History of the African Americans in Houston
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Historically Houston has had a significant African American population. Desegregation in Houston politics, by the 1970s, was underway. A black man Lee P. Brown was elected 1998 and served as the Mayor of Houston. Houston elected its second African American Mayor, Sylvester Turner on December 12, 2015.
As of 2010, John B. Strait and Gang Gong, authors of "Ethnic Diversity in Houston, Texas: The Evolution of Residential Segregation in the Bayou City, 1990–2000," stated that of all of the minority groups in Houston, African-Americans are the most segregated from non-Hispanic whites.
At the time of Houston's founding in 1836 there were black residents. Thousands of enslaved African-Americans lived near the city before the Civil War. Many of them near the city worked on sugar and cotton plantations, while most of those in the city limits had domestic and artisan jobs. In 1860, 49% of the city's population was enslaved; there were eight free blacks and 1,060 slaves.
Slavery ended after the U.S. Civil War. However by the mid-1870s racial segregation became established.
From the 1870s to the 1890s, black people were almost 40% of Houston's population. Between 1910 and 1970 the black population ranged from 21% to 32.7%. The Houston Riot of 1917 was a riot of black U.S. soldiers stationed in Houston. African Americans in Houston were left to the mercies of the predominantly white state legislature and city council, and were politically disenfranchised during the Jim Crow era; whites had used a variety of tactics, including militias and legislation, to re-establish political and social supremacy throughout the South.
Texas Southern University students led the integration of Houston in the 1960s. Six months after their first sit-in, 70 Houston lunch counters were desegregated. The success of their continued efforts eventually led to the full integration of businesses within the city.
In 1970, 90% of the black people in Houston lived in mostly African-American neighborhoods. By 1980 this decreased to 82%.
Historically the City of Houston placed most of its landfill facilities in African-American neighborhoods. All of the landfills were established after the neighborhoods they were located in had been established as black communities. Private companies also located landfills in black neighborhoods. Between the early 1920s and the late 1970s the five municipal sanitary landfills were in black neighborhoods. During the same period, six of the eight municipal solid waste incinerators resided in mostly black neighborhoods. From 1970 to 1978 three of the four private landfills established during that period were located in Houston black neighborhoods.
Around that era African Americans made up around 25% of the city's population. Houston City Council, which decided where the landfills would be located, was entirely composed of white people until 1972. The political efforts and advocacy behind a 1979 federal lawsuit regarding one proposed landfill led to political changes that ended the deliberate placement of landfills in black neighborhoods.
In 1980 the city had 440,257 black people, making it one of the largest black populations in the country. As of 1987 most African Americans in Houston continued to live in mostly inner-city black neighborhoods, even though they gained the legal right to move to a neighborhood of any race. A University of Chicago researcher said that this is because many African Americans choose to live in neighborhoods where they were raised.
From the 1980 U.S. Census to the 1990 U.S. Census, many African Americans left traditional African-American neighborhoods such as the MacGregor area, Settegast, Sunnyside, and the Third Ward and entered parts of Southwest Houston, such as Alief, Fondren Southwest, Sharpstown, and Westwood. Meanwhile, a significant percentage of Houston's Non-Hispanic whites population (particular those with children under 18) left the city for suburban communities, this phenomenon was known as white flight.
By of 2005 the outflow from traditional black neighborhoods, such as the Third Ward, Sunnyside, Kashmere Gardens, and the Fifth Ward continued, with blacks moving to Alief, other parts of Southwest Houston, Missouri City, and northwestern suburbs. Around 2005 blacks began to move to an area around Farm to Market Road 1960, in an unincorporated area in Harris County. In many traditional inner-city black neighborhoods, Mexicans and Latinos moved in their place. In addition to the New Great Migration, many blacks have moved to Houston for lower cost of living and job opportunities. Houston gained approximately 233,000 African-Americans between 2000 and 2010.
African Americans tend to be the main clientele of Houston's "you buy, we fry" fish restaurants. As of 2004, the city's highest concentration of those restaurants is in the Third Ward, a predominately African-American neighborhood.
The Louisiana Creole people who settled Houston around the 1920s brought their cuisine with them and often sold the food. The cuisine style spread in Houston in the post-World War II era. Because of the post-World War II increase, various chains in the Houston area sell Creole food, including Frenchy's Chicken, Pappadeaux, and Popeye's. Creole food items include boudin, black rice and shrimp creole, crawfish, gumbo, and jambalaya. Bernadette Pruitt, author of The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941, wrote that Creole cooking became "an important cultural bridge" in the city and in its African American community, and that "As cooks, Creole housewives transformed Houston's typical southern cuisine."
The Houston Museum of African American Culture (HMAAC) and Buffalo Soldier National Museum located in the Houston Museum District.
The University Museum located on the campus of Texas Southern University is an art gallery that primarily highlights art by and about people in the African diaspora.
As of 1997, African Americans typically constituted less than 25% of the electorate of the City of Houston. For the election of Lee P. Brown, blacks may have made up over 33% of the turnout. Brown won 90% or more in African-American neighborhoods.
As of 2005 Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houstonian, is one of two black Texan U.S. House of Representatives members. Al Green (Texas 9th district) is the other black member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Houston.
On December 13, 2015, Houston elected its second African-American mayor Mr. Sylvester Turner.
The number of African American Catholics in Houston increased after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 affected rural areas in the Southern United States. Most of them moved to the Fifth Ward. Due to a perception of the Catholic church being more favorable to African Americans than Protestant churches, the Catholic church in Houston increased in popularity with African Americans in the 1930s.
The oldest Black Baptist church in Houston is the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, historically a part of the Freedmen's Town of Fourth Ward and now in Downtown Houston. Jack Yates once served as the pastor of this church.
The city's first black Catholic church was St. Nicholas, located in the Third Ward. The Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in the Fifth Ward, Houston's second black Catholic church, was officially founded in June 1929.
In the 1920s, prior to the construction of Our Mother of Mercy, a group of Louisiana Creole people attended the Hispanic Our Lady of Guadalupe Church because OLG was the closest church to the Frenchtown area of the Fifth Ward. Because the OLG church treated the Creole people in a discriminatory manner, by forcing them to confess and take communion after people of other races did so and after forcing them to take the back pews, the Creoles opted to build their own church.
The Houston Forward Times, which began publication in 1960, is the largest black-owned newspaper in the city. The Houston Defender and the African-American News and Issues are other well established black-owned papers.
KCOH 1430 AM was a black-owned radio stationed started in 1953. It was a focal point for the Houston black community located at the iconic "looking-glass" studios on 5011 Almeda in Midtown Houston. KCOR launched the careers of radio personalities Michael Harris, Ralph Cooper, Don Samuel, Wash Allen The station was purchased in 1976 by a consortium of investors, led by its general manager at the time, Michael Petrizzo. After his death in January 2012, the radio station was put up for sale. The 1430 AM signal was eventually sold to Catholic-oriented, La Promessa Foundation's Guadalupe Radio Network in November 2012. The Petrizzo family continued to own the historic building and equipment, leasing them and the 1230 AM signal to Dunn Ministries which continued the Urban Oldies format. KCOH announced in January 2016 that it has plans to move to the FM dial.
The Houston Sun was established by Dorris Ellis and Lonal Robinson in 1983 and it quickly became the #1 Community Newspaper in Houston. It covers news and information that the community can use and trust without fear or favor. It has won more than 200 awards and recognition and presents the First Amendment Conference annually for high school and college journalism students during March, African American Press Month. Dorris Ellis was awarded the Gutenberg Press Award by the Printing Museum of Houston in 2015. The Sun's staff is made up of journalists and interns who covers city hall, school board and local community news making it the most highly read community newspaper in Houston.
Historically predominately black high schools in Houston include:
Historically predominately black middle schools include:
- Ryan Middle School (closed 2013)
The Imani School is marketed towards African-American families.
History of secondary education
In 1892 Colored High School, the first high school for black students, opened. There were 8,293 students in Houston's schools for black students in the 1924-1925 school year. In 1925 the Houston school board announced that a new high school would open in the Third Ward, in light of the large increase in the black population. The Houston Informer stated that the schools need to be named after prominent black people from the city and/or other successful black persons.
With the construction of the former Jack Yates High School (later Ryan Middle School), Wheatley High School, and other schools, the capacity of Houston's secondary schools for black children increased by three times from 1924 to 1929. The original secondary school for blacks, Colored High School, became Booker T. Washington High School. At the time all three secondary schools had junior high and senior high levels. There were 12,217 students in the black schools in the 1929-1930 school year. William Henry Kellar, author of Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston, wrote that conditions in black schools "improved dramatically" in the 1920s.
On January 27, 1958, Worthing High School opened, relieving Yates. Yates moved to its current location in September 1958. Yates's former site became Ryan Colored Junior High School (now Ryan Middle School), named after the first principal of Yates. Booker T. Washington moved to its present-day location in Independence Heights in 1959.
Racial desegregation of the Houston Independent School District (HISD), resulting from the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, occurred in the 1970s. Yates High School began to lose upper and middle class students due to flight to the suburbs, and the establishment of magnet schools in HISD. As a result of the losses, Yates began to deteriorate. Wheatley lost its upper and middle class students due to the same factors, and in 1979 its principal, Charles Herald, stated that integration caused the best students and teachers to leave the school.
History of tertiary education
In 1927 the Yates building began housing Houston Colored Junior College, later Houston College for Negroes.
Culture and recreation
The Ensemble Theatre, an African-American theater company, has its studio in Midtown. The theater, founded by George Hawkins in 1976, is the largest African-American theater company in the United States.
The Houston Museum of African American Culture is a museum devoted the exhibitions and public programs highlighting the lives and experiences of peoples of the African Diaspora. It is located at 4807 Caroline Street, Houston.
Juneteenth is an annual celebration recognizing the emancipation of black slaves in Texas. President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and published it on January 1, 1863, but it did not reach Texas until June 19, 1865. Over the next few years, African-American populations across Texas collected money to buy property dedicated to Juneteenth celebrations. In Houston, the effort was led by the Reverend Jack Yates, a Baptist minister and former slave. His church, Antioch Baptist, and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church formed the Colored People’s Festival and Emancipation Park Association. In 1872, they pooled $800 to put down on ten acres of open land as home for their Juneteenth celebration. In honor of their freedom, they named it Emancipation Park.
There are several events throughout Houston commemorating this occasion. The Friends of Emancipation Park (FEP), a non-profit group of volunteers, was founded in 2007 by Dorris Ellis and Lonal Robinson to preserve and protect the interest and legacy of Emancipation Park. The FEP picked up the parade and keeps it going along with other exemplary programs. The FEP led the $33,000,000 renovation campaign to restore Emancipation Park and this campaign serves as an anchor to revitalize the Third Ward community and thwart the onslaught of gentrification. Emancipation Park, with a space of 500,000 square feet (46,000 m2), is located in the Third Ward.
Martin Luther King Day
There are two rival Martin Luther King Day parades held every year. The MLK Grande Parade is held by the MLK Parade Foundation, and the other, the Original MLK Birthday Parade, is held by the Black Heritage Society. As of 2007 Ovide Duncantell is the executive director of the Black Heritage Society and Charles Stamps is the CEO of the MLK Parade Foundation.
Previously there was one MLK day parade held annually, and Stamps was a part of Duncantell's organization. In 1995, Stamps left and formed a separate parade. The two parades began competing for the favored times and days to hold their events. By 2007 the City of Houston had regulations stating that one parade can be held in Downtown Houston on a particular day. The Black Heritage Society and Duncantell sued the city in 2007 after Duncantell did not get the permit, arguing that several provisions of the ordinance enforcing the one parade per day in Downtown rule were unconstitutional. In 2007 Lee Rosenthal, a U.S. district judge, on Wednesday January 10, 2007 ordered the city government to allow both parades to hold their events in Downtown Houston. By 2008 the one parade per day rule, with the prized parade day decided by a coin toss, was again in place.
The Houston Press had ranked the 2006 MLK day parade, when the two rival parades joined together, as the "Best Parade Houston 2006".
Black Heritage Day at Houston Rodeo
Every spring, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo dedicates a day of the festival to acknowledge and celebrate black culture. A different popular black music artist headlines and performs at the event each year.
Labor Day Classic
The Labor Day Classic is the only football classic in the Houston area. The classic is a gridiron match-up between Texas' two largest HBCUs, Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M.
SWAC Championship Events
Since 2013, Houston has been the host city for the SWAC Championship Football Game and SWAC Basketball Tournament. Both events are a great source of revenue and exposure for the city and attracts over 50,000 fans and spectators annually. Houston is home to one of the largest SWAC alumni bases in the nation.
Black Gay Pride
Houston's black LGBT community annually officially celebrate its presence during a special event called "Splash". Splash organizes gay and lesbian events in order to improve the cultural, environment, medical and social health of gay men, lesbian and transgender people of African descent.
- Richard Allen - politician
- Lee P. Brown - former Mayor of Houston
- Robert D. Bullard - sociologist
- Kirbyjon Caldwell - Pastor of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church
- Percy Creuzot - Founder of Frenchy's Chicken
- Loretta Devine - Actress
- Rodney Ellis
- Quanell Ralph Evans (Quanell X)
- Sam John Hopkins (Lightnin' Hopkins)
- Barbara Jordan
- Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter
- Elwyn Lee
- Sheila Jackson Lee
- Mickey Leland
- Anthony Obi (Fat Tony) - Rapper
- Rod Paige
- Dr. Anthony B. Pinn - Professor, Rice University
- Hakeem Seriki (Chamillionaire) - Rapper
- Sylvester Turner, current Mayor of Houston
- Jack Yates
- Houston Hip Hop
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- History of the African Americans in Texas
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