RELEASE DATE: JUNE 20, 2010
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825
In Texas this weekend, many African Americans are holding a variety of festivities in celebration of “Juneteenth.” On 19 June 1865 in Galveston, the Union commander read the Emancipation Proclamation, thereby announcing the belated news about Lincoln’s freeing the slaves. (More information about Juneteenth can be found on pages 1019-1020 of Volume 3 of THE NEW HANDBOOK OF TEXAS IN SIX VOLUMES, published in Austin by the Texas State Historical Association in 1996 or by visiting the website at http://www.tsahonline.org and click on Search the Handbook of Texas.) As a result, more opportunities became available to African Americans over time and progress was made slowly but surely.
Information about many notable and interesting African Americans in the Lone Star State appears in A SURE FOUNDATION by A. W. Jackson (Houston: No publisher, 1942). Composed of biographical sketches, the work often provides details about a person’s parents and their place of origin. Photographs accompany many of the narratives in the more than 970 page book. Although many of the people were born in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, some individuals, such as Rev. George Washington SMITH of Fort Bend County, were born much earlier. Smith, for example, was born in Georgia in 1843.
A couple of the most fascinating stories involve Sam Houston. Reaching the age of 100 in 1940, Jeff HAMILTON was the oldest African American living in Bell County. Purchased as a young boy, Hamilton served as “office boy” and personal body guard when Houston was governor of Texas. Born in Huntsville, civic leader Samuel Walker HOUSTON was the son of Joshua HOUSTON, the “body servant” of the hero of San Jacinto.
Jackson’s book also contains data about women. For example, one sketch pertains to Georgia (Blakemore) WILLIAMS, who was born near Palestine. The wife of E. Z. WILLIAMS of Tyler, she was one of the few African American female pharmacists in the state of Texas.
Although the publication concerns individuals in a variety of occupations, many persons named in the book devoted their lives to religion or education. A scan of Jackson’s work for material about people connected with Shelby County, for instance, shows several professors highlighted. Born in Shelby County, John A. ALEXANDER attended local schools and later taught in Stockman before becoming school principal in Timpson; his wife, the former Esther TUBBS of Palestine, taught English in Timpson. A native of Hemphill, Chapman H. DANIELS became closely associated as a teacher and principal in Center, where his daughter, La Ferne, later taught; many of his students became teachers in the counties of Nacogdoches, Panola, San Augustine, and Shelby. Remaining in his hometown of Timpson, R. P. ROBERTS taught in several East Texas schools. In their personal lives, all of these men were active in church activities.
While the persons showcased in Jackson’s book resided in various places in the state, a significant proportion were born in or lived in East Texas counties, such as Shelby. For instance, Miss Charlotte MAYFIELD, Rev. A. W. PRYOR, Mrs. Anna C. (KING) PRYOR, Rev. Coleman G. STRONG, Rev. Thomas B. JOHNSON, Rev. I. S. BARRON, Mrs. Ina (ALEXANDER) BOLTON, Major KENNEDY, Addison W. O’NEAL, Professor James F. ALEXANDER, and Mrs. Fama J. HAYNER were born in Rusk County. Representatives of Panola County include Rev. R. T. HARRIS and Professor J. H. ROWE. Individuals linked to Nacogdoches County include O. J. THOMAS, Rev. John G. UPSHAW, and Mat Berke DAVIS, who served as principal at schools in Timpson, Lufkin, and Jacksonville. Interestingly, Andrew Webster JACKSON, author of A SURE FOUNDATION, was born in Fort Bend County but taught awhile in Nacogdoches and Panola counties. More details about Jackson may be found in the hard copy (Volume 3, page 893) or online version of the HANDBOOK OF TEXAS.