Gregory Library Watch

Preserving working class Black history

The Issue

We are organizing because the decision makers at the Houston Public Library system, director Dr. Rhea Lawson and Hellena Stokes, the manager the Gregory Library, have consciously decided to hide the history of grassroots residents of Houston and Freedman’s Town, the city’s most historic African American neighborhood.

The Library totally ignores all working class African American history.

Therefore the library only includes TOP DOWN history.  For example, the Freedman’s Town Room contains a permanent exhibit, which purports to tell the history of the neighborhood. The exhibit contains a time line which starts in 1865 and ends in 1954. It contains absolutely no information about grassroots leadership and the accomplishments of resident activists AT ANY TIME. The fact that the time line stops in 1954 is also an indication that the Library does not want to step on any ruling class toes by recounting the recent history of gentrification. Gentrification has been an extremely messy process in Freedman’s Town. For example there are many, many unsolved arson cases going back to the 1970s. (see Racial Violence page.)

If the ruling class wants a monument to their genius,  they should use their own money, not OUR TAX DOLLARS.

Furthermore:

1. Not one contract or job awarded Freedman’s Town grassroots/businesses. Almost 10 million taxpayer dollars were spent converting the building from a school into the library.
2. Input from Freedman’s Town grassroots neighborhood based organizations and historians ignored with exception of “consultants” contacting Gladys House for permission to use her research already approved by Texas Historic Commission on historic markers posted at West Gray @ Taft and West Dallas @ Heiner. Never fails that these “consultants” hired by the city of Houston and housing authority are clueless about our history but yet they are always awarded contracts over us.
3. Little history on Freedman’s Town is found in Gregory Library while those “consultants” have large pictorials and narratives done on their relatives and friends. What of those trailblazers of Freedman’s Town who wrote the struggles for justice and equality? The House family, Berdell Lewis, Mary Williams, Josephine Thibodeaux, Gladys House, Lenwood Johnson, Darrell Patterson, etc.
4. Dr. Lee P. Brown’s picture is found profoundly at the top of the stairs in Gregory Library on second floor, yet, he did all possible as the first Black mayor of Houston to demolish the entire Gregory site. It was our hard fought efforts that prevented such.
5. We continue seeking creation or implementation of a real advisory board to set the record straight and justice in place that will respect and catalog the full, vibrant history of Freedman’s Town as shared and told by us the grassroots of Freedman’s Town.
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