African American Culture, Political Activism And the Black Philosophy of Education in Texas Michael Phillips, Department of History



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African American Culture, Political Activism

And the Black Philosophy of Education in Texas

Michael Phillips, Department of History
Even before African Americans could attend schools in the Lone Star State, the Afro-Texan community created a vibrant culture that honored education and wisdom, and reinforced community service. Slave narratives collected by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s revealed that before Emancipation, Afro-Texans labored to preserve for their children a knowledge of African history, culture, and African American achievements, and tried to instill in their young charges a commitment to resisting oppression, protecting the weak in their community, and “uplifting the race.” Folk stories African Americans told each other in Texas, such as the B’rer Rabbit and the “John” stories, depicted a world in which intelligence won out over brute strength and which encouraged every moral black person to devote his life to the needs and dreams of the entire African diaspora.
That value system, which placed intelligence and political activism at the center of black life, only deepened after liberation in 1865 when the first black primary schools and colleges formed. Segregated black public schools like Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas became incubators for activism, with curriculum training young people to become one of W.E.B. Du Bois’ “talented tenth,” the African American intellectual avant garde that would led the larger black community in triumph over segregation and disenfranchisement. Meanwhile, in African American institutions of higher learning across Texas, such as Prairie View A&M University, Samuel Huston College and Tillotson College (the two latter of which merged and formed Huston-Tillotson College in 1952), Bishop College, Paul Quinn College, Texas Southern College and others, students received lessons in political protest, acquired knowledge of African history and culture, were introduced to the ideas of Du Bois or Marcus Garvey for the first time, and often concocted radical dreams of black separatism in America or the establishment of a “Black Zionist” homeland in Africa. After they received their degrees, they became newspaper editors, civil rights leaders, ministers and authors. They guided black Texans’ battles against Jim Crow, laid the groundwork for the movement that came to be known as “black nationalism,” and would introduce Texans to Pan-Africanism. The civil rights movement in Texas, to a large degree, was born on the campuses of its black colleges.
My proposed study program will focus on the genesis of radical black ideas like separatism, Garveyism and black nationalism in the Lone Star State’s segregated public schools and black colleges and universities. This study will lead to a substantial revision of my approach to my core classes. I also hope to author as a series of journal articles and a book based on this project. These writings would explore the black philosophy of education and social responsibility in Texas and how African Americans in Texas intellectuals defined blackness.
Previous scholarship on Texas black colleges, such as Michael R. Heintze’s Private Black Colleges in Texas, 1865-1954 (1985), Amilcar Shabazz’s Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle For Access and Equity in Higher Education in Texas (2004), Dwonna Goldstone’s Integrating the 40 Acres: The Fifty Year Struggle for Racial Equity at the University of Texas (2006) provided straight historical sketches of institutions or largely described these colleges in the context of the struggle over segregation in Texas higher education. The intellectual life of institutions – the art, literature, political and cultural philosophy created by the faculty and student body of institutions -- has been overlooked. These works begin the story after the Civil War and ignore the African American approach to education before Emancipation and how Afro-Texan slave culture shaped the pedagogical philosophies of black schools after Juneteenth. These important books discuss black political activism in the context of anti-Jim Crow activism but overlook the larger intellectual debates that took place at Texas’ colleges where students also argued about and debated the future of blacks in American society; capitalism vs. socialism as models for black economic progress; the “Back to Africa” movement articulated by Garvey; and whether integration of Texas colleges and universities was constructive or destructive to black education in Texas.
My readings will begin their exploration of black education by analyzing black music, folklore and religious practices prior to 1865 and what they had to say about the obligation of the individual African American in Texas to his larger society. Later readings will focus on the speeches, novels, poetry and other cultural artifacts produced by students of Wiley College, Bishop College and other institutions. The work of major black scholars in Texas, such as Melvin Tolson, as they relate to education, black history and identity, and the role of civic society will also be investigated. These readings will be supplemented with primary document research I plan to conduct at the African American Museum in Dallas, the Texas/Dallas collection at the Dallas Public Library, the Texas and Local History Collection and the Houston Public Library and the archives at Texas’ black colleges and universities.

Plan of Study

Weeks 1-4 -- Black Folklore and the Slave Past: The first two weeks, I would review the classic works on slave culture and the folklore, oral histories of surviving former slaves collected during the New Deal, and works on post-slavery folklore such as T. Lindsay Baker and Julie P. Baker’s Till Freedom Cried Out: Memories of Texas Slave Life (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997); Howard Beeth and Cary D. Wintz, Black Dixie: Afro-Texas History and Culture in Houston (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1992); Alan B. Govenar and Jay Brakesfield, Deep Ellum and Central Track: Where the Black and White Worlds of Dallas Converged (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1998); Melville J. Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past (Boston: Beacon Press, 1941); Lawrence W. Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought From Slavery To Freedom, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977); Walter F. Pitts, Old Ship of Zion: The Afro-Baptist Ritual in the African Diaspora (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); George P. Rawick, ed. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979); and Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Weeks 5-8 – Black Education in Texas: In this period, I will study the creation of black public schools in Texas and the establishment of black colleges and universities in the state as described in works such as those by James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988); Allen B. Ballard, The Education of Black Folk: The Afro-American Struggle for Knowledge in White America (New York: Harper & Row, 1973); Barry Crouch, The Freedmen's Bureau and Black Texans (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992); Jesse Dorsett, "Blacks in Reconstruction Texas, 1865-1877," (Ph.D. diss., Texas Christian University, 1981); Michael Lowery Gilette, "The NAACP in Texas, 1937-1957," (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1984); Dwonna Goldstone, Integrating the 40 Acres: The Fifty Year Struggle for Racial Equality at the University of Texas (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006); Michael R. Heintze, Private Black Colleges in Texas, 1865-1954 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985); William Henry Kellar, Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999); Cyrus LaGrone, “Negro Education in Marshall,” (Master’s thesis, Southern Methodist University, 1932); Glenn M. Linden, Desegregating Schools in Dallas: Four Decades in the Federal Courts (Dallas: Three Forks Press, 1995); Amilcar Shabazz, Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Access and Equity in Higher Education in Texas (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004); and Caesar F. Toles, “The History of Bishop College,” (Master’s thesis, University of Michigan, 1947).
Weeks 9-13– The Texas Black Intelligentsia and Their Works, Part One – Bishop College: Bishop College was one of the most important black colleges in Texas, particularly when it was founded in Marshall (then among Texas’ largest cities) near another historically black College, Wiley; and before its move to Dallas. In the period, I will read the original novels, plays, poems, folklore collections, government reports and nonfiction works produced by students of Bishop College, and biographies of these individuals, including Finnie D. Coleman, Sutton E. Griggs and the Struggle Against White Supremacy (Nashville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2007); Joe Early, Jr., “Richard Henry Boyd: Shaper of Black Baptist Identity,” Baptist History and Heritage (Summer-Fall 2007), http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NXG/is_3_42/ai_n24225782/?tag=content;col1); Sutton E. Griggs, Imperium In Imperio: A Study of the Negro Race. (1899; N.A., Greenbook Publications, n.d); Griggs, Overshadowed: A Novel (1901: Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010); Griggs, Unfettered; a Novel; Dorian’s Plan (Sequel to “Unfettered,” A Dissertation on the Race Problem (New York: AMS Press, 1971); Griggs, The Hindered Hand: or, The Reign of the Repressionist (1905: Charleston, S.C.: Nabu Press, 2010); Griggs, The One Great Question: A Study of Southern Conditions at Close Range (1906: Charleston, S.C.: Bibliolife, 2009); Maud Cuney Hare, Negro Musicians and Their Music (1936: Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 1974); Lillian B. Horace Jones, Crowned with Glory and Honor: The Life of Rev. Lacey Kirk Williams (Hicksville, New York: Exposition, 1978); Horace Jones, Five Generations Hence in Carol Farley Kessler, ed., Daring to Dream: Utopian Fiction by United States Women Before 1950 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1984); Randolph Walker Meade, The Metamorphosis of Sutton E. Griggs: The Transition From Black Radical to Conservative (Memphis: Walker Publishing, 1991); L.K. Williams, Lord! Lord! Lord! Special Occasion Sermons and Addresses of Dr. L.K. Williams. (N.A.: National Baptist Convention, 1942).
Weeks 14-16 – Other Works of the Black Intelligentsia and their Context: A prominent Bishop College student, Lacey Kirk Williams, left Bishop before graduating and began preaching at Baptist churches before getting a bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Baptist College in 1913. He moved from Texas in 1916 to become pastor of Chicago's Olivet Baptist Church, with a congregation of 12,000 members. Olivet Baptist was one of the largest black churches in the country. A tragedy during the so-called “Red Summer” of 1919, a period of violent race riots across America, thrust him into the national spotlight.
A riot devastated large sections of Chicago between July 27 and August 3 that year. A swimming black teenager accidentally crossed the informal but rigidly enforced boundary at 29th Street that separated the “white” from the “black” beach. The teenager had been swimming against the current when he surfaced on the Lake Michigan shore. Whites threw rocks at him. The teen dived back into the water when, overcome by exhaustion, he drowned. This inspired seven days of arsons, assaults and gunfire as whites and blacks warred against each other. Most of the damage was in the city’s South Side. When the riot burned itself out, partly due to the intervention of the state militia and a timely rain storm, 15 whites and 23 blacks had died and another 537 -- 342 African Americans and 195 whites – suffered injuries.
After the riot, Illinois governor Frank Lowden appointed Williams to the Chicago Inter-Racial Commission, which was given the task of determining the cause of the violence. The committee’s report suggested that white ignorance about African Americans, their culture and their motives, was a major cause of the riot. “The practice of ‘keeping the Negro’ in his place, or any modification of it in northern communities, has isolated Negroes from all other members of the community,” the report read. “ . . . Negroes know more of the habits of action and thought of the white group than white people know of similar habits in the Negro group.” One can read the cumulative effect of generations of self-assertion, reinforced through slave folklore, music and then the educational efforts of black teachers at schools like Bishop College in this report. Williams and the other black members make it clear that African Americans in Chicago will not passively accept second-class status. “No Negro is willing to admit that he belongs to a different and lower species, or that his race is constitutionally weak in character. All Negroes hope for an adjustment by virtue of which they will be freely granted the privileges of ordinary citizens.”
During this period of my study, I will read the report produced by this committee, The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot, histories of the Chicago Race riot, the careers of other significant graduates of black colleges in Texas like civil rights leader James Farmer and politicians like Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland and other works by black intellectuals at black colleges and public schools other than Bishop as well as biographies of these figures. These works include Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); John Mason Brewer, Heralding Dawn: An Anthology of Verse (Dallas: June Thomason Printing, 1936); Brewer, "John Tales," in J. Frank Dobie, ed., Mexican Border Ballads and Other Lore Vol. XXX (Austin: Texas Folklore Society, 1946); Brewer, The Word on the Brazos: Negro Preacher Tales from the Brazos Bottoms of Texas (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1953); Brewer, Aunt Dicy Tales: Snuff-Dipping Tales of the Texas Negro (Austin: Privately Published, 1956); Dog Ghosts and Other Texas Negro Folk Tales (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958); American Negro Folklore (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968); James Farmer and Don E. Carleton, Lay Bare The Heart: The Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1998.); Richard M. Farnsworth, Melvin B. Tolson, 1898-1966: Plain Talk and Poetic Prophecy (Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri Press, 2008); Martia Graham Goodson, Chronicles of Faith: The Autobiography of Frederick D. Patterson (Birmingham: University of Alabama Press, 2002); Mary Beth Rogers, Barbara Jordan: American Hero (New York: Bantam Books, 2000); Mariann Russell, Melvin B. Tolson’s “Harlem Gallery”: A Literary Analysis Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri Press, 1980); Carl Sandburg and Walter Lippmann, The Chicago Race Riot, July 1919 (1919; Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing, 2010; Melvin Tolson, “Harlem Gallery” and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson (Charlottesville, Va: University of Virginia Press, 1999); Tolson, Libretto for the Republic of Liberia (New York: Collier Books,. 1970); William M. Tuttle, Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 (Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1996); and Cecil Williams, I’m Alive: An Autobiography (New York: Harper & Row, 1980).

Bibliography
Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Race, Space, and Riots in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).
James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988).
T. Lindsay Baker and Julie P. Baker’s Till Freedom Cried Out: Memories of Texas Slave Life (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997).
Allen B. Ballard, The Education of Black Folk: The Afro-American Struggle for Knowledge in White America (New York: Harper & Row, 1973).
Howard Beeth and Cary D. Wintz, Black Dixie: Afro-Texas History and Culture in Houston (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 1992).
John Mason Brewer, Heralding Dawn: An Anthology of Verse (Dallas: June Thomason Printing, 1936).
__________________. "John Tales," in J. Frank Dobie, ed., Mexican Border Ballads and Other Lore Vol. XXX (Austin: Texas Folklore Society, 1946).
_____________________. The Word on the Brazos: Negro Preacher Tales from the Brazos Bottoms of Texas (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 1953).
_______________________. Aunt Dicy Tales: Snuff-Dipping Tales of the Texas Negro (Austin: Privately Published, 1956).
___________________________. Dog Ghosts and Other Texas Negro Folk Tales (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958).
_____________________________. American Negro Folklore (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1968).
Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1921).
Finnie D.Coleman, Sutton E. Griggs and the Struggle Against White Supremacy (Nashville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2007).
Barry Crouch, The Freedmen's Bureau and Black Texans. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992).
Jesse Dorsett, "Blacks in Reconstruction Texas, 1865-1877," (Ph.D. diss., Texas Christian University, 1981).
Joe Early, Jr., “Richard Henry Boyd: Shaper of Black Baptist Identity.” Baptist History and Heritage (Summer-Fall 2007), http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NXG/is_3_42/ai_n24225782/?tag=content;col1).
James Farmer and Don E. Carleton, Lay Bare The Heart: The Autobiography of the Civil Rights Movement (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1998.).
Richard M. Farnsworth, Melvin B. Tolson, 1898-1966: Plain Talk and Poetic Prophecy (Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri Press, 2008).
Michael Lowery Gilette, "The NAACP in Texas, 1937-1957," (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1984).
Dwonna Goldstone, Integrating the 40 Acres: The Fifty Year Struggle for Racial Equality at the University of Texas (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006).
Martia Graham Goodson, Chronicles of Faith: The Autobiography of Frederick D. Patterson (Birmingham: University of Alabama Press, 2002).
Alan B. Govenar and Jay Brakesfield, Deep Ellum and Central Track: Where the Black and White Worlds of Dallas Converged (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1998).
Sutton E. Griggs, Imperium In Imperio: A Study of the Negro Race. (1899; N.A., Greenbook Publications,, n.d).
________________. Overshadowed: A Novel (1901: Whitefish. Montana: Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2010).
___________________. Unfettered; a Novel; Dorian’s Plan (Sequel to “Unfettered,” A Dissertation on the Race Problem (New York: AMS Press, 1971).
_____________________. The Hindered Hand: or, The Reign of the Repressionist (1905: Charleston, S.C.: Nabu Press. 2010).
_______________________. The One Great Question: A Study of Southern Conditions at Close Range (1906: Charleston, S.C.: Bibliolife, 2009).
Maud Cuney Hare, Negro Musicians and Their Music (1936: Cambridge, Ma.: Da Capo Press, 1974).
Michael R. Heintze, Private Black Colleges in Texas, 1865-1954 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985).
Melville J. Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past (Boston: Beacon Press, 1941).
Lillian B. Horace Jones, Crowned with Glory and Honor: The Life of Rev. Lacey Kirk Williams (Hicksville, New York: Exposition, 1978).
____________________. Five Generations Hence in Carol Farley Kessler, ed., Daring to Dream: Utopian Fiction by United States Women Before 1950 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1984).
William Henry Kellar, Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999).
Cyrus LaGrone, “Negro Education in Marshall,” (Master’s thesis, Southern Methodist University, 1932).
Lawrence W. Levine (Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought From Slavery To Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).
Glenn M. Linden, Desegregating Schools in Dallas: Four Decades in the Federal Courts (Dallas: Three Forks Press, 1995).
Randolph Walker Meade, The Metamorphosis of Sutton E. Griggs: The Transition From Black Radical to Conservative (Memphis: Walker Publishing, 1991).
Walter F. Pitts, Old Ship of Zion: The Afro-Baptist Ritual in the African Diaspora (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993).
George P. Rawick, ed. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1979).
Mary Beth Rogers, Barbara Jordan: American Hero (New York: Bantam Books, 2000).
Mariann Russell, Melvin B. Tolson’s “Harlem Gallery”: A Literary Analysis Columbia, Mo: University of Missouri Press, 1980).
Carl Sandburg and Walter Lippmann, The Chicago Race Riot, July 1919 (1919; Whitefish, Moatana: Kessinger Publishing, 2010.
Amilcar Shabazz, Advancing Democracy: African Americans and the Struggle for Access and Equity in Higher Education in Texas (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture: Nationalist Theory and the Foundations of Black America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Caesar F. Toles, “The History of Bishop College,” (Master’s thesis, University of Michigan, 1947).
Melvin Tolson, “Harlem Gallery” and Other Poems of Melvin B. Tolson (Charlottesville, Va: University of Virginia Press, 1999).
______________. Libretto for the Republic of Liberia (New York: Collier Books,. 1970).
William M. Tuttle, Race Riot: Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 (Champaign, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1996).
L.K. Williams, Lord! Lord! Lord! Special Occasion Sermons and Addresses of Dr. L.K. Williams. ( N.A.: National Baptist Convention, 1942).
Cecil Williams, I’m Alive: An Autobiography (New York: Harper & Row, 1980)

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