EXCLUSIVE: United States’ First African American Barber College Chain's Building Faces Demolition in Tyler, Texas
Smith County, Texas Plans New County Courthouse at Site of Historic Tyler Barber College Chain, Now Defunct
Editorial Note: Regina L. Burns is researching the Tyler Barber College Chain as part of her dissertation at the University of North Texas, Denton, Texas, where she is a Ph.D. student in the History Department. Tyler Barber College Chain is the nation’s first African American barber school, founded by the late Henry Miller Morgan (also known as H. M. Morgan) during Jim Crow segregation, in 1933 in Tyler, Texas.
I wanted to eat the whole 890-calorie butter cake slice from the Athens, Texas, Cotton Patch Cafe, but I didn't. My hard-won weight loss during the lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic and the weekly maintenance goal (and strength training challenges) to keep off those 40 pounds stopped me. Thank you, Weight Watchers!
I enjoyed the divinely delicious part I ate, tracked it in the WW app, and boxed up the rest to go in the freezer in Dallas, Texas.
It was January 2023 and I was on assignment for Texas Highways magazine in Athens, an East Texas town well-known for its food and exciting aquatic experiences. Just like its namesake, Athens, Greece, people flock here to have new adventures. I sensed my profile on the town, through Athens City Councilmember SyTanna Freeman’s eyes, would be memorable. For example, when we went to the $18 million Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, I was thrilled to include this treasure in my story. We made other stops as Freeman narrated insights about her childhood and early life.
Read my Texas Highways' Athens profile here
Story photo by Tiffany Hofeldt
Slideshow photos of me by Emily Buziewicz
Since 1998, the town has elected three African Americans, Carl Westbrook, Elaine Jenkins, and Freeman, to the Athens City Council, according to city spokesman Michael Hannigan. Freeman is the only African American city councilmember among five currently serving Athens. She cherishes that role and recently celebrated 20 years with the Athens Independent School District. Furthermore, she works part-time after school taking the tickets at the Hornets’ games.
Later that crisp Friday evening at Athens High School, I witnessed the charm Freeman brings to ticket taking as she doled out change and chatted with students, parents, and other basketball fans. The magic of community connections revealed itself in smiles, “Good evenings,” and several versions of “Sorry, you can’t bring that bag in here.” The people who received those last comments generally responded with “Sorry, I didn’t see the sign. I’ll take it back to the car.” Freeman’s daughter, Tabitha Page, and her young children, stopped by and another part of the Athens story fell into place.
The next day, I met Rev. Earnest Freeman, SyTanna's husband. He is a manager in retail and also the pastor at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church. The church, which was founded in 1896, is located 10 miles west of Athens in the Sand Flat community. SyTanna Freeman said some descendants of the original founders are among the church's membership. In March 2023, the Freemans celebrated “11 years of faithful service” at the church.
Heading back to Dallas, I realized Athens has a powerful connection to its namesake. Fishing enthusiasts support its remarkable Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center as well as Lake Athens. The high school’s Hornets’ athletic events are popular with the hometown crowd, and SyTanna Freeman and her family are leaders contributing to Athens’ success. I witnessed the distinctive bonds and special moments of small-town life. My own enjoyment of an unbelievable culinary treat topped off the assignment. My trip to Athens was a memorable adventure.
This Texas Highways’ web story is one of the most important news stories I have ever reported. It bolsters my award-winning journalism experience and current pursuit of the Ph.D. in history at the University of North Texas. Further, it contributes to research about Emily West and Hendrick Arnold, the two mixed-race African American historic figures who will forever be celebrated for their contributions to the Texas Revolution.
When I received an email from Texas Highways magazine asking if I would be interested in reporting about the Alamo’s first statues honoring African Americans who were part of the Texas Revolution, I squeezed it into my overcrowded schedule. What I discovered about them confirmed the wisdom of my late former Abilene Christian University mentor, Dr. Charlie Marler. During a phone call in December 2020, he said,“There aren’t enough African American historians. I want you to go back to school to become a historian!”
That was an order, not a request.
I am so glad I listened and followed Dr. Marler’s order to go back to school and that he witnessed my graduate studies in the history program at the University of Texas at Arlington. That achievement was possible thanks to scholarships from Dr. W. Marvin Dulaney, the president of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and he is also UTA professor emeritus. I look forward to researching, reporting, writing, and publishing many more neglected Black history stories for multimedia platforms, magazines, newspapers, academic journals, books, and yes, my future dissertation!
My journalism professor, mentor, and guiding light, Dr. Charlie Marler, died May 27, 2022, and I plan to write a series of blog posts about the impact he had on my and his other former students’ journalism and media careers.
Second Post: Searching for Healing, June 4, 2022
I attended the June 1, 2022, Celebration of Life service (download the searchable .PDF). I offered my condolences to Peggy Marler and the rest of Dr. Charlie Marler’s family and colleagues at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. Each speaker trumpeted Marler's commitment to his family, academic scholarship, his faith, and the Abilene community through meaningful anecdotes and his favorite scripture in Philippians. I plan to post the text of some of the speakers' remarks as I receive them.
Furthermore, this week, I visited ACU’s Journalism and Mass Communication Department to search for healing of my grief through conversations with members of the JMC community and to celebrate my days as a former KACU announcer/JMC student. Meeting some of the current students and staff, as well as touring classrooms, offices, ACUTV, and the Morris+Mitchell student agency contributed to my healing journey. As the first Black person and the first woman to receive ACU's Gutenberg Award, which Marler created, touching familiar ground was a smart step.
Additionally, I advanced my graduate history studies by meeting with two ACU librarians, Melinda Isbell and Laura Baker. They steered me to a wealth of resources and academic research strategies. Their invaluable guidance advanced my goal to fulfill Marler’s wish that I become a historian, specializing in African American history in Texas.
Moreover, due to a series of unplanned events, I met an ACU staffer, Evan Steele, who went out of his way to support my goals to honor Marler’s legacy, and also, become a Texas historian. Steele offered support and great foreign-language study tips, which will help me prepare for forthcoming Spanish exams for graduate school.
All in all, I received an ocean of comfort from so many people, including Susan Perry, a long-time Abilene friend who alerted me to Marler's illness, which she found out about in an email from the University Church of Christ. I am so thankful to that church for its quick email blast. Additionally, I appreciate Susan for her fast communication to me, and to her brother, Greg Perry, for his support. If it had not been for them, I would not have known Marler was sick!
Subsequently, this week was filled with overwhelming grief and loss. Nevertheless, I am navigating through the grief and charting new paths forward. Most of all, I am excited about the new people and resources that came into my life during my time in Abilene. I believe Marler had a hand in it.
Previous post in the series: Mourning the Death of Dr. Charlie Marler, My ACU Professor and Mentor
From Journalism to African American History in Texas
Download my map quiz here.
I listened and am almost finished with my first semester. Returning to graduate school was definitely the right step. The courses are intellectually satisfying and I am well-suited to part-time graduate work.
Watch video of Dr. Marler discussing libel.
Narrative: The heart of history and journalism
One of the reasons Dr. Marler advised me to consider graduate work in history is because he had studied "journalism and Black history at the University of Missouri-Columbia," which he wrote about in my recommendation letter. I was so impressed that he had studied Black history in graduate school. He also shared that well-known axiom, "Journalism is the first rough draft of history."
When I graduated with my M.A. in Journalism Administration degree from the University of Memphis, I sensed I would return to a university to learn more about the art and craft of the narrative. This time, I am aiming for a doctorate in history because of the abundant overlooked, underreported, and forgotten African American history in Texas content yet to be discovered, researched, and published. I look forward to one day researching, writing and teaching that history on all platforms, in and outside of academia. Meanwhile, I keep helping organizations and clients tell important stories while enjoying a new take on a familiar ride.
Read my other UTA graduate school recommendations:
Brooklyn Calloway | Brookielynn's Bungalow | 972.689.5453 | Hello@BrookielynnsBungalow.com
Regina L. Burns | Harvest Reapers Communications | 214.432.0643 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Queen of Faux Finishing-Painting Workshops to Attempt New Guinness World
Record Oct. 1
How: By having more than 250 people simultaneously participate in Brooklyn’s faux finishing workshop and either paint their own chair or paint one provided by Brooklyn
Where: Celina's Town Square, 142 N. Ohio St, Celina, Texas 75009, http://mapq.st/2cPmRL6
When: Oct. 1-- Check-in at 9 a.m.; event is from 10 a.m. – noon
Registration deadline: Sept. 23 at 6 p.m.
Register here: bit.ly/gwrecord
YouTube: https://youtu.be/eqPomB3tyxE |
For more information: http://bit.ly/2cFqcx3
(Celina, Texas—Sept. 15, 2016)—Brooklyn Calloway is unwavering in the quest to set a new Guinness World Record for the “largest furniture restoration lesson (single venue).” Together with the Celina Main Street Advisory Board, she is hosting an Oct. 1 event called the “World’s Largest Furniture Refinishing Workshop” and dreams of landing in the Guinness history books. Right now, the current record for the “largest furniture restoration lesson (single venue)” is 250 people.
“I’m going to teach people on Guinness Day to take their old tired chairs and turn them into something cute, fabulous, fun and fresh,” said Calloway, the owner of Brookielynn's Bungalow, located in the Whimsy Finds retail center in Celina.
A drone is set to take the hoped-for record-breaking Guinness World Records’ photograph of workshop participants smiling into the sky, holding up their Junk Gypsy™ Chalk + Clay-painted chairs.
“I want to have such an amazing, epic picture that I am right there next to the creepy lady with the long fingernails,” Calloway said, laughing. The former Frisco Independent School District teacher-turned-furniture-restorer filed her Guinness World Records’ application in April and gained much-needed backing the following month.
“We are excited to partner with Brooklyn for this Guinness World Records’ event on the Square,” said Bridgette Bise, who directs Celina’s Main Street Program, which is providing police and fire services as well as other in-kind support. “We hope to be able to add different fun events like this as we grow as a community. It’s exciting to have businesses on our Square think outside the box.”
Celina is about 49 miles north of Dallas.
About the Record Listing:
The “largest furniture restoration lesson (single venue)” Guinness World Record is not currently available online. Guinness representatives say they have “more than 40,000 records in their database and try to feature as many as possible online.” If Brooklyn’s Record attempt is successful, it could eventually be available online.
Q: Do you have or do you make [New Year's] resolutions?
Norma Adams-Wade broke the story that Dallas' two distinctive parades honoring civil rights leader Rev. Martin L. King Jr., were facing massive changes.
Her original reporting led to a request for more Morning News staffers to cover the controversy, which eventually resulted in Dallas having one MLK parade Jan. 18, 2016, instead of two.
She has been making journalistic history for decades and has no plans to stop any time soon.
Adams-Wade first made history in 1974 when R.E. "Buster" Haas literally came to her front door to hire her as the first black full-time staff writer to report about all of Dallas. She made history again Dec. 12, 1975, as one of the 44 founders of the National Association of Black Journalists to convene in Washington, D.C., to launch the organization. She was among the 12 cofounders who attended a 40th NABJ anniversary celebration in December 2015.
The columnist and former senior staff writer retired from the Morning News in 2002. In 1988, she started writing a column devoted to events in Dallas' black community, which she writes weekly.
Adams-Wade is quick to mention a name not heard much these days: Julia Scott Reed, whom the Morning News hired to cover the black community in 1967, making Reed the first black staffer at the newspaper.
You should also know that December was a busy month for Adams-Wade because the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Journalists honored her and several others at its holiday mixer. And that event is where I learned about all that she did to further the profession. We discussed my interest in writing about her trailblazing career and you can listen to excerpts of the Jan. 11, 2016, telephone interview to the left.
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“The poor man is not he who is without a cent, but he who is without a dream.” –Kemp
Since 1999, Madden has been writing proposals and scripts, locating talent and other resources as director of Irving’s MLK tribute, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day or a date close to the federal holiday. Madden is special events supervisor for Irving’s Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees the MLK series, a unique, thought-provoking, and creative experience in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“We have a rehearsal on the day of the event. In total we get to have eight hours of rehearsal. And that's because of funding. It's kind of stressful because we don't know how something is going to look,” said Madden during a telephone interview.
“The money comes from the city of Irving and this year we got $10,000” of which $3,500 paid for a facility (rental) fee to the Irving Arts Center, where the performance is held, she said. “Ideally I would like to get a title sponsor for this event. I would like a title sponsor to put its name on it because I think that is a good show.” Each year the Greater Irving Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce provides a dessert reception after the show.
No Charge, ‘Quality of Life’
“I have people tell me they can't believe it's free. The city provides a service and it is available to the general public. I think that's to be commended,” Madden said.
Irving Parks and Recreation Director Ray Cerda wants it known that “this is not a revenue-generating program” because the purpose is to celebrate King’s life. Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation Joe Moses backs him up: “When you look at the Parks and Recreation Department, we want to enhance the quality of life. What's more fitting than to honor the philosophy of Dr. King for our residents?”
Moses said the MLK program started in the mid-80s at what is now the Georgia Farrow Recreation Center. At that time it was community-based. In the mid-90s, the performance moved to the Irving Arts Center and became a citywide event, he said.
Madden gets ideas for the show from King’s life.
“When I start reading about him I find something new to talk about. The script has already been preset. It's just a matter of researching his life and finding what new thing we are going to share. Isn't it amazing that we are still talking about this man and coming up with something new?” Madden said.
Back to King’s Ministry
She said she asks for “divine guidance” each year in preparation for the MLK performance and believes Irving’s commitment has generated “some good friends over the years such as Dallas Black Dance Theatre and (nationally acclaimed gospel singer) Brenda Ellis.” The audience echoed Madden’s belief by showing its appreciation for Ellis’s dynamic performances.
Madden traveled to Memphis last April and for the first time toured the National Civil Rights Museum, which includes the Lorraine Motel, where King stayed during his efforts to help striking Memphis sanitation workers. King was assassinated on the Lorraine’s balcony April 4, 1968.
“I got inspired from going to Memphis on a personal trip and visiting the Lorraine Motel. I got inspired that somebody had to talk about the preacher in him. At the core of everything he has done, he was a preacher. I proposed the idea in May after I figured out (how) to work it out. I wanted to go to Atlanta, but it didn't work out.”
Madden’s research, travel and inspiration were delivered in the Jan. 19 tribute “The Ministry of Dr. King: From the Pulpit to the Nation.” Throughout the event, video clips of King played explaining his ministerial and civil rights journeys. And, the opening act danced the show right into Madden’s mandated “back-to-the-church” setting.
DBDT II’s rip-roaring, foot stompin’ performance to “Long as I Got King Jesus” by gospel recording artist Vickie Winans stirred things up.
“I thought it was fabulous (laughs). I thought the talent in the entire show was wonderful,” said Ray, a 25-year veteran dancer who previously danced in Irving’s other MLK programs with DBDT’s main company.
“It is always a pleasure for us to come out to the collaboration. It's wonderful to have been a part of it for all these years. Jackie Madden is such a wonderful woman. We love her,” Ray said.
It’s been a busy month for DBDT II. On Jan. 12 at the Dallas Museum of Art, the company premiered a Ray-choreographed new piece based on the work of contemporary artist Jim Hodges. Dancers in Ray’s opening sequence used colored flashlights to reflect her vision of Hodges’ The Subtle, The Sum…Give More Than You Take. And the piece concluded in a flourish with members of the audience responding to Ray’s request to speak aloud a word of their choice. Simultaneously this month, DBDT hosted the 26th annual conference of the International Association of Blacks in Dance, Jan. 16 - 19 in Dallas.
Martin and Mahalia
During Irving’s MLK show, audience members jumped to their feet when award-winning DFW performer Sheran Goodspeed Keyton, portraying gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, sang and sang. Frequently, Jackson sang at King’s civil rights events, and, also at his funeral.
The Mahalia Jackson set included speeches by actor Donovan Wheatfall, who portrayed King. Their performances were from The Upper Room by diannetucker.
“When the actor who portrayed Dr. King spoke, he brought awe through the audience,” said Moses, who frequently sits in the audience and watches people's responses as part of his assistant director responsibilities on behalf of the Irving Parks and Recreation Department.
National Park Service Receives Civil Rights Award
Madden got the idea to give the National Park Service the city of Irving’s 2014 Civil Rights Legacy Award after “reading that he (King) couldn't go to public parks (due to Jim Crow laws). Then I thought, ‘isn't that something?’ I went to the dedication (of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial) and realized how ironic it is that the National Park Service is running the site. We don't see a lot of stuff that's in front of us.”
Russ Whitlock, superintendent of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, accepted the award in an exuberant speech. Read his remarks.
In 2012, attendees received an oversized poster that read “Love Not Hate.” Madden said it is similar to the “I Am A Man” poster that (the sanitation workers used in Memphis).
This year’s commemorative gift was a church fan bearing the same image as the cover of the program distributed to attendees.
“(When) I think of church, (I think of) back in the day when they had fans and they were just passing the fans out. I can't imagine any black person who didn't have a fan before we got air conditioning. The stained glass window represents the church. And we also found a photo with the reflecting pool and we are reflecting between the church and the nation,” Madden said.
Irving’s MLK series was honored in 2006 with an Arts and Humanities Award, Class II, by the Texas Recreation and Park Society.
The next year the Southwest Regional Council of the National Recreation and Park Association honored Irving with another Arts and Humanities Award, Class II.
Madden said she entered the 2013 performance "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" and expects to find out within the next month whether it won an award. Ray Cerda uses an essential barometer of success to measure the series’ impact: attendees’ praise and support.
“We survey our customers. The results we get from our survey shows people want to see this year in and year out. I give a lot of credit to Jackie and her team for raising the bar, year in and year out,” Cerda said.
Madden may be reached at email@example.com.
(c) 2014 Harvest Reapers Communications; All Rights Reserved.
I wrapped up the Dr. King holiday by attending the City of Irving's annual program. This year’s theme is "A Living Memorial: The Man, The Message, The Monument."
Written and adapted by Jacqueline Madden, who is special events coordinator at the Irving Parks and Recreation Division, the program focused on the Washington, D.C.-based MLK Memorial.
Attendees received a commemorative poster emblazoned with "LOVE NOT HATE" which aptly captured the sentiment of last night’s program. Madden weaved together vintage and recent King-related video, stellar musical performances by violinist Richmond Punch and vocalist/author Brenda Ellis and more. The program also included speeches and performances by the amazing Dallas Black Dance Theatre II—all designed to educate the audience about Dr. King’s message of "justice, democracy, hope and love."
If you have not attended Irving's MLK program, please put this on your calendar for next year. This was my fourth year to attend Irving's observance and I always leave enlightened and amazed.
Earlier in the day I went to the MLK parade in Dallas and plan to upload a video to the YouTube channel, when it’s edited.
About the Author:
Regina L. Burns, M.A., Project+, is an award-winning multimedia editor and journalist, specializing in Black history and African American stories at Harvest Reapers Communications. Her work has been published in Texas Highways magazine, WFAA-TV, The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as well as The Commercial Appeal, the Tri-State Defender and The Flyer, among others.
She previously worked for a variety of news media organizations as an editor and journalist, including The Associated Press in Mississippi and Texas. She was news director at WLOK-AM and WGKX KIX-106 FM in Memphis. Learn more
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