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Handbook of African American Texas

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African Americans have been part of the landscape of Texas for as long as Europeans and their descendants. Spanning a period of more than five centuries, African American presence began in 1528 with the arrival of Estevanico, an African slave who accompanied the first Spanish exploration of the land in the southwestern part of the United States that eventually became Texas. While African Americans have been subjected to slavery, segregation, and discrimination during this long history, they have made significant contributions to the growth and development of Texas. They have influenced Texas policies and social standards. Living and working with other ethnic groups, they have helped create a unique Texas culture. Historians have not always acknowledged the role that African Americans have played in the Lone Star State. Although numerous studies of Texas’s past appeared in the twentieth century, until 1970 there remained too many empty pages in the history of the state concerning the black population. This situation has changed since the 1970s, but the need to capture more of the African American experience still exists. For this reason, we are happy to launch the Handbook of African American Texas.

Cognizant of the role that African Americans have played in shaping Texas’s past, the original Handbook of Texas (1952) and the Handbook of Texas Supplement (1976) contained some entries on noted African Americans and institutions. The New Handbook of Texas (1996) included many more entries on African American personalities, institutions, organizations, events, and places. Yet, these entries, while valuable, did not represent a comprehensive coverage of African Americans in the Lone Star State. So in 2011, a spin-off handbook was proposed, and on June 19, 2013, the online encyclopedia, the Handbook of African American Texas, has come to fruition. This online feature has more than 850 entries on African Americans in Texas, many of which appeared in the earlier versions of the Handbook, and approximately 300 new articles about all aspects of African American life and history in Texas. This Handbook is initiated to capture, to create greater awareness, and to increase research on the roles and contributions that Afro-Texans (individuals, groups, and organizations) have made to their neighborhoods, cities, state, and often the nation and beyond. Many of the new entries are enriched with illustrations. A good number of these images were provided for the Handbook of Texas Music. The spin-off also includes photographs from Southern Methodist University Digital Collections and from various individuals. The Handbook of African American Texas will continue to be enhanced in the coming months as more entries and images are added.

Acknowledgments of those who contributed to this project cannot include all who wrote entries that are essential to the story, but a few members of the staff of the Texas State Historical Association should receive special recognition. We owe an inestimable debt to Randolph “Mike” Campbell, the Chief Historian, for his efforts and unwavering commitment to this project. We thank him for the high standards set for himself, his staff, and the project. He reviewed and edited texts, enlisted graduates students to write more than a hundred new entries, and provided financial assistance for technical support and fact checking. Three of Campbell’s students—Matt Abigail, Jennifer Bridges, and Will Yancey—also worked as fact checkers on a number of entries. Research Editor Laurie E. Jasinski fact checked the majority of entries for the project and copy edited the new entries. Ann T. Smith, as Data Management Editor, worked on every aspect of the project, especially by managing the entries in electronic form through the processes of fact checking, copy editing, and posting on the site. David Degnan and his technical staff of John Jenkins and Gerardo Garcia worked to create a new look for the Handbook web pages, including the Handbook of African American Texas. Taylor Fichera assisted by posting a good number of the new entries online. Former webmaster Steve Portch assisted in the design of the original landing page. Special thanks go to Stephen Cook, chairman of the Handbook Advisory Committee, for sponsoring a workshop at the African American Library at the Gregory School in Houston, where a group of professors, Texas Southern University graduate students, and members of the community worked to get this project off the ground. Likewise Debra Blacklock-Sloan should be acknowledged for her assistance in the early stages of this project.

Merline Pitre, Project Director

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