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Collections ( Civil Rights )

Houston Negro Hospital

Number of Items: 950 items

This collection contains the documents of Joseph Cullinan related to the founding and early operation of the Houston Negro Hospital. Cullinan, a Houston businessman, helped start the hospital with a monetary donation to be used in construction of the building. The hospital was the first nonprofit hospital for African Americans in Houston, and these varied documents provide insight into the founding, construction, initial problems, and political and social forces at play during its early years.

In the early 1920s, the need for a new African American hospital became clear to the community and its physicians. Though a group of physicians had established the Union-Jeremiah Hospital to serve the community, they quickly realized the need for something larger. Cullinan, a successful oilman who had founded Texas Company (later Texaco), was impressed with the group’s work and donated $80,000 to the group in 1923.  On June 19, 1926, the building’s cornerstone was dedicated to Cullinan’s deceased son, an Army officer who led African American soldiers during World War I. Cullinan, who made additional donations to the hospital, was consulted and kept informed about hospital business.

The hospital, located in Houston’s Third Ward, opened to patients on May 14, 1927, and provided a place for African American physicians, who were not allowed to admit patients to the African American wards in Houston’s other hospitals, to practice medicine and train students and nurses. It initially operated on an “insurance” system in which individuals and families paid a yearly subscription which entitled them to treatment. The hospital’s early years were difficult, with problems that included a lack of patients and dissension among and between the hospital’s two boards, one African American and one white.

Throughout the 20th century the hospital underwent many changes, including the elimination of the insurance system. In 1961 the hospital was renamed Riverside General Hospital, and in 1984 the building underwent historical renovations. The original hospital building and the School of Nursing building are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and Riverside General Hospital still operates today, primarily as a substance abuse center.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Joseph S. Cullinan Papers.

Mary Ellen Ewing vs the Houston School Board

Number of Items: 163 items

This digital collection contains the pages of several scrapbooks that document the social and political activities of Mary Ellen Ewing during the early 20th century. Newspaper clippings and correspondence detail Mrs. Ewing’s many endeavors on behalf of education reform, the women’s suffrage movement, child welfare programs, and improving labor conditions. The collection’s 163 items span the years 1900-1917, with the bulk of the material coming from the year 1913.

Married to Judge Presley Kittredge Ewing, who served as Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Mrs. Ewing was a successful philanthropist and activist in her own right. She served as an officer for the Harris County Equal Suffrage Association; the Child Welfare League; the State Congress of Mothers (forerunner of the Parent-Teachers Association, or PTA); and the Harris County Humane Society. She was also an inventor who was granted patents for a street sweeper to improve sanitation in the city.

Highlights of the collection include dozens of newspaper articles from the Houston Chronicle and Houston Daily Post about the push for better conditions in public schools and the addition of women to the school board. Letters to and from Mrs. Ewing further illustrate her involvement and importance in these and other social causes, both on the local and state levels. Personal mementos from the scrapbooks include postcards, birthday greeting cards, and photos of the Ewing house.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in The Ewing Family Papers.

Photographs from the Leonor Villegas de Magnón Papers

Number of Items: 146 items

This collection contains 146 photographs and postcards related to Leonor Villegas de Magnón’s personal life, political activism with the international relief service La Cruz Blanca (the White Cross), and the Mexican Revolution. Photographs highlight Magnón’s pioneering work along the Mexico-Texas border as well as her relationships with fellow activists, participants of the Revolution, and friends and family.

Items in the collection are annotated in English and Spanish and include portraits, landscapes, and miscellaneous illustrations dating from 1894 to 1918. Notable individuals in the collection include Venustiano Carranza, Jovita Idar, Porfirio Díaz, Francisco Madero, and Pancho Villa.

Magnón, a Mexican citizen and life-long resident of Laredo, Texas, was a trailblazer and leading force on a variety of issues related to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Among her many accomplishments, Magnón founded and financed La Cruz Blanca to provide more organized medical assistance to soldiers wounded in the Mexican Revolution. More details on this work can be found in her autobiography, La Rebelde (the Lady Rebel). In the years after the Revolution, Magnón opened a bilingual school for children and contributed to female civic organizations in the U.S. and Mexico, traveling back and forth from Laredo until her death in 1955.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the Leonor Villegas de Magnón Papers.

Selections from the Alonso S. Perales Papers

Number of Items: 60 items

A civil rights lawyer, diplomat, political leader and soldier, Alonso S. Perales (1898-1960) was one of the most influential Mexican Americans of his time. These photographs and documents, highlighting aspects of his life and career, were part of a larger exhibition, In Defense of My People: Alonso S. Perales and the Development of Mexican-American Public Intellectuals , on view at the M.D. Anderson Library from December 8, 2011 through February 29, 2012.

Perales saw himself as a defender of la raza, or race, especially battling charges that Mexicans and Latin Americans were inferior and a social problem. Perales was one of the founders of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in 1929 and helped write LULAC’s constitution. He served as the organization’s second president.

An intellectual who firmly believed in the law, Perales wrote about civil rights, religion and racial discrimination, which he argued “had the approval of the majority.” His work included the pamphlet Are We Good Neighbors? and the two-volume set En defense de mi raza. A member of the American Legion and the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Perales was also a columnist for La Prensa and other Spanish-language newspapers.

Highlighting the 2010 acquisition of the Alonso S. Perales Papers by the University of Houston Libraries’ Special Collections Department, courtesy of the Perales Family and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project,scholars presented their research on this trailblazing public intellectual at a day-long conference (January 13, 2012) bearing the same name as the exhibition. These presentations shed light on Perales’ activism and defense of Latinos, including the chronology and history of Mexican American and Latino civil rights movements, the impact of religion on Latinos, the concept of “race,” and individual versus community action to bring about social and political change.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries’ Special Collections in the Alonso S. Perales Papers.

University of Houston Integration Records

Number of Items: 109 items

Through correspondence, applications, pamphlets, and other materials, this collection documents the integration of black students into the University of Houston. The bulk of the 214 items are from the late 1950s and early 1960s, with some dated as early as 1945 and as late as 1969. The collection includes selections from the UH President’s Office Records and highlights correspondence from Presidents Clanton C. Williams, A.D. Bruce, and Phillip G. Hoffman.

UH did not admit its first black student until the early 1960s. A private college during the 1950s and ‘60s, UH was not held to the standards of Sweatt v. Painter, which forced the University of Texas to admit a black student to its law school in 1950.  Documents in the collection show black students applying to UH but being referred to nearby Texas Southern University. Phillip G. Hoffman, UH President from 1961-1977, realized that transforming UH from a private to a public school would have great financial benefits for the university and would also hold them to the legal standards of state schools. A memo in the collection from the Registrar Ramon A. Vitulli to Hoffman dated January 15, 1962, states that in 1961 the office of admissions received 175 inquiries by “negroes” in person or by phone and 33 rejection letters were sent through the mail. The registrar adds, “Based on the assumption that as a fully State supported institution the University will be required to admit qualified Negroes in the fall of 1963 and thereafter, I recommend that we admit qualified Negroes in the fall of 1962 or before.” By March 1963, the University had twenty African American students and was fully desegregated.

To avoid the unrest occurring around desegregation at other schools, Hoffman drew together community businessmen and the media to integrate the university relatively quietly. UH became a state funded university in 1963, and in 1964, it became the first major university in the South to desegregate its intercollegiate sports program. Guy Lewis recruited the school's first black athletes, including Don Chaney and future Hall-of-Famer Elvin Hayes, transforming both the basketball program and the entire campus.

The items do not present themselves in the digital collection in the same order that they do in the physical collection. Newspaper clippings were not scanned because of copyright issues.  Whenever possible, materials that were originally attached were scanned together. To see the collection in its entirety and in its original order, we encourage you to visit UH Special Collections.

The original materials are available in UH Libraries Special Collections in the UH President’s Office Records.