Black History

Houston Black History: Hon. Albert Ely Edwards

State Representative, Hon. Albert Ely Edwards was born in Houston, Texas on March 19, 1937. Edwards is the sixth child out of the 16 children born to Reverend E. L. Edwards, Sr. and Josephine Radford Edwards. He graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School and attended Texas Southern University, earning his B.A. degree in 1966. At the age of 31, Edwards entered politics and was elected to the Texas State Legislature from Houston’s House District 146. His first major goal was to ensure the establishment of a holiday that recognized the emancipation of slavery. In 1979, legislation recognizing Juneteenth Day, initiated by Edwards, passed the Texas State Legislature and was signed into law. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an annual holiday in 14 states of the United States. Celebrated on June 19th, it commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas. While serving in the legislature, Edwards also founded his own real estate company. Though deeply involved with local issues, Edwards remained active in many issues outside the Texas State Legislature. In 1983, Edwards was appointed as a member of the board of Operation PUSH. Edwards also served as the Texas State Director of Reverend Jesse Jackson’s two presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988. In 1986, Edwards also founded Operation Justus, a community faith-based organization that serves as a referral service for persons with social problems and concerns. Edwards was also arrested in Houston and went to jail for peacefully demonstrating against apartheid in South Africa in 1987. Edwards left the Texas legislature in 2007 after twenty-eight years of serving the people of District 146. As a veteran member of the Texas Legislature, Edwards served on three influential committees. He was the Chairman of the Rules and Resolutions Committee, Chairman of Budget and Oversight of the Ways and Means Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee.

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A Lifelong Businessman: Mack Hannah Jr.

By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D. Mack Henry Hannah Jr. was born into an enterprising family on February 8, 1904, and grew up in Brenham, TX.  His father was known as “Daddy Mack,” and was involved in many business ventures like saloons, a barbershop, a drug store, poolhalls, and a restaurant. In 1920, his family opened the Hannah Funeral Home in Port Arthur, TX, which is still operational today. Hannah graduated from Lincoln High School in 1922 and graduated from Bishop College in 1927. Even during his younger days, he made his mark on history by becoming the first All-American football player. He then returned to Lincoln High School where he taught physical education, and served as a coach for a short time. He later became the first black salesman to work at the Orange Casket Company. It was during World War II when Hannah became employed by America’s first synthetic rubber plant, built in Port Neches. He oversaw food concession, housing, and took care of over 6,000 workers. After that venture, he moved to Houston, and started other business ventures. He was president of the Mack H. Hannah Life Insurance Company, was the founder of the Gulf Western Mortgage Company, and the Standard Savings and Loan Association, and was the director of the Homestead Bank. He also operated the Hannah Funeral Home. These business ventures made him a millionaire and one of the wealthiest black in Texas. To add to his success, he was a trustee of Bishop College for over 31 years, and held the office of Regent of University of Houston and Texas Southern University. As a Democrat, he heavily encouraged black voters in Jefferson County, and helped state leaders Allan Shivers, and Lyndon Baines win votes for their elections. He married the love of his life, Reba Othelene Hicks in 1927, and in this union, they had three children. Over the years, Hannah was appointed to prestigious positions, and received many honors. In 1940, he was appointed as Consul to the Republic of Liberia in 1940 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He held that position for over 42

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Know Your History: Pastor William “Bill” Lawson

William A. “Bill” Lawson was born in St. Louis, Mo., reared in Kansas City, Kansas, and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Tennessee A & I State University of Nashville in 1950. He returned to Kansas City to attend Central Baptist Theological Seminary, which conferred upon Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Theology degrees.  While in seminary, he married Audrey Hoffman Lawson of St. Louis and had four children. He came to Houston after graduation from seminary to serve as director of the Baptist Student Union and Professor of Bible at the new Texas Southern University. He served in that position for 10 years, also becoming director of Upward Bound, a pre-college program for high school students on the TSU campus. While at TSU, Lawson helped build the first Afro-American Studies Program at the University of Houston and taught classes in sociology and the Black Church. His involvement with the Civil Rights Movement began when 14 TSU students held a sit-in protesting segregation at a lunch counter. After founding the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, Lawson invited the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at his church in 1963. Lawson served as a pastor for over 30 years. In honor of his dedication to the community, the community created a non-profit organization called the William A. Lawson Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has received honorary doctorates from Howard Payne College in Brownwood, the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. He is the author of a book of meditations called Lawson’s Leaves of Love. He retired from Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church in 2004 but remains its Founding Pastor Emeritus.  His wife, Audrey, passed away in 2015.  

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Know Your History: Jack Yates

By: Jeniece Thompson John Henry (Jack) Yates was born into slavery in Gloucester County, Virginia on July 11, 1828. Even though it was illegal, he learned how to read. As a young person, he participated in slaves’ religious gatherings. He married Harriet Willis, and in this union, they had eleven children. In 1863, Harriet’s master relocated to Matagorda County, Texas. Not wanting to be away from his wife and children, Yates pleaded to go with them. When emancipation occurred in 1865, the Yates family left for Houston to find work. During the day, Yates was a drayman, and at night, a Baptist preacher. Yates had started holding meetings in Houston for the Home Missionary Society on behalf of Isaac Sydney Campbell. This jumpstarted him being ordained as a preacher. Yates became the first pastor at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, which was the first black Baptist church in Houston.

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Know Your History: Mickey Leland

By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D. Mickey Leland was a person who believed in helping others. He once stated, “I am as much of a citizen of this world as I am of this country. To hell with those people who are critical of what I am able to do to help save people’s lives. I don’t mean to sound hokey, but I grew up on the Christian ethic which says we are supposed to help the least of our brothers.” Leland was born on November 27, 1944, in Lubbock, Texas. He moved to Houston with his mom and brother after his parents separated. In 1963, Leland graduated from Phyllis Wheatley High School, and earned a degree in pharmacy from Texas Southern University in 1970. He was an instructor of clinical pharmacy at Texas Southern University, and later took a job as a pharmacist. In the late 1960s, he was an activist in the civil rights movement. He participated in many protests and was arrested while protesting police brutality. This was a critical moment in his life, as it convinced him to work in the political system. In 1972, he was first elected to the Texas State House of Representatives and served his Houston neighborhood from 1973 to 1979. During his time in the state legislature, he took his first trip to African, and grew very fond of the continent. His planed three-week trip, turned into a three-month trip. This trip sparked a love for wanting to help end famine in East Africa and in the world.

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2021 Notable Deaths

We’ve lost a lot of the greats this year. With respect, we pay homage to all of those pioneers, trailblazers and notable figures who left such an invaluable mark in our lives and history. Cicely Tyson Cicely Tyson, one of the most iconic actresses in Black history and Hollywood, died at the age of 96. Tyson was a pioneer that paved the way for Black actors for years to come. Tyson won 49 awards out of 52 nominations throughout her almost 70-year career. Colin Powell Colin Powell, and esteemed diplomat, politician, and Army officer was the first Black U.S. Secretary of State who helped shape America’s major foreign policies throughout the late 20th and early 21st century. He died at the age of 84 due to cancer and COVID-19 complications. Hank Aaron Hank Aaron made MLB history in 1974 after he shattered Babe Ruth’s home run record becoming the “Home Run King.” Earl “DMX” Simmons Rapper DMX died on April 9 at the age of 50 after suffering from a heart attack. The influential hip-hop artist was known for his introspective lyrics that explored his trauma and his light. Ronnie Wilson Ronnie Wilson, the older brother of “Uncle” Charlie Wilson as well as a co-founder and one-third of the legendary Gap Band, passed away at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Nov. 2. His wife, Linda Boulware-Wilson, said her husband died peacefully as he held her hand before he drew his final breath. He was 73 years old. Melvin van Peebles Melvin van Peebles, the iconic filmmaker and movie director whose groundbreaking work like “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” went on to become cult classics, especially in the Black community, died on Sept. 21. He was 89 years old. Anthony “A.J.” Johnson Actor and comedian Anthony “A.J.” Johnson died at the age of 56. The actor was widely known for his role on the “Friday” franchise of movies. There was no official cause of death immediately released.  Kangol Kid  Born Shaun Shiller Fequiere, rap pioneer Kangol Kid died less than a year after being diagnosed with colon cancer. A member of

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Know Your History: George T. Ruby

 There are so many African Americans who fought for our advancement in the Texas political arena, and we won’t stop until you get to know them all. Learn about George Thompson Ruby in this week’s “Know Your History.” Ruby (1841-1882) was a prominent black Republican leader in Reconstruction-era Texas. Born in New York and raised in Portland, Maine, he worked in Boston and Haiti before teaching in New Orleans, Louisiana before the end of the American Civil War. In September 1866, with Louisiana schools shutting down for lack of funding, Ruby left for Galveston, Texas where the Freedmen’s Bureau agent assigned him as an agent and teacher. Working to set up and run schools for Blacks, Ruby helped organize local chapters of the Union League on which mobilization for the newly created Republican party would depend. In 1868, he was elected the League’s first state president, a powerful political position. Later that year, he was the first African-American from Texas to attend the Republican National Convention. In time, he became editor of the Galveston Standard. Like many Republican papers, it had a brief life. Provisional Governor Elisha M. Pease appointed Ruby as a notary public in Galveston. When elections took place for delegates to a state constitutional convention in 1868, Ruby was chosen for the district comprising Brazoria, Galveston, and Matagorda counties. He was one of 10 African Americans elected as delegates. He allied with the more radical end of the party. Deeply disturbed by the conservative compromises that made it into the final document, Ruby worked for some months to have it defeated or rejected by the national government. He believed that equal rights for Blacks in Texas depended on a Republican government. Although discussed as a possible running-mate for Republican gubernatorial nominee Edmund J. Davis, Ruby was far younger at age 28 than would have been the norm. In addition, Republicans were reluctant to nominate a Black candidate, because of the risk of driving away white votes. Blacks were a minority statewide. In 1870, he was first elected to the Texas Senate in a very close vote, where

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Know Your History: Harris County political leader Richard Allen

As we approach yet another round of voting, we want to highlight a little known politician who made major strides as an African American right here in Harris County. In this week’s “Know Your History,” we introduce you to political and civic leader Richard Allen. Allen was born a slave in Richmond, Virginia on June 10, 1830. He was brought to Texas in 1837 and ultimately to Harris County, where he was owned by J. J. Cain until emancipation in 1865. While a slave, he earned a reputation as a skilled carpenter and is credited with designing and building the mansion of Houston mayor Joseph R. Morris. After emancipation, Allen became a contractor and bridge builder and at times a commission agent and saloon owner. Although he was without a formal education, he became literate by 1870. Allen entered politics as a federal voter registrar in 1867. In 1868, he served as an agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau and as the supervisor of voter registration for the Fourteenth District of Texas. He also participated in the organization of the Republican party in Harris County. After assuming an active role in the Radical Republican meeting that nominated Edmund J. Davis for governor in 1869, Allen was elected to the Twelfth Legislature that November and became one of the first and most active Black legislators. As a representative of the Fourteenth District, which included Harris and Montgomery counties, he advocated general measures for education, law enforcement, and civil rights. In 1870, he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for United States Congress. In 1871, the Union League, which supported the Republican party, made him one of its vice presidents. Allen apparently was reelected to the legislature in 1873, but the House seated his Democratic opponent, who contested the election. Allen remained a leader of the Republican party in Houston, at state conventions, and as a delegate to national conventions through 1896. He was elected street commissioner in Houston as an independent candidate in January 1878 and served for one term. Later that year, the conservative wing of the Republican party nominated him for

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Know your history: Samuel McCulloch Jr.

As we all know, Blacks have been fighting for their freedom and recognition since being brought to this country. Many, who lived right here in Texas, were on the forefront of those battles. In this week’s “Know Your History,” we salute Samuel McCulloch Jr. McCulloch was a free Negro soldier who became known as the first person wounded in the Texas Revolution. McCulloch was born on October 11, 1810, in Alabama. His white father, Samuel McCulloch Sr., had three daughters. There is no mention of Samuel’s mother in any official record. His father moved the family to Montgomery, Alabama in 1815, and they relocated to Jackson County, Texas on the Lavaca River in 1835. Five months after their arrival in the Texas territory of Mexico, the Texas Revolution broke out and “Samuel Jr.” took up the cause. McCulloch joined the Matagorda Volunteer Company under the command of George M. Collinsworth, and fought in the Battle of Goliad. On October 10, 1835, McCulloch attempted to storm into the officers’ barracks and in the process took a bullet to the shoulder, which made him among the first soldiers wounded in the Texas Revolution. The shot shattered his shoulder and affected him for the rest of his life. By April 1836, McCulloch was able to return home, although the family was forced to flee as the advancing Mexican Army drove the Texan revolutionaries north. On July 8 of that year, McCulloch’s wound would be finally tended to by a doctor, who removed the musket ball from his shoulder. McCulloch soon found himself living in a country that had just banned all free blacks from living there. With the passing of the Texas Constitution in 1836, all people of African and Native American descent were denied citizenship. McCulloch petitioned the Congress of the Republic of Texas for an exemption to the law. In April, he was granted the exemption, along with the land grant that he was entitled to for his service in the Texas army. In August 1837, he married Mary Vess, a white woman. This marriage violated the Texas ban on interracial

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Shining A Spotlight On Resistance Among Young African Women

By: NNPA The #SudanWomenProtest, which began in 2019, targeted the leadership of Omar al Bashir (former Sudan head of state). Thousands of women united in rejecting policies that gave credence to sexist and discriminatory laws. The revolt was a shock to many despite the years of resistance from Sudanese women. Social media provided them with a platform to spread their message abroad, resulting in an overthrow of the Bashir regime. “It is only by being “too much” that new cracks in the wall of patriarchal dictatorships can emerge.” These words from award-winning blogger and Pan-African feminist activist, Rosebell Kagumire in her essay entitled “African Young Women Resisting Beyond Borders” underscores young African women’s utilization of the Internet to bring attention to sexual violence, police brutality, and gender disparities. A recent chain of events emphasizing resistance on a global stage, has opened the doors for the composition to make its way to the forefront of conversations again. At the Tokyo Olympics, United States gymnast, Simone Biles, sent shockwaves throughout the world when she withdrew from the team competition and later individual events, to focus on her mental health. Citing the necessity of having her body and mind in sync, the now seven-time Olympic medalist chose not to follow the status quo of “pushing through.” Instead, she used her platform to emphasize the power of using one’s voice and actions to draw attention to unrealistic expectations, supremacy structures, and the muting of victims. Kagumire does the same by highlighting the various ways these women have developed a collective voice to demand an end to experienced injustices. Her essay begins with an explanation regarding last year’s Twitter uproar after dozens of Ugandan women disclosed they’re victims of sexual assault and harassment. Referencing movements that have pushed for accountability and consequences, Kagumire referred to the viral revealing as “Uganda’s own #MeToo movement.” “These young women were building on the bravery of women who had earlier told their stories despite the public wrath they faced.” Noting mounting displeasure, Kagumire explains how the “patriarchal power” structure uses its authority to silence women. Standing in the gap for those

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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

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.

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