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Celebrating Black History Month

Black History Month Feature image

Every February, we honor and celebrate the history, experiences and accomplishments of African Americans on campus and across the nation. During this month of national reflection, we are spotlighting some upcoming campus events, gallery collections, research and more that commemorate and explore Black history and culture.

Black History Month events
Feb. 1—Humanities Institute Presents ‘Through a Lens Darkly’

Austin-based photographer Cindy Elizabeth will examine the documentary “Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People” at a virtual event on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. Go to the Humanities Institute website for more information.

Feb. 4—Texas Performing Arts Presents The Wooster Group’s ‘UNTITLED TOAST’

“UNTITLED TOAST” is based on performer Eric Berryman’s desire to find a modern context for the vital, but little known, genre of African American folklore called toasts: stories, performed in rhyme, that describe feats of legendary street heroes such as “Signifying Monkey,” “Titanic,” and “Stackolee.” Go to the Texas Performing Arts website for ticket information for UNTITLED TOAST, happening on Friday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the McCullough Theater.

Feb. 7—Making Black Lives Matter 

The Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis (IUPRA) is hosting a book talk spotlighting Kevin Cokley’s new book “Making Black Lives Matter: Confronting Anti-Black Racism” on Monday, Feb. 7, 3-4:30 p.m. via Zoom. Cokley is a professor of African and African diaspora studies and educational psychology at UT Austin.  Go to the IUPRA website for more information. 

Feb. 10-24—Barbara Jordan National Forum

“Common Good” is the theme of this year’s Barbara Jordan National Forum, a multi-day speaker event happening on Feb. 10-24. Visit the LBJ School of Public Affairs’ website to view the full schedule of events located on campus and available via live-stream.

Feb. 11— Building Community in a Time of Change

To commemorate Black History Month, the Financial and Administrative Services’ Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and HealthPoint will host their third gathering of the “Building Community in a Time of Change” series featuring a talk titled “Deserving of Joy: The Impact of Trauma on the Black Community and the Quest for Keeping the Joy.” The virtual event is happening on Friday, Feb. 11, 11:30 a.m. Go to the FAS website to RSVP.

Feb. 14—”The 1619 Project: A U.S. Perspective”

History and public policy scholars will examine the 1619 Project at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Institute for Historical Studies on Monday, Feb. 14, 12-1:30 p.m. via Zoom. The 1619 Project is The New York Times Magazines reframing of American history that placed slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. Go to this website to RSVP.

Feb. 16—The Blanton Presents ‘Assembly’ Artist Cauleen Smith

Artist, filmmaker and former Radio-Television-Film assistant professor Cauleen Smith will give a talk at a virtual event hosted by the Blanton Museum on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 12 p.m. Her work featured in the “Assembly: New Acquisitions by Contemporary Black Artists” exhibit honors Sandra Bland. Go to the Blanton website for more details.

Feb. 16—Health, Allyship and Doing the Work 

In honor of Black History Month, Dell Medical School is hosting a virtual speaker event exploring past and present challenges with healthcare for African American communities, and what it means to “do the work” on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 12 p.m.  Go to this e-newsletter listing for more about this event and other Dell Med Black History Month celebrations.

Feb. 24—‘Peace to the Queen’ Photographer Jamel Shabazz to Speak at the Carver

Photographer, humanitarian and educator Jamel Shabazz will present his first career retrospective “Peace to the Queen” on Thursday, Feb 24, 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Carver Museum. The exhibit spans four decades of work by the artist and features portraits of women of color that are candid, artful and often intimate. Go to the Eventbrite site for event details.

Feb 28—Black History Month Cookout 

In collaboration with several university partners, University Housing and Dining is hosting a campus-wide Black History Month Cookout event on Monday, Feb. 28, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the San Jacinto Hall Multipurpose Room. The event is free and open to the public.

Black History Month art and culture

‘Assembly’ at the Blanton

Visit the second floor of the Blanton Museum to see the “Assembly: New Acquisitions by Contemporary Black Artists” exhibit, featuring an assortment of paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and textiles created by contemporary Black artists. Although diverse in style and subject matter, many of the works have ties to Southern history and reveal what scholar Saidiya Hartman refers to as “the long afterlife of slavery.” The exhibit will be on view in the Huntington collection galleries through May 8, 2022. Read more about the exhibit.

Gee’s Bend Quilts on View at the Blanton

Included in the “Assembly” collection are two quilts from Gee’s Bend—a multigenerational community of Black women in rural Alabama who, since the 19th century, have transformed scraps of found fabric into bold, improvisational abstractions. The Blanton was honored to be one of five university museums to acquire quilts from Gee’s Bend in 2021. Read more about the collection.

‘The Way Back Home’ at the Art Galleries at Black Studies

Visit the Art Galleries at Black Studies to view Austin-based artist Ariel René Jackson’s “The Way Back Home” collection featuring video and mixed-media works that mine issues of identity and inheritance by considering the nature of what is passed down from previous generations and exploring the stories embedded in the places we call home. The exhibit will be on display until March 4, 2022, at the Idea Lab in the Gordon White Building. Read more about the exhibit.

‘Not Only Will I Stare’ at the Art Galleries at Black Studies

The Art Galleries at Black Studies presents “Not Only Will I Stare,” a new exhibit bringing together artists whose works grapple with the surveillance of Black life. Selected artists include Sadie Barnette, Sable Elyse Smith and American Artist. The forthcoming exhibit (on display from Feb. 3 to May 21, 2022) is curated by Dr. Simone Browne, associate professor in the Department of African and African Diaspora. Read more about the exhibit.

Landmarks Unveils Sentinal IV

Last summer, the university’s public art program Landmarks marked a historic moment at the unveiling ceremony for Sentinel IV, a 10-foot bronze sculpture that sparks conversations about historical and intersecting ideas of race, beauty and Black femininity. The sculpture is the university’s first purchase of a work of public art by an African American woman artist. Read more about it in this Q&A with the curatorial contributor Stephanie Sparling Williams.

Black History Month new developments

Honoring Juneteenth

Early this year, President Jay Hartzell announced Juneteenth (June 19) will be an official university holiday starting in 2022. Read more about this important date in American history that marks the end of slavery in the United States.

Chase Building Ribbon-Cutting

University leaders joined members of the John Chase family, alumni and friends to celebrate the grand opening of the university’s new John S. and Drucie R. Chase Building.  As the new home for the Center for Community Engagement, the building will provide numerous free resources and services to the public including advocacy workshops, classes and speaker events. Read the recap from the ribbon-cutting event, held on Oct. 1, 2021.

Black History Month UT 2022 Books

‘Teaching Black History to White People’

Leonard Moore, the George Littlefield Professor of American History, outlines how to teach and engage with Black history on college campuses and beyond in his newly released book “Teaching Black History to White People” (UT Press, Sept. 2022). The book was recently nominated for Outstanding Literary Work by the NAACP Image Awards. The ceremony will stream live on Black Entertainment Television on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m.

‘Making Black Lives Matter’

Kevin Cokley, professor in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Education, is the editor of “Making Black Lives Matter: Confronting Anti-Black Racism”(Cognella Academic Publishing, Oct. 2021), a collection of chapters written by scholars, activists, students and practitioners that explore historic and current circumstances of anti-Black racism. 

‘Building Antebellum New Orleans’

Authored by School of Architecture Instructor Tara Dudley, “Building Antebellum New Orleans” (UT Press, July 2021) examines the architectural activities and influence of gens de couleur libres—free people of color—in a city where the mixed-race descendants of whites could own property.

‘Chasing Perfection’

School of Architecture Professor David Heymann provides a new glimpse into John Chase’s family life in his book titled “John S. Chase–The Chase Residence,” (UT Press, Nov. 2020). Read more about the book and Chase’s life and work in this story published last December in the Alcalde.

“Afropolitan Projects”

Last fall, UT Austin alum (M.A. Sociology ‘13/Ph.D. Sociology ’17) Anima Adjepong published “Afropolitan Projects: Redefining Blackness, Sexualities, and Culture from Houston to Accra (University of North Carolina Press, Nov. 21), an exploration into African identity formation in the United States and in Ghana.  Learn more about the book.

conversations Black History Month

‘Strengthening Democracies Through Civil Dialogues’

In celebration of MLK Day, the Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the LBJ School of Public Affairs hosted a discussion panel titled “Strengthening Democracies Through Civil Dialogues,” on Monday, Jan. 24. Throughout the discussion, panelists Lisa B. Thompson, Peniel Josephs and Estevan Delgado examined the following questions: How can we utilize MLK’s model of leadership to confront racial, political, economic and ideological divisions? What happens if we fail to meet this political, moral and policy challenge? Watch the full event on YouTube.

‘Black Austin Matters’

Last January, KUT and KUTX studios launched its new “Black Austin Matters” podcast hosted by UT Professors Richard Reddick and Lisa B. Thompson. Featuring interviews with community members, the podcast delves into the history of Black Austin and explores current issues related to race and Blackness in a rapidly growing city.

Honoring Heman Marion Sweatt

Since 1986, The University of Texas at Austin has held the Sweatt Symposium on Civil Rights to honor the impact and legacy of Heman Marion Sweatt, the first Black student admitted to the School of Law at UT after the prolonged court case Sweatt v. Painter. Read about the 2021 symposium, which focused on one of the most important issues of our time: health equity.

Sites of Black Agency

Last fall, School of Architecture scholars Tara Dudley and Richard Cleary joined Vice Provost for Diversity Edmond T. Gordon in a virtual conversation about Austin’s buildings and structures built by enslaved African Americans. Visit the School of Architecture’s YouTube site to watch the Oct. 12 event titled “Sites of Black Agency at the Margins of the Forty Acres.”

Black History Month 2022 Honors and Awards

Celebrating Peggy Drake Holland

The McCombs Business School will soon open a student lounge/exhibit space named after Peggy Drake Holland, a UT Austin Precursor (BBA ’63) who came to the university during its early years of integration. The new space, featuring photographs and timeline information about the university’s history of segregation and integration, is scheduled to open this spring. More event updates and stories will be posted on the McCombs website.

Honoring a Woman of Many Firsts 

Last November, the Texas Exes honored Arleas Upton Kea (B.A. College of Liberal Arts ’79/JD School of Law ’82) with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Watch university and community leaders applauding her achievements in this celebratory video highlighting her career achievements and contributions to UT Austin’s School of Law. Read her essay titled “A Lonely Walk to the Top” on the Texas Law website, in which she describes her many firsts as an African American woman in school and throughout her career journey.

Recognizing Black Leaders in STEM

In honor of the diverse groups of alumni who have made an impact in the STEM community, the College of Natural Sciences highlighted numerous distinguished alumni in this “World Changers” web series. Read on to learn more about Ray Floyd Wilson (class of ’53), who was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at UT Austin; and Vivienne Malone-Mayes (class of ’66), who was the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics from UT Austin and the fifth to do so nationwide.

Commemorating UT’s First Black Engineering Professor

Along with the Precursors, who were the first Black undergraduate students to enroll at UT Austin in 1956, Ervin Perry helped pave the way for continued desegregation across the university and showed the importance of having Black professors at UT Austin. Visit the Cockrell School of Engineering’s website to learn more about this accomplished alumnus who in 1964, became the university’s first Black faculty member when he took on the position as professor of civil engineering.

research Black History Month UT

Mapping John Chase

Over the fall 2020 semester, several students in Tara Dudley’s African American Experience in Architecture seminar spent the semester researching the work and legacy of John S. Chase—the first African American to graduate from the School of Architecture and the first Black registered architect in the state of Texas. They identified more than 290 projects designed by Chase and developed a series of maps to visualize and locate his work across the southeastern United States, which will be an ongoing effort as research continues. Read more about the mapping project.

Spatial Segregation

Todd Brown, a Race and Gender in the Built Environment Fellow in the School of Architecture, talks about past and present racialized space and discriminatory policies in this Archinect Q&A. An interdisciplinary environmental scholar, Brown’s research interests lie at the intersection of race, space and place, and focus on increasing environmental justice and social equity in the built environment.

Shankleville Community Oral Histories

Visit the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection’s Black Diaspora Archive to learn about the communities of Shankleville, Texas, a historic freedom colony located in north-central Newton County in East Texas. The newly digitized Shankleville Community Oral History Collection contains photographs, documentation, select interview transcriptions and 11 oral history interviews. Access the digitized materialsView the archival contents.

Documenting the Women of Delta Xi

Visit the Black Diaspora Archive website to learn about the history of UT Austin’s first Black Greek-letter organization, the Delta Xi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. The three-part blog series, featuring oral history interviews, photographs and stories, was created by UT Austin alum and archivist-in-training Bri Davis.

Texas Domestic Slave Trade Project

Visit the Texas Domestic Slave Trade (TXDST) website to learn more about the history of slavery in Matagorda and the surrounding areas. The project, founded by Department of History Chair Daina Ramey Berry and Black Diaspora Archivist Rachel E. Winston, recently received a two-year grant of nearly $120,000 to expand its digital presence.

A Quest to Find Texas’ First Black Attorney

Visit the Alcalde website to read about a UT Law School alumnus’s years-long quest to discover Texas’ first Black attorney William A. Price, who was also the state’s first Black judge and county attorney. “Sweatt and his fellow trailblazers stood on the shoulders of Price—a man whose legacy is measured not in monuments but in the countless Black Americans who followed him into the legal profession,” writes John G. Browning (School of Law ’89).

Racial Geography Tour of UT Austin 

Take a virtual “Racial Geography Tour” for an interactive guided exploration of the historic origins of UT Austin’s buildings, landmarks and spaces. The tour is led by Edmund T. Gordon, vice provost for diversity and founding chairman emeritus of the Department of African & African Diaspora in the College of Liberal Arts.

Resources for Teaching and Understanding Black History

Find multiple topics related to Black history education—from the early beginnings of slavery to the Black Lives Matter movement—on Not Even Past, a free and publicly accessible podcast that covers a wide range of historical topics in American and world history. You can also access free online History of the Black Experience courses online via the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement’s YouTube channel.

UT Austin Black Studies word markThis roundup was created in partnership with Black Studies in the College of Liberal Arts.