The Loop celebrates black history in five acts

Judy Bankhead. Untitled (John Tyler Drill Team), 1979-1981. From series "My Town: Celebration". Silver Gelatin Print. Collection of Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas 1987.02.33

The Tyler Loop followed February black history events, from a put-on-your-dancing-shoes church music concert, to UT Tyler’s knowledge bowl. Here were some of our favorite moments.

Act 1: UT Tyler Knowledge Bowl

On Saturday, Feb. 22, UT Tyler hosted Black History Knowledge Bowl. Here are five questions from the event.

Be the first to email the Loop the correct answers and receive a FREE ticket to our upcoming Out of the Loop Season 3: True Stories about Tyler and East Texas event, April 3-4!

  1. Beginning in 1889, southern states reintroduced this as a method of disenfranchising black voters.  
  2. A middle school in Tyler was named after this most prolific and longest-sitting president of Wiley College serving from 1896-1942. 
  3. The son of former slaves born in Houston, Texas, in 1873, he was a journalist, founding newspaper editor, educator, author and the highest ranking African American in President Woodrow Wilson’s administration.  
  4. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction, and the first African American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives.  
  5. The idea or concept that some form of compensatory payment needs to be made to the descendants of Africans who had been enslaved as part of the Atlantic slave trade.  

Act 2: Alma Ravenell

Ravenell stands beside her work, Willing Shepherd, at the Texas African American Museum, housed in the old Griffin Elementary School on Border Avenue in Tyler.

I met Ravenell on a Tuesday morning at the Texas African American Museum. A native of Marshall, Texas, Ravenell elaborated on her piece, Willing Shepherd.

“Shepherds are supposed to be good shepherds. The larger-than-life hand is pulling these individuals in. A lot of ministers have gotten away from this way of taking care of people. (You should) call them, check on them, seeing what’s going on, go out into the community. When it actually comes to getting in those trenches and helping people, that’s where a lack is.

“A community leader is a shepherd. If you only see them when it’s voting time, that’s not good. In Tyler, for instance, I saw Shirley McKellar before she was running for office. She was out there trying to meet people, caring, pulling people in. You see her at functions that may not be high profile. That is a sign of a good shepherd.

“Basically (my art piece) is cloth, cutting out the pieces and putting them together with glue, sometimes paint. I feel like these pictures are a ministry. Each is based on a scripture. I have a total of 20 pieces in a book. I think they can be enjoyed by anyone, whether they are a believer or not a believer, they can get something out of it.”

Act 3: Texas African American museum

A vintage barber’s chair from Henry Miller Morgan’s barber shop is a favorite with the museum’s youngest visitors. The City of Tyler has placed a memorial to Morgan at 212 E Erwin St. The memorial reads, “In the 1920s, Texas enacted laws requiring licenses for barbers, but African Americans were excluded from the requisite education. In 1929, Morgan began developing ideas for a barber college. The Tyler headquarters quickly grew, and at one time the school reportedly was training a majority of the nation’s African American barbers.”
Texas African American museum boasts photos of alumni, as well as a letter jacket, from Emmett J. Scott High School, once Tyler’s all-black school, closed in 1970.

Act 4: Music for the soul

On Monday, Feb. 24, Liberty Hall hosted Black History Month: Music for the Soul, featuring three local gospel choirs. Audience members sang, danced, and hugged those sitting close-by. Emcee Rev. Rodney Curry of College Hill Baptist Church encouraged the audience, “I didn’t come this far to quit.”

The audio, above, features New Life Community Church Choir. Clad in traditional African print shirts and dresses, the choir had the audience on their feet and singing along. Audio courtesy of Bob Mauldin.

Act 5: A poignant Tyler moment

Judy Bankhead Untitled (Rose Queen), 1979-1981 From series “My Town: Celebration” Silver Gelatin Print Collection of Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, Texas 1987.02.39

When I discovered Judy Bankhead’s photographs in the Tyler Museum of Art collection last week, I was stunned. I found poignant moments, taken decades earlier, but uncannily resonant. Thanks to permission by the museum, I chose Bankhead’s images of the John Tyler drill team, opening this post, and the photo above, at a Rose Parade about 40 years ago. These images find a home within The Tyler Loop’s mission, “to help develop shared understanding in our diverse and growing city.”

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Jane Neal is the executive director of The Tyler Loop and storytelling director of Out of the Loop: True Stories about Tyler and East Texas. In addition to the Loop, she works at the Literacy Council of Tyler and attends Sam Houston State University remotely, where she studies sociology. Jane is a certified interfaith spiritual guide. She is a member of Leadership Tyler Class 33 and a former teacher of French at Robert E. Lee High School, where she ran a storytelling program called Senior Stories. Jane and her husband Don have four children.