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Friday, September 29, 2023


Online black history exhibit ‘bears fruit’

The Department of History’s Center for Public History highlights the accomplishments of black doctors through a Web site titled To Bear Fruit for our Race.

Organizers of the online exhibition said it was designed to show another side of black history and to be used as a teaching tool for local high schools.

"Too often African-American history is reduced to slavery or civil rights," Kathleen Brosnan, associate CPH director and associate professor of history, said. "Those are important stories, but like all Americans, African-Americans have a rich tapestry of history that needs to be explored. Many Americans do not realize that in Houston and other U.S. cities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a strong, black professional class emerged."

Brosnan said the Houston Medical Forum president JoAnne Rogers was "eager to honor the pioneers in African-American medicine" and approached CPH about the project.

"This exhibit gave us an opportunity to showcase the leadership and contribution of Houston’s African-American physicians," Brosnan said.

Rogers said she hopes the historical importance of the project will inspire youth and minorities.

"This is a pivotal part of our history," Rogers said.

The program was originally planned in early 2005 as an exhibition that would travel to different schools and educate students in the history of the physicians. The project became an online exhibition in fall 2006 after funding for the traveling exhibition fell short of what was required.

The project was made possible by contributions from different organizations including Humanities Texas, Brosnan said. HMF received a $6,000 grant from Humanities Texas to begin the project. Other donations came from various sources.

"HMF members made donations in excess of $10,000; these supported the research assistants for summer 2007, travel to various archives, permissions and fees for photos and documents," Brosnan said.

The Web site features profiles of several black physicians including Franklin Robey, Edith Irby Jones and Bernard Harris.

Brosnan said the online exhibition could be beneficial to teachers.

"We are eager to see teachers use the Web site in the classroom and, through a grant from Humanities Texas, hired HISD teachers to create lesson plans that meet the state’s examination requirements for middle school and high school students…. By launching the site now, teachers will have time to explore it and contemplate how they will incorporate it in the classroom during Black History Month," Brosnan said.

HMF sent an invitation to the HISD principals and science and social studies teachers at each school for the launch last week and a flyer that they could post around the schools identifying the Web site, Brosnan said.

Fort Bend County teacher Colette Williams said she thinks Web sites like this could help change the face of the way history is taught in public schools.

"I think it’s a major plus to incorporate a site like this with so many resources on such an under-covered topic," Williams said. "It could very well change the way many history teachers teach their lessons."

The exhibition can be viewed online at

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