Where can you learn more about early Black history in Austin? These sites are worth visiting

Michael Barnes
Austin American-Statesman

For the purposes of this newspaper's two history columns, Austin Answered and Think Texas, every month is Black History Month.

Yet it is helpful to reflect on that history more directly during February.

Harrison Eppright stands outside the African American Cultural and Heritage Facility, which is at 912 E. 11th St.

Where can you learn more about early Black history in Austin?

Consider the following a first pass at cataloging places that resonate with early Black history. Let's hear from you. We'll keep adding to the list.

The Texas African American History Memorial is southwest of the Texas Capitol, near 11th Street and Congress Avenue, on the Capitol grounds.
  • George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center (1165 Angelina St.): Always the first place to visit for African American history and culture in Austin. The complex includes a library, museum and genealogical center.
  • Austin History Center (810 Guadalupe St.): Although this prime spot to learn about the city's past , there's a Fuller Circle event Feb. 2 at the Headliners Club (221 W. Sixth St.) that features scholar Tara Dudley talking about her research on pioneering architect John Chase and other Black builders.
  • Texas African American History Memorial (Capitol grounds): Also a memorial to Juneteenth, this complex statue sculpted by Ed Dwight听is worth any visitor's time. Its scenes and words depict multiple dimensions of Black life in Texas.
  • Evergreen Cemetery (3304 E. 12th St.): Strolling slowly through this 1926 graveyard is a history lesson in itself. Members of many prominent Black families are buried here. In addition, Highland Park Cemetery, now a part of Evergreen, was established in 1891 as a burial place for all races. Other large cemeteries with African American histories 鈥 partly segregated 鈥 are Oakwood Cemetery and the Texas State Cemetery.
  • Hezikiah Haskell House (1705 Waterston Ave.): This small house with two front doors once was home to Haskell, a Union army veteran and later a "Buffalo soldier." It is in the historically Black Clarksville neighborhood, which was one of more than a dozen Austin freedom colonies established by independent, land-owning African Americans after emancipation. Since the late 20th century, efforts have been made to preserve the cultural heritage of this community.
  • Six Square: Austin's Black Cultural District (South of Manor Road, north of听East Seventh Street, east of听Airport Boulevard and west of听Interstate 35): A crucial nonprofit, Six Square, preserves and promotes this historically Black district in Central East Austin. Among its many functions are guided tours of the neighborhood that was designated the "Negro District" in Austin's 1928 city plan ().
  • Huston-Tillotson University (900 Chicon St.): The oldest institution of higher education in Austin, the historically Black college was founded in 1875. It became a university after the 1952 merger of Tillotson College听and听Samuel Huston College. Its campus is packed with reminders of the city's cultural heritage.
  • African American Cultural and Heritage Facility (912 E. 11th St.): Located on Austin's main stem of Black cultural life during the 20th century, this home base for the state-designated African American Cultural Heritage District on East 11th Street hosts all sorts of activities and includes a fantastic set of murals and other art.
  • Downs Field (2816 E. 12th St.): Sometimes referred to as Downs-Mabson Field, this is where the Austin Black Senators played, and it has been home to the Huston-Tillotson Rams. Among the legends who played here were Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, Smokey Joe Williams and Willie Wells. Wells is Austin's only native inductee in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • Rosewood Park (300 Rosewood Ave.): Home to countless Juneteenth celebrations, this park on Boggy Creek includes historic elements such as the Henry G. Madison cabin, once home to a pioneering civic leader, and Doris Miller Auditorium, named for the World War II hero.
  • Neill-Cochran House Museum (2310 San Gabriel St.): This site in West Campus is home to one of the only intact slave quarters in Austin. The nonprofit that runs the historic house plans more renovations to the stone quarters, and more interpretative material and murals that will link the complex's structures into one visual story.
  • French Legation (802 San Marcos St.): The hilltop residence of听Jean Pierre Isidore Alphonse Dubois de Saligny, France's charge虂 d'affaires in the Republic of Texas, was likely built by enslaved workers. Later, the Robertson family enslaved people here. That heritage is now clearly interpreted for visitors by the Texas Historical Commission, which runs the site.
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church (1010 E 10th St.): This large, handsome church has been the faith home for many Black Austin leaders, including the recently deceased Judge Harriet Murphy, a friend of Mather Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall, as well as the first Black woman permanently appointed to a judgeship in Texas.
  • Wesley United Methodist Church (1164 San Bernard St.): Founded in 1865, this church has a history in Austin that reaches past further than 1865, back to the days when African Americans worshipped in the basement of the First Methodist Church. The congregation has an extraordinary record of producing leaders. Be sure to read the Texas historical marker out front about the dark history of lynching in Travis County.
  • Victory Grill (1104 E. 11th St.): Back when East 11th Street was the commercial and entertainment center of East Austin, the Victory Grill was one of the hottest nightclubs and restaurants in town. It has been miraculously preserved and still serves the community.
  • Wooldridge Square Park (900 Guadalupe St.): The Black history of this square was for a while almost erased, but alert historians brought back the legacies of Booker T. Washington, who spoke here, and the听Rev. Jacob Fontaine, who started the St. John Regular Baptist Association and whose church once faced the square.
  • John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building (1191 Navasota St.): The University of Texas' newly renamed Division of Campus and Community Engagement operates offices in this midcentury wonder, designed by Chase, the first Black student to graduate from the UT School of Architecture and the first Black licensed architect in Texas. Nearby Chase masterpieces include the Phillips House and the听David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, both on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
  • Briscoe Center for American History (2300 Red River St.): One of several major museums on the UT campus, the Briscoe Center is where you will discover the broader story of African Americans, much of it stored in archives, but often also on display in a public gallery.
  • LBJ Presidential Library (2313 Red River St.) Lyndon Baines Johnson loomed over American history as a congressman from Austin and U.S. senator from Texas before he became U.S. vice president and then president. He was instrumental in passing or signing several major civil rights bills. The library's permanent exhibit tells those stories.
  • Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum (1800 Congress Ave.): Located on the newly minted Capitol Mall, this large museum attempts to cover a lot of historical ground. The stories of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, all on the second floor, have been recently updated, not unlike the complete makeover of the first-floor galleries on the earliest Texas history.
  • Moore-Hancock Farmstead (4811 Sinclair Ave.) This farmstead is the oldest log structure in Austin still in its original听location, now part of the Rosedale neighborhood. African American presence at the site ranges from pre-Civil War enslaved to post-Civil War freedmen. The public is invited for an informative tour 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 25.

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The Neill-Cochran House Museum, 2310 San Gabriel St., describes the historic slave quarters on its property as "the only intact and publicly accessible slave dwelling located within in the boundaries of Austin's original townsite."

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The听David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, 2211 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., was designed by John S. Chase, the first Black student to graduate from the UT School of Architecture and the first Black licensed architect in Texas.

Send your questions 鈥 or answers 鈥 about Central Texas past and present to "Austin Answered" at mbarnes@statesman.