A vital part of honoring Black History Month is also honoring Black Present and Black Future. The contributions of black Houstonians — from artists and chefs to business owners and performers — help make Houston the internationally renowned city that people know and love. As one of the most widely diverse cities in the world, Houston is popping and bubbling with prime examples of Black Excellence to celebrate regardless of which month on the calendar we’re observing.
Throughout Black History Month, Houston Public Library holds lectures, hosts speakers, celebrates authors, and promotes the many important literary contributions of black authors and storytellers. Of particular import to both Houston and its black history is the African American Library at the Gregory School. Completed in 2009, this library is housed in the Edgar M. Gregory School, which served as the first public school for African Americans in the city. There are permanent mini-museum exhibitions to browse on guided or self-guided tours along with a perfectly staged 1920s classroom that showcases what school was like in the original building in 1926.
On an unassuming plot of land right along the edge of downtown Houston is the hidden historical gem The Heritage Society. Ten historically significant structures in Houston were gingerly moved to this plot of land starting in 1954 as a walkable museum experience to tell the story of Houston’s past. One building of particular import is the former home of one of Houston’s most famous figures of black history, Reverend Jack Yates. Formerly enslaved, Reverend Yates served as the minister for Antioch Baptist Church and founder of Bethel Baptist Church. The Heritage Society notes that the fact that Yates built this home just five years after emancipation “illustrates the indomitable spirit of a formerly enslaved population that was transitioning into a free society in Houston.”
The only museum in the country dedicated to preserving the legacy and honor of the African-American soldier, The Buffalo Soldier Museum houses the largest repository of African-American military history in the world. Located in the Museum District, this museum’s upgraded its location to a 23,000 square foot building in 2013 that is packed to the gills with significant and crucially important black history.
With its debut in 2012, The Houston Museum of African American Culture is dedicated to telling the story of Africans and African Americans in Houston and beyond. From radical and new cutting edge art from black artists to permanent exhibitions celebrating black history, this museum is one of Houston’s newest — and most culturally significant — institutions.
Triumphantly established in 1872, Emancipation Park was purchased by four formerly enslaved people to serve as a communion space for the celebration of Juneteenth. With 10 acres that recently received a stunning and modern new face lift, the park now features refurbished landscapes, playgrounds, renovation of the two historic buildings and the addition of a new building and plaza. Visit on a sunny day to stroll along and take in the sights of this space that embraces both the present and future of the black community in Houston and beyond.