Celebrating Black History Month
This article appeared in the Huntsville Item written by Kristie Stevens on February 7, 2023, I believe that she did a wonderful job in this article, hence the reason for this post. Check it out and Enjoy.
The Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center and the Samuel Walker Houston National Alumni Association are hosting opportunities to educate and celebrate Black History Month in February. Events include a talent show, a book signing, historical tours, and a special ceremony to commemorate the birth of Samuel Walker Houston.
At 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 10 a Black History Program will be presented at the museum and cultural center located at 1604 10th St. The program will showcase the talent of local youth.
“As a community, we want our young people to know that we see them, and value them.” said Lovie Cunningham, Executive Director of the museum and cultural center. From 3 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19 at the cultural center, Huntsville native and SHSU alumnus T. Wendy Williams will host a book signing and discussion of her fourth novel, “A Melody for Madeline.”
At 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 22, the public is invited to a ceremony at Oakwood Cemetery for the annual tradition of laying a wreath on Samuel Walker Houston’s grave. A reception will follow from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the cultural center with cake and refreshments
. Attendees are invited to pick up a brochure at the cultural center for a Black History Driving Tour of the surrounding area. The tour includes 16 locations that mark the legacy of the Joshua Houston family and many others who shaped education and commerce in Huntsville and Walker County. The home of Joshua Houston Jr. at 1403 13th St. will be open for tours following the reception on Feb. 22.
Black History Month began as Negro History Week, launched by Carter Woodson in 1926. He chose February to initiate the celebration of Black Americans to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14. The week evolved into a month of honoring Black culture and history during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Although Samuel Walker Houston did not live to see the integration of public schools, his family’s dedication to education had far reaching benefits for the people in this community.
Samuel was born in 1864 to Sylvester Baker and Joshua Houston, who was a freed slave and caretaker for the farm of General Sam Houston. Joshua was one of the first freed slaves to purchase property in the area, establishing a homestead at Ave. O and 10th Street in 1866 that grew into a prominent community called Rogersville. He then helped found New Union Church, which became the site of one of the first Black schools in Huntsville. The church and school became an institution of education and information exchange that grew so large it spurred the founding of three new churches. This also established Joshua as a prominent community leader during Reconstruction. He joined with other freedman and civil rights activists to found Bishop Ward College in 1883.
Samuel was surrounded by educated men who encouraged him to pursue his studies outside of Texas. He attended Atlanta University in Georgia and Howard University in Washington D.C. He graduated from Hampton Institute and served at the nation’s capitol for five years as a government clerk.
Upon his return to Huntsville at the beginning of the 1900s, he established The Huntsville Times, a newspaper for Black citizens. He then founded the Galilee Community School, which later became the Samuel Walker Industrial and Training School, educating both men and women in practical trades.
By 1922, the school had grown to 400 students and was known as the “leading school of East Texas”. In 1930, the school was incorporated into the Huntsville Independent School District. Samuel became the Black County Superintendent and the principal of Samuel Houston High School.
Cunningham’s mother Jensie Howard Hall was one of Houston’s pupils at the high school where she graduated in 1935. Hall also attended school with his daughter, Hazel Houston. Her deeply personal connection to the Houston family is one of the many reasons she is dedicated to sharing the history of his work at the museum.
“I am who I am because of him,” said Cunningham. “He was part of our educational system and we are part of his legacy.” The alumni association that works in conjunction with the museum has hundreds of members across the nation, all with roots in Walker County through Samuel Houston High School. They originally formed in the 1930s and resurrected the organization in the 1970s.
Their mission at the museum is to maintain a permanent home, owned by the alumni association to maintain artifacts, photographs and documents relating to the life of Samuel Walker Houston. The secondary purpose is to provide educational, recreational and cultural activities for the community. One of their goals is to build a new facility on Hwy 30 to continue preserving this history and expand the ability to educate future generations.
To find designated historical landmarks in Walker County, visit the Historical Marker Database at https://www.hmdb.org/. To learn more about African American Heritage in Texas, visit https://texastimetravel.com/cultural-heritage/african-american-heritage/. For more about programs at the museum and cultural center in Huntsville, visit https://www.samuelwalkerhoustonmuseum.com/ or call 936-295-2119.