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Category Archives: black history

Joshua Houston

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(Image credit: Texas State Historical Association)

Joshua Houston (1822-1902) was born near Marion, Alabama and was a slave in the household of the wife of Sam Houston, Margaret Lea.  In the custom of the day, Joshua and his family were left to Margaret after the death in 1834 of her father, Temple Lea.  Margaret moved to Texas in 1840 after marrying Sam Houston in May.

Joshua travelled with Sam Houston as his personal servant during the days of the Texas Republic.  During this time, he was taught to read and write and learned the skills of blacksmithing and wheel building.  When Houston learned of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Abraham Lincoln, he emancipated all of the slaves in the family, although Texas law did not change for several more years.  Joshua and several others stayed on with the family of Sam Houston after Sam died in 1863.  Margaret died of yellow fever in 1867.  Late in life, Margaret Lea Houston fell on difficult financial times and Joshua is known to have offered his personal savings to help her.

After the end of the Civil War, Joshua married, had a family and became a blacksmith in Huntsville, Texas.  Joshua built a two story home there on 10th Street and set up his shop across the street from it.  He was a church leader and held several city and county offices in government.

He and two friends bought land near downtown and built the first church for freedmen, the Union Church, which operated at various times both as a Baptist and Methodist congregation.  Union Church continued to blossom, grew large and eventually split into at least three separate entities.  Joshua followed one of them and helped found the First Baptist Church on 10th Street in Rogersville, Texas.

His political life began when he was appointed as the first Black alderman in 1870.  He was first elected to office when he became a county commissioner of Walker County, Texas serving for a number of years beginning in 1878.  He is credited for helping to change former racially discriminatory Texas laws.  He helped found a college, Bishop Ward College, in 1882 although it remained in business for only two years and suffered from a lack of financial resources.  Joshua remained active in politics into his senior years, serving as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.

During his lifetime, Joshua was married to Annieliza (last name unknown), Sylvester Baker and Mary Green and had eight children including Thomas Houston (1866-1888), Lucy Houston Gardner (1841-1916), Joseph Houston (1836-1938) who was a farmer and land owner near Huntsville and a member of the Union Chapel Methodist Church and Samuel Walker Houston.

Samuel was born in 1864 and received his education at Hampton Institute in Virginia and Howard University in Washington, DC.  His is known to have been a clerk at Ford’s Theater and also to have worked for the War, State and Navy departments of the U. S. Government in Washington, DC.  Around 1900, he returned to Texas and taught school in Grimes County.  Samuel was a gifted musician and could sing, read and write music.  He died in 1945 and his headstone reads “In honor and memory of Samuel Walker Houston, founder of the Houston Industrial Training School and late principal of the Sam Houston High School… His life was devoted to welfare and happiness of others.”

Joshua Houston’s legacy included churches that he helped to found, being involved in politics and helping to change laws that promoted racial equality and a family of educated children and grandchildren.  He died in January, 1902 and is buried with his wife, Sylvester not far from the grave of Sam Houston at Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville.

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Posted by on January 11, 2018 in biography, black history, history, sam houston

 

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Buffalo Soldiers in Texas

The concept of all-black regiments had originated during the Civil War when northern states organized regiments of free blacks from the north and former slaves from the south.  This concept was met with resistance in the north, which resistance is generally accepted to have been racially oriented in nature.  However, by 1863 the U. S. Colored Volunteers had been organized into a cavalry regiment, an artillery regiment and almost two dozen infantry regiments.  It is estimated that about one out of ten Union soldiers serving in the American Civil War were black.

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Posted by on November 30, 2017 in black history, history, texas

 

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Bill Pickett

Bill Pickett was born to Thomas Jefferson and Mary Gilbert Pickett in Jenks-Branch, Williamson County, Texas in 1870, one of 13 children.  His heritage was African-American and Cherokee.  He is credited for having invented the method of steer wrestling commonly called “bulldogging.”  For this, his showmanship and his other skills he became the first person of African-American descent to be inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, among his other honors.

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Posted by on October 5, 2017 in biography, black history, entertainers, history, rodeo, texas

 

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Charley Willis, the singing cowboy

The 1940 Kingsport, Tennessee Kingsport Times headline read “For Carefree Fun, Sing Cowboy Ditties” and offered copes of Popular Cowboy Songs in exchange for ten cents in coin.  It led off with “Goodbye, Old Paint” and included several other songs of the era along with the guitar chords for each melody.

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(Image credit: Kinsgsport Times)

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Posted by on July 13, 2017 in biography, black history, history, texas

 

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Bose Ikard

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Bose Ikard was born a slave around 1843 – 1847 in Noxubee County, Mississippi.  Bose gave his age to be 37 in 1880, making his year of birth around 1843, but some accounts say 1847.  All of the available genealogical records list his father to be Dr. Milton Ikard with the mother’s name simply listed as “unknown.”   In the vernacular of the time, his “master” was Dr. Ikard who was the source of his last name.  His mother would eventually be revealed as having the last name King and to have also been born in Mississippi, but beyond that, no more is known of her.  The Ikards moved first to Union Parish, Louisiana before coming to Texas about 1852 when Bose was around 8.  Bose lived with the Ikards and moved with them first to Lamar County and then to Parker County.  There he lived the life of a farmer and ranch hand, joining Milton Ikard and others defending their homes and property from Indian attacks.  While living here, Bose acquired his skills as a cowboy, to ride, rope steers, fight Indians and to shoot.

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in biography, black history, history, texas

 

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Alfonso Harris

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Alfonso Laurell Harris was born March 26, 1926 at old Parkland Hospital a few miles from his home.  He was a good student and entered Booker T. Washington High School at age 11, allowing him to graduate when he was just 15.  He he later moved to the Northwest and began working as an aircraft engine inspector in Ogden, Utah.  On July 14, 1944 he enlisted in the US Army, shortly after his 18th birthday at nearby Fort Douglas, Utah.  As it did for hundreds of thousands of others, the terms of his enlistment read “Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”

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Posted by on February 10, 2016 in biography, black history, history, texas

 

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Doris Miller (1919-1943)

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Doris “Dorie” Miller was a true Texas hero.  He was classified as a Navy Messman on December 7, 1941, serving on the USS West Virginia, a battleship.  At the time, Messman was one of the few positions open to African American sailors.  Miller was solidly built, carrying over 200 lb. on his 6’3” frame.  He’d taken up boxing and was heavyweight champion of the West Virginia out of a crew of about 2,000.  The West Virginia was on station in in Hawaii at Pearl Harbor.  That morning, he woke at 0600, as was his custom.  He served breakfast mess and was still below deck collecting soiled laundry when the first torpedo hit the West Virginia just before 0800.  He heard and felt the explosion and immediately went to his battle station, an anti-aircraft gun near the heart of the ship.

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Posted by on November 11, 2015 in biography, black history, heroes, history, texas

 

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