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!”
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!
From Journalism to African American History in Texas
I am proud to announce I was awarded a scholarship from the Dulaney Family Fund for my fall 2021 graduate studies in history at the University of Texas at Arlington. I received the scholarship in August 2021 from UTA Professor Emeritus William Dulaney, Ph.D., who is also Deputy Director/COO of the African American Museum of Dallas.
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Currently, I am enrolled part-time in the master’s in history program at UTA. My long-term goal is to earn a doctorate degree specializing in African American history in Texas. I decided to follow the advice of my former Abilene Christian University Communication Law Professor Dr. Charles Marler, who encouraged me to pursue becoming an African American historian. He said there aren't enough Black historians and that I had the wherewithal to become one. Wow! He shared that advice after I told him about two of my Texas Highways magazine stories.
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
Just like in journalism, the narrative or story is at the heart of a history thesis or argument. And, as importantly, I use my award-winning journalism expertise in fascinating new ways in my history courses. For example, I recently posted two summaries of two history book reviews on a discussion board. I wrote several historiography papers that analyzed various themes. In each instance, my journalism background served me well in synthesizing complex information.
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:
Thanks to Senior Managing Editor Matt Joyce for another dynamic Texas Highways magazine web assignment. In July 2021, I visited the African American Museum in Dallas as part of my story about Houston artist Cary Fagan's photographic work honoring the late Texas native and legendary choreographer/dancer Alvin Ailey. Fagan's images are in the Smithsonian Institution's 'Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth' exhibit, at the Museum through Sept. 12, 2021. You may read my story here. Please read my other Texas Highways' works here.
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.