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From Secession to Segregation
Race and Politics in Walker County, Texas
This project examines the struggle over the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the rise of state-enforced segregation in the area. On the eve of the Civil War, Walker County served as an economic and political hub of the East Texas cotton economy. Although it's most prominent resident, the deposed Governor Sam Houston, opposed secession and war, Walker County contributed hundreds of Confederate soldiers, including Houston 's own son, Sam Houston, Jr. In addition, local residents served the war effort by harnessing the penitentiary system to textile production for the Confederacy. With the end of the war came emancipation, martial law, and new inter-racial political cooperation that overturned the older patterns of political and social authority.  Republicans, black and white, allied to elect Richard Williams and James H. Washington as the first black politicians to represent Walker County in the Texas legislature. This new-found power proved to be short-lived, however. In the 1870s and 80s, Texas began to use state law to segregate and disenfranchise the African American community. This module uses primary documents from the Sam Houston State University Archives and the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, as well as county records to trace the personal, social, and political interactions among the varied peoples who shaped Walker County and the larger narrative of Texas history from Secession to the Era of Segregation.


Samuel Walker Houston
And the African American Training School at Galilee

Samuel Walker Houston (1871?-1945) was the son of Joshua Houston and Sylvester Baker, slaves who worked for General Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas. Following the Civil War, Samuel Walker Houston attended the nation's leading black schools, including Atlanta University in Georgia, and Howard University in Washington, D.C. At the turn of the century, he returned to Huntsville and founded a training school in a nearby community called Galilee. Houston 's school was one of the first county training schools for African Americans in Texas. It enrolled students at every level, from first grade through high school, and provided a curriculum based on vocational education. Houston's school offered courses in woodworking, building construction, and agriculture. In addition, he received support from the Rosenwald Fund, the Slater Fund, and other organizations to provide music and humanities courses. By the time Houston's school merged with the Huntsville Independent School District in 1930, it boasted a dozen teachers and more than 400 students. In fact, Houston's schooll was a perfect example of the resilience and creativity that African Americans employed in their battle against segregation.


Sawmill Barrio
The Hispanic Community at Boettcher's Mill

The name “Boettcher's Mill” refers to a sawmill operated by the Boettcher Lumber Company just to the east of Huntsville from the late 1920s to the late 1960s. During that period, the mill figured significantly in the economic life of Huntsville, Walker County, and the surrounding East Texas area. The name also refers to the large company-owned area adjacent to the mill where the sawmill workers and their families lived in housing rented from the company. This project will deal with the struggles, triumphs, and tragedies of an extended kinship network, including the de Soto, Garcia, Hernandez, Juarez, Martinez, Mellado, Montoya, Moreno, Ramirez, Rodriguez, and Zamora families that originally came from the Monterrey area of northern Mexico. These families migrated to Texas at the time of the Mexican Revolution and eventually moved to Huntsville to work at Boettcher's Mill. The members of this extended family formed a complex and vibrant community during the four decades they lived at the mill. They are now thoroughly assimilated in the Walker County community, having established, either directly or through marriage, a presence in politics, government, businesses, education, medicine, and law enforcement. This module uses primary documents from the Sam Houston State University Archives and the Boettcher's Mill Oral History Project to trace the development of the Hispanic community in Walker County.


The Four Freedoms
Teaching Democracy at the Huntsville POW Camp

This project examines the Prisoner of War camp that was constructed in Huntsville during World War II. Built in the spring and summer of 1942, Camp Huntsville was the first American POW camp constructed in Texas during the war. It included facilities to accommodate 4,800 prisoners and consisted of more than 400 buildings, including a cafeteria, gymnasium, laundry, and hospital. There were clubs for commissioned and noncommissioned officers, and separate barracks for the American and prisoner personnel. Most importantly, however, the American government ran a classified re-education program for German and Japanese prisoners at the camp. In fact, Huntsville was the only camp in the country to house a Japanese re-education program. Faculty members from Sam Houston State Teachers College participated in the program, giving lectures on “The Necessity of a Free Mind in Search of the Truth,” “Contrasts: Pseudo-Freedom in Japan and Real Freedom in U.S.,” “The Main Points of the Declaration of Independence,” and the “Fundamental Rights of Man as Set Forth in the Bill of Rights.” Although this program was discontinued on 15 December 1945, and all the prisoners were subsequently repatriated, the Sam Houston State University Archives retains dozens of photographs, lectures, and other materials from the camp that have been digitized and made available as part of this project.


Wendell Baker
And the Civil Rights Movement in Huntsville, Texas

This project explores the voting rights and school desegregation efforts that lay at the heart of the local civil rights movement. In particular, we relate the story of Wendell Baker, a local resident and organizer, who formed the Walker County Voters League and registered hundreds of African Americans to vote in the 1950s. Baker was also intimately involved in the desegregation of Huntsville Public Schools and Sam Houston State University in the mid-1960s. His collection of photographs and memorabilia forms the bulk of this digital collection, although we also examine the local student movement, which adopted the name HA-You -- Huntsville Youth for Action. When viewed together, Baker and the local youth transformed the city's racial order in less than fifteen years, without resorting to violence or destructive behavior. Their contribution to the local historical narrative demands more attention, since many residents of Huntsville know nothing of them or their achievements.




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for more information about this project contact Dr. Jeff Littlejohn at
Sam Houston State University | College of Humanities and Social Sciences | History Department