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Houston Public Media published an article on the opening of the new Freedmen's Town Visitor Center. The article highlights the center's role in preserving local history, attracting tourists, and hosting cultural events.


Local civil rights icon and founder of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Reverend William "Bill" Lawson passed away on May 14, 2024, leaving a rich and celebrated legacy. If you would like to learn more about Reverend Lawson, HPL Digital Archives offer some fascinating primary sources.


Our Audiovisual Archives contain two interviews with Reverend Lawson: one originally recorded in 1974, and a second interview from 2008 (from the Mayor Bill White Oral History Collection) which was also videotaped. These two interviews provide a fascinating historical perspective on his work and life in Houston during the years of the Civil Rights Movement.


Reverend Lawson, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza and Rabbi Samuel Karff were known as the "Three Amigos" or "Three Wise Men" for their decades-long friendship and interfaith activism in favor of human rights and the betterment of life for all Houstonians. Archbishop Fiorenza and Rabbi Karff were also interviewed in 2008 and 2007 respectively as part of the Mayor White Oral History Collection. 


In December 2015, Reverend Lawson was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Mrs. Audrey Ann Hoffman Lawson. Mrs. Lawson's funeral program is part of HPL Digital Archives' African American Funeral Program collection and provides a unique perspective into her career as an activist in her own right, and the love and family that she and Reverend Lawson shared. 


The Lawson Collection, or “Lawson Letters,” not only document Reverend William and Mrs. Audrey Hoffman Lawson’s young adulthood and courtship, they also were the primary means of courtship. Beginning in September 1952, young Bill and Audrey exchanged letters for months before ever meeting in person, and what began as a friendly dialogue blossomed into love during the next two years of correspondence. Later in life, Reverend and Mrs. Lawson made their letters available to HPL for digitization. They are available online, an indispensable resource for historians—and anyone who appreciates a great love story!


In response to the murder of George Floyd, Houston Public Library's African American History Research Center (AAHRC) launched the George Floyd Lecture Series to foster difficult yet crucial conversations about racial equity and social justice.


Join us on Thursday, May 23, 2024, at Noon – 2 p.m., for a riveting conversation with guest speaker Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. Register now or continue reading full media alert.


African American History Research Center (AAHRC) staff talked to American Libraries Magazine for a feature story on oral history projects, and they had the opportunity to highlight interviews included in the HPL Digital Archives. 


From the article:

Collection highlights include stories about a 1963 visit that President John F. Kennedy made to the city, Latino and Latina veterans of World War II, and alumni of the Gregory School, the city’s first public school for Black children, which opened in 1872. The Gregory School interviews, which feature students who graduated from the school between the 1920s and 1960s, are among AAHRC Manager Miguell Ceasar’s favorite, because the former school has become home to the center.


“They were thriving, and they were learning, and they were proud people,” says Ceasar. “It’s a great oral history to listen to, especially for our site.”

Preserve the Past and Remember the Glory: The History of the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL)
The African American History Research Center at the Gregory School

1300 Victor Street, 77019 | 832-393-1440
July 1, 2023 – December 30, 2023

Photo from exhibit of Washington High School track team and coaches


The University Interscholastic League (UIL) was established by the University of Texas in 1910 to make rules and settle disputes for academic and athletic competitions at white high schools in Texas. Recognizing a need for a separate organization for Black high school students, the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools (TILCS) was created in 1920 by the Colored Teachers State Association of Texas and the Negro School Division of the State Department of Education. The TILCS changed its name in 1923 to the Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) when it came under the control of Prairie View A&M College. 


Modeling itself after the UIL, the PVIL held its own competitions for Black high school students in athletics, typing, declamation, music, and extemporaneous speaking. Starting with 40 schools, the PVIL quickly grew to include 300 schools by 1927 and enrolled 500 schools at its peak. PVIL participants include Houston’s Barbara Jordan (Phillis Wheatley High School), the first African American U.S. Congresswoman from the Southern United States. In 1965, the UIL opened membership to all public schools and the PVIL was disbanded at the end of the 1969-70 school year.


This exhibition features documents, photographs, and vintage uniforms and trophies from the Special Collections & Archives Department (SCAD) of the John B. Coleman Library at Prairie View A&M University and the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association.


This exhibit is free and open to the public. Exhibit dates are subject to change.

February 11, 2023 – May 4, 2023

The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street, 77019 | 832-393-1440

AND Central Library | 1st Floor Gallery
500 McKinney St., 77002 | 832-393-1300


Photo of colorful abstract art painting, "When It's Time" by John Gilchrist Photo of painting "Let Freedom Reign" by La'Toya Smith, depicting two young African American children holding an American flag umbrella while bullets rain down from above

Cover image: “Texas Queens” by Laura Casemore.

L-R: "When It's Time" by John Gilchrist; "Let Freedom Reign" by La'Toya Smith.

The biennial Citywide African American Artists Exhibition is a collaboration between the University Museum at Texas Southern University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The exhibition offers all artists of the African Diaspora in the Greater Houston area the opportunity to show their work to a broader public and art-collecting community. 

The exhibition celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022 and was curated by Michelle Barnes, CEO of the Community Artists’ Collective. The artist prizes were juried by artists Earlie Hudnall, Jr. and Vicki Meek; and Anna Walker, executive director of Lawndale Art Center.

The exhibition is spread over two HPL locations. On view at the African American History Research Center at the Gregory School are works by 47 different artists, including Curator's Choice Award winner La'Toya Smith, First Place winner James E! Walker, and Honorable Mention winners Janice McCloud Warren and AFI ESE. The Central Library's First Floor Gallery will display works by 25 different artists, including Second Place winner Eddie Filer, Jr., Third Place winner Shawn Artis, Honorable Mention winner Emmanuel Olaiyan, and 5A Choice Award winner Maria Modjo. 

In partnership with:
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The University Museum at Texas Southern University

Exhibits are free and open to the public. Exhibit dates are subject to change.

On Monday, December 12, 2022, the Houston Public Library celebrated the unveiling of an Official Texas Historical Marker from the Texas Historical Commission for the Gregory School building at the African American History Research Center (AAHRC). The dedication ceremony took place amongst the exhibits inside and culminated outside at the marker's permanent location, at the corner of Wilson and Victor streets in Freedmen's Town/Fourth Ward. 

The event began with opening remarks from Angela Kent, Senior Manager of HPL’s History Research Centers and Miguell Ceasar, AAHRC Manager and Senior Archivist. Local historian and member of the African American Library Gregory Friends (AALGS) Debra Blacklock Sloan gave an official statement on the awarding of the marker. She also thanked the local officials who sent proclamations, like State Representative Jolanda Jones.

HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson gave remarks. “When I became the Director of the Houston Public Library in 2005, implementing Mayor Lee Brown’s vision for the Gregory School, now the African American History Research Center, was at the top on my list of goals,” said Dr. Lawson. “I have had the pleasure of seeing it evolve to become a significant destination in Houston, all while providing a unique window into the local and global Black experience.  Now we have a restored facility with an official State Historical Marker designation thanks in large part to the dedication of the Friends of the Gregory School. We are very thankful for their continuing support and longtime partnership.”   

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner read the text of the marker, after which it was unveiled. 

Mayor Turner said, “We come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, but we are all here together for a common cause: to recognize the contributions of people and places like Gregory School that are sacred pillars of education and advancement within the African American community.” 

After the ceremony, attendees headed indoors for an open house and tour of the AAHRC facility.

November 12, 2022 - January 28, 2023

The African American History Research Center at the Gregory School

1300 Victor St., 77019 | 832-393-1440

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) emerged when the country was transforming from an agrarian society of farmers to an industrialized nation of factory and office workers. The BSA’s goal was to teach boys “patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues,” as well as outdoor skills, values that critics thought were lost as families moved to cities.

The first Black Boy Scouts in Houston were organized in 1935 by Reverend J. H. M. Boyce. The following year, about a dozen men completed a training course for leaders and formed seven or eight troops in the city. Although interest in Scouting started small, with only about a dozen Black Boy Scouts per troop, by 1947, their numbers grew to almost 3,000 throughout Houston.

This exhibition features photographs, ephemera, and newspaper clippings from the Harrison Family Collection. Edwin Stafford Harrison (1912-1979) was a civic leader, Methodist minister, and the first Black Precinct judge and poll tax writer in Harris County. Harrison was a Scout Executive from 1944 until his retirement in 1975.

This exhibition is free and open to the public. Dates are subject to change.

Logo of Houston Endowment

HOUSTON – Houston Endowment awarded $500,000 to the Houston Public Library (HPL) in support of a series of archival preservation projects.  

“We greatly appreciate the generous award from Houston Endowment. These funds advance our efforts to honor Houston’s rich diversity through the preservation, accessibility, promotion, and further development of HPL’s African American and Hispanic research collections,” said Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director of the Library. Ann Stern, president and CEO of Houston Endowment, lauds the efforts, “We are proud to recognize organizations driving social justice and racial equity across arts, culture, history, civic engagement and education.”

HPL's goal to expand online access to materials can be achieved with significant funding for ongoing archival digitization work. Funding also provides much-needed support for the preservation and storage of physical materials. Angela Kent, Head of History Research Centers, explains, “By having funds dedicated to the collection and preservation of African American and Hispanic experiences, HPL is able to stay the course in documenting and unlocking access to our city's diverse history."


The African American History Research Center at the Gregory School (AAHRC) opened its doors in 2009 and is one of the few African American institutions in the U.S. actively collecting archival materials. Its mission to preserve and celebrate African American history is supported with a staff of professional archivists who maintain and build the collections. This highly trained staff also provides specialized skills in community archiving and knowledge of Black history for researchers. The AAHRC is still building its collections and relies on community contributions to help document and tell stories of African Americans in Houston and surrounding areas. 

HPL’s Hispanic Collections benefit from the continuous care and custody of archivists through the Houston History Research Center (HHRC), which was established in 1970. The contributions of Hispanics in every industry in the Bayou City are accounted for in over 100 collections of papers and photographs. These records, coupled with oral histories, reflect a rich tapestry of the Hispanic experience and include a significant number of materials about early Houston mutualistas (mutual aid societies), big band, Tejano, and Chicano music, the lives of Mexican Americans during World War II, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).


Houston Endowment is a private foundation that partners with others to achieve a vibrant and inclusive region where all residents can thrive. It advances equity of opportunity through deep commitments to PreK-12 public education and civic engagement; supports cultural assets that engage and connect us; and drives sustainable change across the region.  

HOUSTON - The Houston Public Library (HPL) announces that its current special collections libraries now serve under the new banner of HPL’s History Research Centers. The Houston History Research Center, formerly Houston Metropolitan Research Center, was the first HPL special collections library; the Family History Research Center at the Clayton Library Campus, was established in 1968 as the Clayton Library for Genealogical Research; and the African American History Research Center was known as the African American Library at the Gregory School since 2009. 

The respective archives and origins of the History Research Centers are unchanged. The former Gregory School located in the historic Fourth Ward stands as the African American History Research Center (1300 Victor St.), devoted to documenting the Black experience in Houston and beyond. The Julia Ideson Building (550 McKinney St.), home to the Houston History Research Center, anchors the dual history of HPL and the city with a repository of architectural drawings, Hispanic Collections and an expansive local photographs and audio-visual collection. The house that William Lockhart Clayton built is synonymous with genealogy and family history research. The Family History Research Center at the Clayton Library (5300 Caroline St.) has grown to be among the top of its kind in the nation, with resources freely available in-person and online. 

Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director of the Houston Public Library states that with this renaming, the Houston community and visitors stand to gain a greater understanding of what can be found at the History Research Centers. “The History Research Centers are wonderful destinations that will appeal to anyone wanting to discover what’s hiding in plain sight.” 

Remarking on what the public can expect, Angela Kent, Head of History Research Centers, notes, “While HPL’s special books collections and archives remain housed at their current locations, we hope that visitors can recognize and come to know all the things one can see and do at the History Research Centers. We link people to history.” Individuals and groups can tour the historic buildings, view exhibits and attend library programs, while also continuing to access and research HPL’s rare and unique special collections and archives.  

HPL’s History Research Centers are open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information visit:

July 30, 2022 – October 22, 2022 

The African American Library at the Gregory School

1300 Victor Street, 77019 | 832-393-1440


Fourth Ward, Motherward, an exhibit of photographs by Elbert Howze, is on view at the African American Library at the Gregory School from July 30 to October 8, 2022.

Elbert Howze (1951 – 2015) was born in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to Houston in 1973 and continued his education at the University of Houston, receiving a B.F.A. in fine art, a B.S. in technology and business technology, and an M.F.A. in photography.

Freedmen’s Town, Fourth Ward was founded by newly freed African Americans in 1865 and quickly grew into a successful, bustling, and self-sufficient community. By the middle of the 20th century, the landlocked neighborhood saw its population decline as residents moved to other Black communities around the city. Neglect, government redevelopment programs, private developers, and the relentless march toward gentrification led to the demolition of historic homes.

When Howze took an interest in the community in the 1980s, he described Fourth Ward as “a place of neglect and decay which appears to be deliberate by plan.” Although he acknowledged the physical decline of the area, Howze decided to focus his lens on its residents, preserving the enduring spirit of the neighborhood.

This exhibit is free and open to the public. Exhibit dates are subject to change.

September 9, 2021 - March 12, 2022

On view at the African American Library at the Gregory School 

1300 Victor Street, 77019 | 832-393-1440

Spanning over six decades of cultural production, this exhibition presents paintings, drawings and prints of works by African Americans in Texas with a combination of portraiture, landscape and abstraction on display. In collaboration with the John L. Nau III Collection of Texas Art, this exhibition features works from Texan artists including John Willard Banks, John Biggers, Sedrick Huckaby, and Kermit Oliver, supplemented with special collection materials from the African American Library at the Gregory School.

This exhibition is generously supported by:

City of Houston
Houston Public Library
The African American Library at the Gregory School
The John L. Nau III Collection of Texas Art

This exhibit was also made possible through the generosity of the Houston Public Library Foundation.

The African American Artists in Texas: Selections from the John L. Nau III Collection of Texas Art will be on view at the following HPL location(s):

September 2021 – March 2022 - Exhibit Hall at GRE

Houston Public Library Hosts Inaugural Commemorative Lecture with Proclamation of George Floyd Remembrance Day

HOUSTON - May 25, 2022 Today, the Houston Public Library (HPL) marked the occasion of George Floyd Remembrance Day with a commemorative lecture delivered by Honorable Mayor Sylvester Turner. Following the speech, Mayor Turner declared May 25th as George Floyd Remembrance Day in the City of Houston and presented an official proclamation to members of the Floyd family who were present for the event.
“George Floyd’s tragic murder galvanized a worldwide movement for policing reform and discussions about race and social justice, especially in Houston,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “It is vital that we continue to talk about the shared history and trauma we experience as a society due to violent events, no matter how difficult those conversations may be, so that we can effectuate change. Today, we honor George Floyd’s spirit by renewing our commitment to continuing the conversation around systematic change, racism, policing reform and ways to make our community and world more loving and accepting of all differences.”

Dr. Melanye Price, endowed professor of African American studies and political science and inaugural director of the Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Social Justice at Prairie View A&M University, offered opening remarks. The Ridge Point High School Choir and composer Dr. John Cornelius were on hand for musical tributes.
In memory of Houston native George Floyd, whose murder by a Minneapolis police officer ignited worldwide protests, the event highlighted the City of Houston and HPL’s efforts to chronicle race and social justice movements and capture the accounts of witnesses to history.
“The Houston Public Library answers the call to not only document and share the significant and tumultuous events that impact our local and national communities, but also provide community space needed for ongoing civic engagement” said Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson. “With this annual lecture, HPL will help fulfill the critical need for collective reflection on the George Floyd tragedy and the growing number of catastrophic events that have inspired a national reckoning with the issue of race.”

Two years after Mr. Floyd’s death, events relating to the crime—the arrest, trial, guilty verdict and sentencing of one of the police officers responsible—and the community’s response have been recorded by HPL librarians and archivists for a digital archive and physical collection on display at the African American Library at the Gregory School. 

Black Art Library
On view at the African American Library at the Gregory School

April 16, 2022 - June 25, 2022

Independent curator and arts educator Asmaa Walton founded Black Art Library in February 2020 as a digital project to mark Black History Month.  During her studies and time working in museums, Walton noticed a lack of Black visual artists in both her art history curriculum and on the walls of museums. Black Art Library aims to help people learn more about Black art and artists outside of formal art institutions, which can feel restrictive and intimidating.

The project has turned into an interactive exhibition and resource. The ever-expanding collection includes over 500 anthologies, art books, children’s books, exhibition catalogues, artist memoirs, artist biographies, and other art-related ephemera. Although Black art and artists have historically been excluded in mainstream art history, museum collections, and galleries, Black Art Library is accessible for everyone: art lovers, art novices, children, and historians are all welcome.

Follow the Black Art Library on Instagram @blackartlibrary

Exhibit is free and open to the public.

Exhibits dates are subject to change.

About the Curator 

Asmaa Walton is a Detroit native, arts educator, and ardent developer of the Black cultural archive. Walton received a BFA in art education from Michigan State University in 2017 and an MA in Art Politics from New York University Tisch School of the Arts in 2018. In 2019, Walton was appointed Romare Bearden Graduate Museum Fellow at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Her current mission is to have a permanent space for Black Art Library in Detroit. 

This exhibition is generously supported by:

City of Houston

The Houston Public Library

The Houston Public Library Foundation

The African American Library at the Gregory School

The Library will undergo repairs to the exterior façade, roof, and exterior doors and windows. Originally built in 1926, and majorly renovated in 2008, the facility repairs will help extend the life span of the Library. Located in Freedman’s Town, The Gregory School was the 1st African American school located in Houston.

African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street, Houston, TX 77009

April 2022 Update

Architect: tbd
Contractor: tbd
Construction Budget: $3.7M
Current Phase: Consultant Selection
Next Phase: Design in 2022
Schedule: Construction to begin in 2022.

Field is required.