Skip to main content

African American history: Texas Sources

Resources for the study of African American history

East Texas Resources

Jackson Davis Collection of African American Photographs (University of Virginia Library)--On a trip through the South Jackson Davis evidently passed through Tyler twice, in 1916 and 1924.  Many photos of Texas College and a few of East Texas Academy (later called Butler College.)  Do additional searches for Jarvis Christian Institute, Wiley College, Wiley University, Navarro Agricultural School, Walker County Training School, Prairie View State Normal School, Farmers Independent Society (Paris?), Camp County Training School, Harris County Training School, Bishop College, and Hunt County Training School.

Rosenwald Schools photos (Fisk University)--"By the time the last nail was hammered home in 1932, there were 663,615 black schoolchildren in 15 states attending classes in Rosenwald schools. Julius Rosenwald had inspired, guided, and partially funded the construction of 5,357 educational buildings across the South: 4,977 schools, serving an estimated one-third of the region’s rural black schoolchildren, 217 teachers’ homes, and 163 shops.  Texas received 527 buildings in 52 counties, most of them in the eastern half of the state: 464 schools with a 57,330-student capacity, 31 teachers’ homes, and 32 shops."  Search by Texas, then county, to find photos and data on each Rosenwald School.

Bibliography for African-Americans in Smith County, Texas (University of Texas at Tyler)--On the third page scroll down to Ethnic Groups--African Americans and use the hot link to go directly to that section.  It starts at the bottom of the pdf page and continues.  Items marked with % are at the Smith County Historical Society Archives, those with a * at Tyler Public Library, those with + at UT Tyler Library, those with & at Texas College, and those with # at Tyler Junior College.  Note the cross references to Census, Education (look for both separate schools such as Butler College and Texas College as well as for segregated schools under school district names), and Religion.

Prairie View Interscholastic League Collection (1920-1970)--"The Prairie View Interscholastic League Collection is a repository of documents, photographs, records, etc. relating to the PVIL and its history, from its inception in 1920 as a separate African American high school competition organization from the all-white University of Texas Interscholastic League until 1970, when it formally disbanded and rejoined the UTIL. The PVIL thus served as the main academic and athletic competition organization for Texas’ African American students and 150+ African American high schools for half of the 20th Century."  View lists of records by city, county, or school.

Heritage Quest--Census reports searchable by name, place, place of birth (Africa).  Only free individuals, which for most African-Americans will be back to the 1870 census.  Texas is complete up through the 1940 census.  Heritage Quest also includes Freedman's Bank records.

African American Heritage Project (Stephen F. Austin State University)--Oral histories of six individuals, including Willie Lee Gampbell Glass of Tyler.

Northeast Texas Digital Collections (Texas A&M University-Commerce Libraries)--African-American History Collection.

Smith Couty, Texas, Genealogy Webpage (East Texas Genealogical Society)--African-American links page.  However, take a look at the rest of the webpage for more general information.

Gregg County, Texas--African American Resources (

Rusk County, Texas--African-American Related Articles (Genweb page)--See bottom of left hand column for articles specific to African-Americans.

Upshur County, Texas Genealogy Webpage--They don't separate out African-American resources so use the Search this site box for specific searches.

Texas Sources

African Americans article in Online Handbook of Texas (Texas State Historical Association)--Excellent overview, with embedded hotlinks to more specific topics, cross referenced articles at the bottom, and good starting bibliography up to 1995.

Dallas Express in Portal to Texas History--Full images of a Dallas African-American newspaper, 1919-1924.  This newspaper will cover all of East Texas in detail--social, political, educational.  An alternate way to search is to go to Portal to Texas History advanced search, and go down to Collection and choose Dallas Express.  Then go back up and put in any search words and date limiters you want to ONLY get articles in the Dallas Express.  On the other hand, if you want to search for black Texans in general, enter "African Americans in Texas" without limiting the search to the Dallas Express, and you will get something like 31,203 hits!!!  You can then limit down to place, date, or type of item (photos, newspapers, books, maps).

Texas Historical Newspapers--Search 43 historical Texas newspapers, with coverage from the 1800s into the 20th century, including the Dallas Morning News through 1977.  The Dallas Morning News will cover significant (Longview Race Riot of 1919) African-American news, but not the day-to-day social, educational, and business events until well into the 20th century.

19th Century U.S. Newspapers--Featuring full-text content and images from numerous newspapers from a range of urban and rural regions throughout the 19th century U.S.

Chicago Defender Archives Search--The Chicago Defender was one of the top national level African-American newspapers, with reporters located all over the country, including Texas.  This page will allow you to search for articles from 1905 until 1975, but will get you to the citation of the article only.  UT Tyler Library does not have a subscription to the Chicago Defender full-text database, but we can get individual articles in on Interlibrary Loan--I've done it myself more than once.  Other 20th century African American newspaper databases exist, but we've not been able to afford those either.  Texas A&M Library will let you use theirs in-house if you sign in at the library front desk with a photo ID.  They will then give you a temporary password.

Texas Slavery Project (University of Virginia)-- "examines the spread of American slavery into the borderlands between the United States and Mexico in the decades between 1820 and 1850."

Texas Runaway Slave Project (Stephen F. Austin State University)--"database of runaway slave advertisements, articles and notices from newspapers published in Texas. The project has so far documented the names of over 400 individual runaway slaves."

Records of Criminal Offenses Committed in the State of Texas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1866-1867.  Microfilm.  Ref. E185.93.T4.  Three documents on one reel.  Record of Criminal Offences are numbered consecutively. The entries in the first volume for the period 1865-68 are not in chronological sequence up to page 43; however, beginning with page 43, and continuing throughout volumes 2 and 3, the entries that span Feb. 1 867-Dec, 1868 are arranged chronologically according to the date a particular offense was reported. The record" may have been at least partially compiled from the registered reports.  The Registered Reports of Murders and Outrages are arranged by time period and thereunder in the order they were entered in volume 1 of the registers of letters received. The first group of reports is narrative and the second and third are tabular; the third was submitted on prepared Bureau forms. Preceding the first group is a report of freedmen murdered in the State of Texas since the close of the rebellion, evidently compiled in the Assistant Commissioner’s office from the registered reports received. Information about criminal offenses is also available in the reports of operation and conditions. The Miscellaneous Records Relating to Murders and Other Criminal Offenses relating to murders and other criminal offenses, 1865-1868, include unregistered reports relating to murders and outrages, 1865-66; list of criminal offenses reported and not reported by the sub-assistant commissioners, March 1868. An inspection of the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, Texas Walker County, the appendix of lists 209 freedmen confined, including their names, counties of residence, crimes allegedly committed, sentences, and miscellaneous remarks.

Records of the Field Offices for the State of Texas, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1870.  Microfilm. Ref. E185.93 .T4 R43 reel 26-27.  Two reels of microfilm on the 2nd floor of the library, far right end of the metal cabinets, E185.93 .T4 R43 reel 26-27, includes Seguin, Sterling, Sumpter, Tyler, and Waco. Readers and scanners on the same floor--print or scan to flash drive free.