Everett Fly, Architect—African American History & Culture

Posted by on Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 in Blog

Reported by Jacqueline Sinex

President Dale Lowe called the meeting to order. Bill Koen led the pledges, and Carl Noble gave the invocation. Sharon Golden led the group in the Four Way Test (without cue cards!). Chris Forrest and James Gavin greeted guests at the registration table, and Carl Noble welcomed many attending guests in the audience.

Michael Abelson reminded the club about tonight’s Membership Soiree, encouraging everyone to attend with their prospective members and enjoy fellowship while growing participation in the club. Past President Harold Ingersoll shared an update about the Stop Hunger Now program, which will need 100 volunteers to pack 22,000 meals for the hungry. Two shifts are scheduled for February 18, 2017. Mary Reynolds gave reminders about volunteer needs for area schools, and the danger of the Dawson Elementary closure and how the group can help.

During announcements, President Dale mentioned the Scholarship Committee meeting, opportunities to visit Bill Baker, and the upcoming breakfast cluster meetings.

Michael Portman presented the Thank Goodness Basket, when several members gave updates about their lives and gratitude (Bruce Golden, Arnold Garcia, Lee Yeakel and Don Ray George).

After a brief period of fellowship, Ellen Hunt introduced the guest speaker Everett Fly.

Everett is a very accomplished architectural and landscape architecture professional, as well as the recipient of Presidential awards in Humanities. He has been recognized by President George W. Bush and President Obama for his work toward historical preservation. Mr. Fly attended the School of Architecture at University of Texas as well as graduate school at Harvard. During many of his art history studies, he would ask “Where are the Black folks?” The responses from educators were often that there were simply not enough significant contributions in history from Black Americans. Mr. Fly soon discovered that this was a myth, and continued to pursue research locating real history that included Black Americans.

He recalled a professor named Jackson whose lessons sparked his interest and led him to maps in archives that revealed “Freedman’s Village” and areas where slave soldiers were buried after the war, with nameless grave stones. In Arlington’s cemetery, an area known as Section 42 houses many graves of fallen Black soldiers, each with a numerical grave marker.

Later, he discovered significant history in Buffalo, NY. Many areas of Buffalo revealed ties to major historical figures, including the ball field where Jackie Robinson played before he joined the major leagues. Many other influential figures, such as Harriett Tubman and Frederick Douglas, also had ties to this area. Mr. Fly shared a map highlighting some of these significant areas.

As Mr. Fly continued sharing these historical stories, Rotarians learned some interesting facts, including:

  • A gentleman named William Wells Brown was the first African American man to publish a novel, in 1853.
  • Brown’s brother, Ben “Joe” Travis, was a hero of the Alamo (and slave to William B. Travis).
  • Samuel McColluch, Jr. was a mixed-race man who moved to Jackson County, Texas as a free man, but experienced many challenges. He was the first Texas to shed blood (wounded) in the Texas Revolution (at Goliad). Recently, Everett was even contacted by an ancestor of McCulloch to review documents and diaries.

On the topic of education, the Rosenwald School Program was a significant influence on the education of Blacks in America. The program was organized by Booker T. Washington and the CEO of Sears & Robuck. 4,977 schools were built across the South, 527 in Texas. 30 of the schools still exist today.

There is simply a myth that there is no significant African American history. The Humanities Texas organization is an example of one way that these stories can be preserved and passed on. The publication “Black Settlements in America” provides further historical details.

During a Q and A session, we learned that the Clarksville area in Austin is a rare historical example where there are still original features standing. So much of history has already been demolished. We also learned that San Antonio conducted a study of museum attendance and discovered that the majority of museum-goers are black. Mr. Fly believes that Black Americans have a thirst for knowledge of their history, as much of it has been inaccessible.

Comments are closed.