WICHITA FALLS, TX - A Wichita Falls Museum is celebrating Black History Month with a very local focus. The Wichita Falls Museum of North Texas History opened an exhibit to celebrate the history of the community and culture of the 'Eastside' of Wichita Falls.
"It was a culture, it was our culture," said Brenda Jarrett, who grew up in the Eastside community.
As you enter the exhibit you greeted by a large wall of portraits representing African American leaders from Wichita Falls Precinct 2 otherwise known as the Eastside part of town. You'll see faces some familiar faces, current WFISD School Board Member Reginald Blow, former WF District 2 City Council leader Annetta Pope-Dotson, and many more community leaders before them.
"What I see is representation I see the opportunity to do the same thing I see not only the opportunity to do the same thing I see but to do even more than they did," said Jarrett.
In the center of the exhibit are two large glass cases, containing actual items from Booker T. Washington High School. Before desegregation Jarrett said the BTWHS was a point of pride for the Eastside community as it was the first all African American School to teach African American children. Both in the classroom and in sports BTWHS excelled in most everything.
"We were high achievers because we were taught to and expected to do that. As a matter of fact, my class motto was 'March Towards Excellence'," said Jarrett.
After opening the doors in 1921 by 1969 the school had closed and was turned into the Washington Jackson Math-Science Center.
"They were really an outstanding football team adding to the long history of great football here in Wichita Falls. When the schools were desegregated many of the players from Booker T. Washington went on to become stars at the other high schools in town," said Charles Campbell, Executive Director of the Museum of North Texas History.
Campbell said the goal of the exhibit was to give visitors a sense of everyday life in the Eastside community.
"Wichita Falls is like a quilt it is made up of very different and varied elements and yet when you look at as one it is a wonderful whole," said Campbell.
Community leaders like Arthur 'Bea' Williams have their own section of wall dedicated to their breakthrough work not only in the Eastside but also in Wichita Falls, and Wichita County.
"My mother is not the kind of person who likes to sit," said Andrea Williams, daughter of Arthur 'Bea' Williams.
The younger Williams said her mother stumbled into public service through a general hope and sense to better her community. Arthur 'Bea' Williams was the first African American and female to become a bailiff in Texas. The older Williams was also the first African American and female to serve as Mayor of Wichita Falls. Just like her mother the younger Williams said she is not afraid of unfamiliar territory, even when it comes to the history of her own home town.
"Anyone who is just curious about how this community came to be will gain something from this exhibit," said Williams.