta, Texas, she was the first black woman to hold a pilot’s license and later became a successful show pilot. Determined to become an aviator, she toiled and saved money to achieve her pilot’s license in France, since there were no opportunities for African Americans to do so in the United States. Though her life was cut tragically short while testing a new aircraft, Coleman proved to be at the forefront of African American Texas history, inspiring not just early pilots, but the African American community at large.
It is this perseverance, along with the visionary spirits of figures like Woodson and Coleman, that rings throughout the stories of prominent African American Texans who have made an impact on the heritage of the Lone Star State. From the eloquent politician and activist Barbara Jordan to Alvin Ailey, the influential dancer, choreographer, and founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Texas boasts prominent African American figures who have contributed immeasurably to our national identity.
Scroll your cursor over the flip-cards below to read about notable African American Texans and where you can find more information about them through our core programming.
"One of the purposes of Black History Month is to disseminate African American History to the general public. TSHA, via its celebration of Black History Month and the publication of the Handbook of African American Texas, plays a crucial role in capturing and disseminating many aspects and contributions of African American life, history and culture in Texas."
-Merline Pitre, Ph.D., project director for the Handbook of African American Texas and TSHA President 2011-2012
African American Texans were subjected to slavery, segregation, and discrimination during this state’s long history. Despite all of this adversity, they made significant contributions to the growth and development of Texas. Our free eBook, Struggle and Success, chronicles many of these trials and victories.
A monumental figure in the Civil Rights Movement of Texas, Juanita Craft was a pioneer for African American Texans through her boundless service. Read all about her life in the Texas Historian, the journal of the Junior Historians of Texas.
Houston is a vibrant city, and the African American community there undoubtedly helped to make it so. Read about the impact of black females in Houston as told by Merline Pitre in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly.
Buffalo Soldiers were regiments of black soldiers created by the United States after the Civil War. In keeping the peace on the Texas frontier, the soldiers earned the respect of the Plains Indians and also overcame prejudice to compile an outstanding service record. Texas Talks is one of our newer digital initiatives where participants can interact with preeminent Texas history scholars on subjects like the Buffalo Soldiers, along with several others.
The blues is an essential genre in the history of American music, and no musician did more to promote the blues than Blind Lemon Jefferson, whose legacy is explored in one of many insightful articles in Touchstone, the journal of the Walter Prescott Webb Society.
Baseball is considered one of America’s favorite pastimes, but the impact of African Americans on the sport before its integration in 1947 is tough to track, as not much information was recorded about black professional players. TSHA hopes to rectify some of this by disseminating scholarly work through publications like the Texas Almanac.
Black History Month is a great opportunity for educators to find stories of African American Texans to supplement their lesson plans. History like that of the struggles and triumphs of civil rights activists in Texas can be found in Texas Insights, an electronic newsletter designed to share opportunities for Texas teachers and students while promoting effective instructional practices.
African American Book Bundle:
We are proud to promote the work of historians through our award-winning TSHA Press. Consider purchasing this package deal of great books highlighting African Americans in Texas as a gift for others or for yourself!
This journal has been continuously published since 1897 and is the most sought-after source of original research on Texas history. Members will receive all four issues every year.
This content-packed newsletter is sent four times a year and will keep you in the loop about local historical happenings, recent publications, and other resources that TSHA is working to make available every day.
As a member of the Texas State Historical Association, you will immediately gain access to the extensive library of content written over the past 118 years. This includes all 61 editions of the Texas Almanac, 106 volumes of Southwestern Historical Quarterly, plus much more.
Members of TSHA receive invites to unique meetings and events like our Annual Meeting. Hosted in a different Texas city each year, the Annual Meeting is the largest gathering of its kind for Texas history enthusiasts.
Join at the $100 level and members will receive the African American Book Bundle, a collection of fantastic books from TSHA Press on African American Texans.
Members who join at the $250 level will receive their African American Book Bundle along with a copy of the Handbook of Texas Music, 2nd edition.