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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.

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.