This month, Arte Público Press publishes In Defense of My People edited by Professor Olivas. The book assembles a collection of essays from Mexican and U.S. scholars on the life and legacy of Alonso S. Perales, initially presented as part of a 2012 conference and exhibit organized in conjunction with the University of Houston Special Collections and the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project. Alonso S. Perales was noted for his civil rights legal work in the Mexican-American community as well as his influential and prolific writing on the topic of racial equality. However, he is perhaps most remembered for the leadership he was able to provide in maneuvering the legal and logistical hurdles of uniting a number of disparate civil rights organizations under the banner of LULAC.
(Professor Olivas provides some background and perspective on Alonso S. Perales)
Arte Público Press and Olivas will donate royalties from purchases of the book to establish a scholarship with the UH Law Center’s Hispanic Law Student Association. The first scheduled award, to a recipient exhibiting “academic merit and a record of involvement in the Houston Latino community,” is slated for 2014.
Thanks to the generous donation of the Perales family, the Alonso S. Perales Papers are now more accessible to the community at large and we are pleased to have them available for study in the Special Collections reading room during normal reference hours. This collection, a part of our larger Hispanic Collections, is a rich resource and draw for scholars still attempting to provide a robust picture of a region and time complicated by competing ambitions and voices. For starters, the collection includes correspondence with other noted civil rights leaders, organizational documents for LULAC, as well as his notes regarding personal writings, interviews, and radio addresses. However, the detailed finding aid will be able to guide your research and provide more insight into the contents.
Our Digital Library has assembled a number of documents and photographs as highlights from this collection and they are available for viewing and high resolution download here. In addition to the Perales papers, our Hispanic Collections offer a number of finding aid resources that may complement your study.
The history of “Aztlán” is infinitely complex and made more so when voices are muted. We are pleased that, thanks to the efforts of scholars like Professor Olivas and others, those voices continue to garner an audience. In addition, thanks to the continued generosity of he and his wife, Professor Augustina Reyes, now another scholarship has been established to ensure those futures voices are heard.
Please take a look at some of the online resources above. If you are just beginning your education on Perales and his impact, videos from scholars on the exhibit page should provide a nice introduction. However, if you are looking to expand your research, come visit us at your earliest convenience.
Earlier this month the University of Houston community cut the ribbon on a new and improved stage at Lynn Eusan Park. This new stage will provide improved sound, lighting, better sight lines for audience members, and will inject new life into a park named in honor of one of UH’s own. Lynn Eusan was a member of the Spirit of Houston, organizer of the Committee on Better Race Relations, founder of the Afro-Americans for Black Liberation (AABL), charter member of Alpha Kappa Alpha (UH’s first black sorority), and, probably most notably, the first African-American homecoming queen at UH and, as best we can tell, the first African-American homecoming queen elected in the South not from a historically black college.
The year was 1968. College campuses around the nation were centers of dissent and quickly becoming laboratories for social change. The University of Houston was certainly not Columbia, certainly not Howard, but if one thumbs through the Daily Cougar editions from the autumn of 1968, it drives home that the atmosphere on campus certainly reflected the ferment in Houston and other cities at home and abroad. In the midst of protests against police brutality, foreign policy, and parking fees (which I’m sure today’s students would find just shocking), the election of a homecoming queen seemed about the most apolitical and innocuous event taking place on campus. However, frustration was beginning to form as more and more students of different races seemed to be attending parallel universities separate from one another and the race for homecoming queen would become a stage for these divides to play out.
Lynn Eusan’s candidacy was noteworthy not only because of the color of her skin, but also because she had no major Greek support or backing. When the Daily Cougar asked why she was running for homecoming queen, Eusan replied, “I feel it is an honorable, very respectful position that any girl would be honored to have. I feel that there is not enough representation of non-Greek minorities on campus.” She was not alone. An ad running regularly for another candidate in the Daily Cougar urged students to, “Forget the Greeks. GO LATIN!”
The day of the election, the Daily Cougar ran an editorial (pictured here) imploring the student body to get over their “hang-ups” regarding color, to “exercise student power,” and elect a queen that “would represent… a liberal-minded, progressive student body.” A coalition of student groups and organizations rallied around this idea of a racial integration that broke down the walls of these parallel universities and they turned out to vote.
Eusan was already involved in arguably larger social justice issues being tackled by the AABL on campus and in the community. She worked to help establish and promote the new S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, she contributed to Voice of Hope (a newspaper covering the African-American community in Houston, they would later establish a scholarship in Eusan’s name), and her AABL organization would be instrumental in establishing the African American Studies program here at UH. Therefore, her candidacy, campaign, and eventual crowning as homecoming queen became more a sign or emblem of a movement building on campus rather than some prize won in the end.
In retrospect and compared to her work, it seems almost trivial. A crown. A tiara. Some flowers. For one moment, though, on the floor of the Astrodome on November 23, 1968, a coalition of students who had previously felt stripped of their voices rallied around a queen celebrating in disbelief.
Only three years later, in 1971, her life would come to a baffling and tragic end. The University of Houston would dedicate the park in her honor in 1976.
While the cultural and racial novelty of her being crowned homecoming queen will likely remain the lead attached to her life and legacy, the social and ethnic diversity that constitute the University of Houston in the 21st century is due in no small part to her work. No. Racism has not been eliminated at UH, but we are not alone in carrying that burden. However, as one of the most ethnically diverse research universities in the nation, reaping the benefits from its truly integrated global village on a daily basis, UH owes a debt to a movement that championed a woman like Eusan for a title like homecoming queen.
Here in Special Collections our University Archives offer a handful of items related to Eusan for study. In addition to the aforementioned back copies of the Daily Cougar, we are pleased to offer a number of items that may be of interest. Our African American Studies Records have materials related to a tribute to Eusan, the UH Photographs Collection holds the photo featured above and can also be found over at the Digital Library, the President’s Office Records hold reams of notes, articles, and correspondence providing a blow by blow record of AABL protests and their “ten demands” (as well as the ire and passions of a divided community), and Professor Patrick J. Nicholson Papers outline the work behind the scenes to establish what would eventually become the African American Studies program.
As we ring in a new era for Lynn Eusan Park, take an opportunity to explore and celebrate a life that tells a story unique to the University of Houston. As we move into summer and the campus din quiets down, remember that we remain open for study and eager to assist your research.
On the 30th anniversary of a historic Final Four run by Phi Slama Jama, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced that Guy V. Lewis would be inducted as part of its class of 2013.
All it takes is a stroll through a darkened Hofheinz Pavilion to see the five Final Four banners hanging from the rafters there in the shadows, hear the ghostly squeak of sneakers belonging to Hall of Famers “Big E,” “Clyde the Glide,” and “Akeem the Dream,” and one begins to understand the indelible mark Lewis has left on the University of Houston basketball program.
For all of his accomplishments on the hardwood though, his legacy and imprint extend beyond Houston Cougars basketball, shaping the sport and collegiate athletics as a whole. Lewis mentored countless student-athletes over his 30 years as head coach, propelled the sport forward with his role in the Game of the Century, and while the more highly-regarded programs of the old Southwest Conference held the line on racial segregation, Coach Lewis helped tear down those racial divides for major collegiate athletics in Texas and the South.
As we in Special Collections offer hearty congratulations to Coach Lewis, his family, and his teams, we also take this time to highlight some resources in our collection relating to his rich and storied career.
As a starting point, our collection of Athletics Department Records offers a look at the role of sport in the history of the University of Houston (including historic programs like the one featured here), while our stacks also hold a number of media guides covering the history of the Houston Cougar basketball teams. In addition, Katherine Lopez does an excellent job of documenting the process of racial integration in the world of collegiate athletics at the University of Houston in her dissertation The Cougar Revolution: Black or White They All Bled Red. Her book, Cougars of Any Color: The Integration of University of Houston Athletics, 1964-1968, is available in Special Collections thanks to a gift of the Frell Albright Endowment.
If you find yourself already missing March Madness, there is no need to fret. Come on down and celebrate the legacy of one of UH’s own.
The University of Houston Special Collections, home of the Larry McMurtry Papers, was pleased to see that Amazon.com has named McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove Texas’ top love story. Amazon writes, “Part love story, part adventure, this Pulitzer Prize winner is as ambitious and mythic as the Lone Star State itself.” Indeed, Lonesome Dove is a brilliant novel centering around the fictional border town of Lonesome Dove, where former Texas Rangers endeavor to drive cattle north into Montana.
The McMurtry Papers include a plethora of material documenting McMurtry’s writing, including notes, typescript drafts, and copyedited typescripts. If you’d like to take a look at the original material that lead to Texas’ top love story, come see us in Special Collections!
The University of Houston lost one of its visionary pioneers recently when Dr. Sidney Berger, longtime director of the School of Theatre and Dance, passed away at the age of 77. He leaves behind a legacy rich in contributions to education and the arts.
In over four decades with the University of Houston, Dr. Berger was integral in growing the School of Theatre and Dance to the preeminent program it has become, adding award-winning playwrights to its faculty and forging unique relationships with the larger, thriving Houston theatre community. Among his accomplishments Dr. Berger founded and served as director for the Houston Shakespeare Festival, co-founded and served as producer for the Children’s Theatre Festival, and directed at the Alley Theatre as an Associate Artist.
In his contributions to research, Dr. Berger was responsible for helping the UH Libraries acquire the papers of Cheryl Crawford, co-founder of the Group Theatre and Broadway director, and Jose Quintero, co-founder of Circle in the Square Theatre and the director who helmed the Eugene O’Neill revival.
In 1999-2000, Dr. Berger and Pat Bozeman, Head of Special Collections, co-curated the exhibition Long Day’s Journey Into Light: Theatre Master, Jose Quintero at M.D. Anderson Library. He was a cherished friend and colleague in education and will certainly be missed.