UNT Libraries acquire historic publication focusing on equality for African-American students, teachers in Texas

Thursday, February 2, 2012

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- A 1925 survey of segregated Texas by the state's Board of Education showed that only 14 city high schools offered at least one year of high school work for African-American students, although every junior and senior college in the state that had high school-level departments were open to African-Americans.

According to the Handbook of Texas, the survey also showed that the average length of terms at African American schools was only four days shorter than the terms of white schools, but the state spent one-third less on the education of African-American students as compared to white students, and teachers at African-American schools were paid significantly less -- an average of $91.60 a month, as compared to $121.03 a month for teachers at white schools.  

The Texas Standard, a publication recently placed on the University of North Texas' Portal to Texas History, provides history on how members of the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas worked to bring quality education to African American children in Texas and support the work of teachers to gain equality in salaries and working conditions with their white peers.

The digitization of 98 issues of the Standard, the official publication of the association that was first issued in 1922, is the result of the UNT Libraries' partnership with Prairie View A&M University, which had the issues on microfiche. A donation from the estate of retired educator Alyce Steele Specht funded the digitization to honor Hazel Harvey Peace, longtime editor of the Texas Standard.

Peace taught at Fort Worth's I.M. Terrill High School from 1923 to 1972. Specht was introduced to her through her daughter Melody Kelly, associate dean emeritus of the UNT Libraries.

Kelly conducted an oral history project with Peace for the 2001 capital campaign of UNT's School of Library and Information, now the College of Information. One of the goals of the capital campaign was to establish the Hazel Harvey Peace Professorship in Children's Library Services.

"As my friendship with Mrs. Peace -- Hazel -- grew, I talked about my mother and her experience as a young teacher in the 1930s rural communities in Falls County, Texas. Hazel suggested I bring Mother with me, and over a six-year period, Mother and Hazel would visit about twice each year until Hazel's declining health prevented further contact," Kelly said. "They both agreed that finding a new friend at their late age was a gift, particularly someone with a shared history of teaching Texas children during the Depression."   

Peace died in 2008. Kelly said that before her mother died a year later, she "expressed a wish that I find some way to preserve the history of Mrs. Peace's work for African-American teachers and the children of Texas."

Tara Carlisle, project development librarian for the UNT Libraries, calls the Texas Standard collection "one of those hidden collections in African-American history that is just being discovered by scholars."

"Anyone who is interested in African-American education in Texas, and the battles that educators faced for equality in schools, will be interested in browsing the Texas Standards," she said.

The 98 issues on the Portal to Texas History were published from 1933 to 1966. In August 1966, members voted to dissolve the Colored Teachers State Association because racial restrictions had been removed from the membership of the Texas State Teachers Association. The Colored Teachers State Association had achieved its goal of guaranteed equality of teacher salaries five years before, when a state regulation established a minimum starting salary for all teachers and increases above the minimum for years of experience.

The Portal to Texas History also has a collection of photographs from one of Dallas' legendary African-American educators, John Leslie Patton Jr., who taught for 30 years at Booker T. Washington High School from the 1930s to the late 1960s. Patton also served as deputy assistant superintendent for community relations for the Dallas Independent School District before retiring in 1971 because of illness. He died a few months later.

John Leslie Patton Jr. Elementary School in Dallas, which existed from 1976 to 2006, was established to honor Patton's contributions to education, which included developing and offering an elective course in African-American history that was later added to the permanent curriculum at Brooker T. Washington; improving night school programs to include business and technical courses; adding vocational training and work-study programs; and adding college preparatory courses for returning soldiers on the GI Bill.

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