Black History is so much more than 28 days or one checkbox on our to do list. Understanding and appreciating the stories of Black History should be an ongoing joy and responsibility.
Austin has a lot to teach us. Whether you are new to town or have been here for decades, understanding Black History in our community means truly coming to terms with who we are – and who we can be.
Join me in making a commitment to learn or experience something every month of the year. For example:
- Celebrate Juneteenth with your family.
- Take in a baseball game at Downs-Mabson Field, the home to the Austin Black Senators, the first Negro League Baseball team in the city, beginning in 1927, and now home to the Huston-Tillotson Rams.
- Pick up a free copy of The Villager, the longest-running Black community newspaper in Austin.
- Dive into the five facts below.
5 Things Every Austinite Should Know about Black History
- City Plan of 1928: This is the big one. Every Austinite should know about and understand the present-day ramifications of this injustice. In 1917, the Supreme Court ruled that using zoning for segregation was illegal. The City Plan of 1928 was Austin’s way of getting around the ruling, effectively forcing African-Americans to move to then-undesirable East Austin. The Austin-American Statesmen published an in-depth special report. Learn more here.
- Huston-Tillotson University: Did you know this HBCU (Historically Black College and University) is older than UT? If you get a chance to hear current President Colette Pierce Burnette speak, do it. You can thank me later.
- George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center: This free admission, family-friendly museum has core exhibits on the history of Juneteenth and the African-American families who helped create the community we love today. There are also galleries which highlight local artists and an interactive exhibit where kids can play while they learn about African-American scientists and inventors.
- Get involved with nonprofits doing interesting and important work: Six Square, Measure, Greater Austin Black Chamber, African American Youth Harvest Foundation, and Austin Justice Coalition.
- Support Black-owned business and restaurants, and learn about the faith community: If you aren’t sure where to start, Google is always helpful. If you are looking for an event to tantalize your taste buds, keep an eye out for the annual, Taste of Black Austin. The following churches historically serve mostly Black congregations in East Austin: David Chapel Baptist Church, Wesley United Methodist Church, Greater Mt. Zion Church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, and Ebenezer Baptist church.
Interested in going deeper? In 2017, a report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Institutional Racism & Systemic Inequities was released. In support of the findings, Leadership Austin is hosting Beyond Diversity Seminars, with the goal of uniting Austin to end racism. If you’d like to join the thousands of Austinites who have taken this eye-opening training, it is open to anyone and scholarships are available. Note, sessions fill quickly.
Exploring history and culture with our children, cultivating their empathy and sense of justice, as well as having real, age-appropriate conversations about racism and inequality will help all of us, together, create the kind of city that is truly home.