Between 1916 and the 1960s, Texas progressed from a brutal lynching in Waco, to the peaceful integration of public facilities in Houston. What made the difference? Who made it happen? What was it like to be there?
January 29: Patricia Bernstein, “The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP”
Ms. Bernstein will take us back to early twentieth-century Texas and the vicious lynching of a black teen-ager that took place before 15,000 cheering spectators in Waco. She will discuss the response of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the inventive work of the young white woman sent by the NAACP to investigate the crime, and the NAACP’s vigorous national antilynching campaign that followed.
Patricia Bernstein, the author of The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP (2005) and a public relations consultant, became interested in the Waco lynching after seeing a photograph and realizing that she, a lifelong Texan and student of American history, had never heard of the incident. She believes that knowledge of the past is essential to combat bigotry.
February 12: Thomas Cole, “The Strange Demise of Jim Crow: How Houston Integrated Its Public Accommodations”
When students from Texas Southern University began a series of sit-ins in Houston in the 1960s, white and black business leaders worked together to keep the city peaceful. The session will begin with Dr. Cole’s PBS film, “The Strange Demise of Jim Crow: How Houston Integrated Its Public Accommodations,” which shows the way Houston “desegregated in a quieter, almost stealthy fashion marked by behind the-scenes negotiations, secret deals and controversial news blackouts.” Afterward, he will lead a discussion about the film.
Thomas Cole learned of this story in 1984 through discussions with Eldrewey Stearns, a psychiatric patient at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston who had been a leader of the TSU sit-ins. Those discussions led to a book, No Color Is My Kind, published in 1997, and the PBS film in 1998. Dr. Cole is currently at the Center for Health, Humanities and the Human Spirit, associated with the University of Texas Center for Health Sciences in Houston.
February 26: Gene Locke and Rev. William Lawson, “The Sit-Ins and Beyond”
Gene Locke has been involved in the civil rights movement as a high school student in Marshall, Texas; as a student at the University of Houston in the 1960s; at South Texas College of Law; and during his legal career as City Attorney and later a partner at Andrews and Kurth.
Reverend William Lawson was pastor of the Baptist Student Union at Texas Southern University in the early 1960s. He is founder and longtime pastor of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church. He now heads the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity, which works to improve living conditions for the disadvantaged, primarily in Houston’s Third Ward.
Mr. Locke and Reverend Lawson will share some personal stories about their involvement in the historic civil rights movement in Houston.
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