/know Your History

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: Ovide Duncantell

Do you know who is responsible for the for the annual Black Heritage Society’s MLK Parade? Civil Rights ‘warrior’ Ovide Duncantell. Duncantell was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana in 1936. After graduating from school in 1955, he entered the United States Air Force and was honorably discharged in 1959. After returning home, he got married and set out for Los Angeles, California. But after making a stop in Houston to visit with his new wife’s brothers, his plans changed, and he remained in Houston until his death. In 1969, Duncantell began working for the Anti-Poverty Program-Houston Community Action Association.  He later created his own organization entitled “The Central Committee for the Protection of Poor People.” Duncantell went to work for then newly-elected Commissioner, Tom Bass, from 1973-1977. He also earned his Bachelor and Master degrees from Texas Southern University. In 1974, Duncantell became Founder and Executive Director of the Black Heritage Society Inc., emerging as one of the driving forces behind the renaming of South Park Boulevard to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard. The Reverend Martin Luther (“Daddy ”) King, Sr., was so impressed by the gesture of respect, he made a personal appearance at the street’s name change ceremony, and served as the BHS first MLK Parade “Grand Marshal,” on January 21, 1978. The BHS has conducted the annual MLK Parade in Houston ever since. At age 75 years old, he chained himself the “MLK Tree of Life,” which the BHS planted in 1983, to stand in the way of the construction of Metro’s new Southeast light rail line. He died in October 2018 at the age of 82.

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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: Republican Texas State Senator Matthew Gaines

During these times when voting rights of African Americans and other people of color are under attack, we want to continue to highlight those “forgotten” pioneers who fought hard to make sure our “political” voices were heard. For this week’s “Know Your History” we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Gaines – a former slave, community leader, minister, and Republican Texas State Senator – who made valuable contributions towards the establishment of free public education in the state of Texas. Gaines was born on August 4, 1840, near Alexandria, Louisiana to a female slave owned by the Martin Despallier family. Gaines taught himself to read from a white boy who smuggled in books. This boy may have been young Blaz Philipe Despallier, who lived on the estate and who would later become the sole heir of Alamo hero Charles Despallier, his uncle. After being sold from the Despallier family, Gaines escaped from his new owner in Louisiana to Arkansas, and eventually made it to New Orleans, where he was captured and returned to his master. In 1859, Gaines was sold to Christopher Columbus Hearne, where he remained until 1863 when he tried to flee to Mexico. He was caught again and was forced to work as a runaway slave in Fredericksburg, Texas until the end of the civil war. After the 1863 emancipation was finally officially announced in Texas on June 19, 1865, Gaines settled in Washington County, where he established himself as a leader of the freedmen, both as a Baptist preacher and a politician. In 1869, Gaines was elected as a Senator of Texas’s 16th district in the Twelfth Texas Legislature. He gained a reputation for being a guardian of the newly won rights of the African-Texans. Throughout his term, he addressed the issues of public education, prison reform, the protection of black voters, and tenant farming reformation. Gaines actively supported the forward movement that established the first public school system for all Texans and assisted in allowing Texas to take advantage of the federal Grant College Act, also known as the Morrill Act. In 1870, Gaines played

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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: Mary McLeod Bethune

A marble statue of civil rights pioneer Mary McLeod Bethune is replacing one of a Confederate general in the US Capitol’s Statuary Hall, making history as the first African American to have a state-commissioned statue in that particular hall. This is the perfect time to honor Bethune, and educate you about her life’s work in this week’s “Know Your History.” The National Statuary Hall Collection features two statues from each state. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requested the replacement of the General Edmund Kirby Smith statue in 2019. US Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida said, “Dr. Bethune embodies the very best of the Sunshine State — Floridians and all Americans can take great pride in being represented by the great educator and civil rights icon.” The 11-foot-tall statue of Bethune, which was unveiled Monday in Daytona Beach, Florida, will be on display in Daytona Beach through December before it makes its way to the US Capitol in early 2022. Who is Mary McLeod Bethune? Born in Mayesville, South Carolina, to parents who had been slaves, she started working in fields with her family at age five. She took an early interest in becoming educated, and with the help of benefactors, attended college hoping to become a missionary in Africa. She started a school for African-American girls in Daytona Beach, Florida which later merged with a private institute for African-American boys and was known as the Bethune-Cookman School. Bethune maintained high standards and promoted the school with tourists and donors to demonstrate what educated African Americans could do. She was president of the college from 1923 to 1942, and 1946 to 1947. She was one of the few women in the world to serve as a college president at that time. Bethune founded the National Council for Negro Women in 1935, established the organization’s flagship journal Aframerican Women’s Journal, and resided as president or leader for myriad African American women’s organizations including the National Association for Colored Women and the National Youth Administration’s Negro Division. She also was appointed as a national adviser to president Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom she worked with

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Know Your History: Michael Strahan

The Texas Southern football team hit the gridiron in style for Homecoming 2021 wearing new Riddell helmets donated by TSU football legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Strahan. With that kindness in mind, we decided to highlight Strahan, a Houston native, for this week’s “Know Your History!” Television personality, journalist, and former professional American football player, Michael T. Strahan, was born in Houston, Texas on November 21, 1971. The youngest of six children, he is the son of Louise (Traylor) Strahan, a basketball coach, and Gene Willie Strahan, a retired Army Major and a boxer with a 1–1 record against future heavyweight Ken Norton. He is the nephew of retired NFL defensive lineman Art Strahan. When Michael was 9, his family moved to an army post, BFV (Benjamin Franklin Village), in Mannheim, West Germany. The summer before Strahan’s senior year of high school, his father sent him to live with his uncle Art in Houston so he could attend Westbury High School. Strahan played one season of football, which was enough for him to get a scholarship offer from Texas Southern University. He then flew back to Germany for the spring term, where he graduated from Mannheim Christian. Strahan followed in the footsteps of his uncle Art, who also played defensive end at Texas Southern University. Strahan was so dominant he drew double teams, and TSU coaches dubbed Strahan double teaming “Strahan rules.” By his junior season, Strahan began to turn himself into an NFL prospect. As a senior with the Texas Southern Tigers, Strahan was selected All-America first team by The Poor Man’s Guide to the NFL Draft, The Sheridan Network, Edd Hayes Black College Sports Report and the Associated Press. He was also selected Division I-AA Defensive Player of the Year by The Poor Man’s Guide and Edd Hayes Black College Sports Report. In 1992, he was named First Team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference and the SWAC’s Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. He was also named Black College Defensive Player of the Year. As a junior in 1991, Strahan led the SWAC with

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Know Your History: Christia V. Daniels Adair

The next time you’re at a family reunion or another outdoor function at Christia V. Adair Park in southeast Houston, you don’t have to ask yourself, who is it named after because we are here to tell you.  The park was named in honor of a woman who went above and beyond in the fight for civil rights right here in Houston.  Learn about African American suffragist, Christia V. Daniels Adair, in this week’s “Know Your History.” Christia V. Daniels was born in 1893 in Victoria, Texas and grew up in Edna, Texas, the daughter of Ada Crosby Daniels, a laundress, and Hardy Daniels, who had a hauling business. She had an older half-sister and two younger brothers. Her early life was heavily influenced by her Christian religion, which she professed at 11, and her involvement with the Methodist Church. She attended Samuel Huston College, which her godfather co-founded and trained to teach at the Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, graduating in 1915. She taught at public schools in Edna for three years and then left teaching in 1918 after she married Elbert H. Adair, a brakeman for the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, and moved to Kingsville, Texas. Here, she joined a women’s group and fought against gambling establishments and organized petition drives for women’s suffrage. Despite the success of the women’s suffrage movement, she was prevented from voting in Texas and turned away from a polling place due to state decreeing that Black Americans could not vote in primaries, even though she was allowed to register to vote. This incident prompted Adair to begin working with the civil rights movement. Her work in the community increased when the trends of racial discrimination at the time became more prevalent. She moved to Houston in 1925, and joined the city’s chapter of the NAACP in 1943. She served the chapter as executive secretary from 1949 or 1950 to 1959, through the period of the landmark Smith v. Allwright case. After the case was decided in favor of Smith, the Houston chapter of the NAACP became a popular target for bomb threats.

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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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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.

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