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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Student presents project at Capitol

Weeks before the semester’s end, UH students study for finals, turn in papers and showcase their class presentations.

One student from The Honors College will go beyond the classroom walls to Washington, D.C. to present research he’s been developing for two years.

History and political science senior Derek Goodwin will bring his project, ‘That part of hell where we should work: Mary B. Talbert and the Texas NAACP,’ to the nation’s capital Tuesday as a part of the Council for Undergraduate Research’s Posters on the Hill.

Goodwin said he was inspired to develop his presentation after reading an article about the late Talbert, a civil rights activist.

‘The project I’m doing is a study on the early history of the (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) in Texas from about 1918 to 1920,’ Goodwin said. ‘I first started the research project in 2007. I received a grant from the University to work on it, and I’m going to continue working on it next year as my thesis.’

Goodwin said he originally had no intentions of participating in a major research conference such as Posters on the Hill, but he was encouraged by a UH staff member.

‘Karen Weber is the Program Director of Undergraduate Research at UH, and she let me know about the opportunity and it worked out,’ Goodwin said. ‘I just submitted the application, and it got accepted.’

History professor Orson Cook has guided Goodwin along in his research efforts.

Cook said Goodwin’s journey has had its share of bumps.

‘Derek was clever and resourceful enough to find other ways around (obstacles),’ Cook said. ‘I was impressed with him because of his ability to roll with the punches. My job was to direct him as to where the research should go.’

Goodwin said his mentor provided him with a lot of encouragement for the project.

‘I took a history class with Dr. Cook, and I asked him if he was interested in guiding me along in a research project,’ Goodwin said. ‘He said he was more than happy to, and he’s been a great help this whole time.”

While Goodwin initially had a few ideas about what he wanted to do research on, he decided to research Talbert because of her incredible story.

‘She was president of the National Association of Colored Women, and she had just started doing work with the NAACP around 1916,’ Goodwin said. ‘There was one little line in that article that mentioned she came to Texas. So we decided to explore that.’

While it took some time adjusting to the routine of a scholar, the information Goodwin found motivated him to continue.

‘We spent a lot of time with the microfilm, looking at NAACP papers, and found out she spent a few months in Texas in late 1918 and established nine new chapters of the NAACP in Texas. And since months after her work in Texas was done, NAACP’s membership numbers in Texas were the largest in the country,’ Goodwin said. ‘That’s remarkable considering Texas is in the deep South during the Jim Crow era.’

In the process of preparing for Posters on the Hill, Goodwin has amassed a remarkable knowledge of his subject, Cook said.

‘Derek is one of the few people in the country who knows about early NAACP history in Texas. The others are professional historians,’ Cook said.

As for Talbert herself, Goodwin said he has gained insight as to why she was so influential.

‘One of the reasons she was so successful was because she was a woman,’ Goodwin said. ‘If W.E.B. Du Bois had come in then, that would have caused a stir, but nobody paid attention to a woman coming into Texas from New Orleans on a train.

‘It’s interesting to note that she went to Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Galveston and Fort Worth, but bypassed Houston. We still don’t know the reason why she did that.’

As Goodwin’s research paints an increasingly vivid picture of the civil rights movement between 1918 and 1920, more questions arise.

Because of this, Goodwin hasn’t drafted a final project quite yet.

‘In terms of developing the project further, I would like to get something published and finish my thesis. The value of undergraduate research is that it prepares you early on,’ Goodwin said.

Cook said he encourages universities to support undergraduate research, especially in the humanities.

‘The Honors College made a lot of this possible, and they’ve been very good at encouraging and supporting undergraduate research,’ Cook said.

During his time in the Capitol, Goodwin said he wants to meet with Texas representatives working on Capitol Hill every day.

‘We’re hoping to get an appointment to see either one of our senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison or John Cornyn, or Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee,’ Goodwin said. ‘It would be nice to meet one of them and let them know what one of their constituents is doing to further the reputation of the University.’

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