Know your history: African American folklorist J. Mason Brewer

When you think of “folklore,” an African American may not initially come to mind. We are about to change that. In this week’s “Know Your History,” we introduce you to scholar and folklorist John Mason Brewer.

Brewer was born in Goliad in 1896. Over his fifty-year career, he almost single-handedly preserved the African American folklore of his home state.

Brewer’s grandfathers were wagoners who hauled dry goods across Texas. His father worked as a cowboy, traveling to the Indian Territories and Kansas. The stories they shared fostered Brewer’s love of folk tales, while his mother, Minnie, a schoolteacher, inspired him to make scholarship his life’s work.

When Brewer graduated from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas in 1917. He went on to teach at various institutions, including Samuel Huston College in Austin, Texas, Booker T. Washington High School in Dallas, Claflin College in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Texas Southern University in Houston, Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, and East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas (now Texas A&M University–Commerce).

He also wrote poetry, in addition to collecting the folk tales he heard at schools and churches, in general stores and barbershops—the places of everyday life for black Texans.

While teaching in Austin in the 1930s, Brewer shared some of his tales with folklorist J. Frank Dobie. Impressed, Dobie arranged for their publication under the title Juneteenth.

Many more books followed, filled with tales that Brewer learned firsthand from Texas’s former slaves and their descendants. Recorded in the dialect of their tellers, the stories revolve around preachers and overseers, husbands and wives, reflecting the hardship and humor of the “coming-up times” after slavery.

He published numerous collections of folklore and poetry, most notably The Word on the Brazos (1953), Aunt Dicey Tales (1956), Dog Ghosts and Other Texas Negro Folk Tales (1958), and Worser Days and Better Times (1965).  His books serve as a timeless record of Texas storytelling, and powerful proof of what he called “folklore as a living force.”

Brewer was the first African American to be an active member of the Texas Folklore Society, to be a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, and to serve on the council of the American Folklore Society. He was also the first African American to deliver a lecture series at the University of Arizona, the University of California, and the University of Colorado, and he broke the color barrier at Austin’s Driskill Hotel. He has been compared to Zora Neale Hurston, Joel Chandler Harris, and Alain Locke. He also published a book on African American legislators in Texas during the Reconstruction era up until their disenfranchisement.

John Mason Brewer died in 1975 at the age of 79.

October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit www.edwardsforhouston.com

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

Scroll to Top
Search