February is Black History Month, a time for some to reflect on their heritage. One such place worthy of remembrance is Cuney, Texas.
According to the Cherokee County Historical Commission, the town was originally formed in 1870 by a small group of former slaves. In its early years, the area was known as “Andy,” named for Andrew Bragg, the first former slave to purchase land there.
The town of Cuney is located eight miles northwest of Jacksonville on U.S. Hwy 175.
According to http://texas
escapes.com, in 1916, former Palestine banker H. L. Price moved to Andy and was impressed with the commercial potential and agricultural center for blacks. He formulated the Andy Real Estate Company. He was joined by his son, Cuney Price, who was named for Norris Wright Cuney, a prominent black business and political leader.
According to http://www.whoislog.info, Cuney was born May, 12, 1846, and later became a union leader and a black activist. He became active in Galveston, serving as an Alderman and a national Republican delegate, then rising to the chairmanship of the Texas Republican Party and becoming a national committeeman. Joining Price were, W. D. Thomas, J. Z. Thomas, W. A. Hall and John Bragg. The firm then renamed the town after H. L. Price’s son, Cuney.
“The preservation of all history in our county and in our state is important," said Debra Burkett, a member of the Cherokee County Historical Commission. "Black history must be included in our historical archives as well.”
Burkett said former slaves who moved to the Cuney area worked at sawmills and as tenement farmers. The first government post office was authorized on Nov. 26, 1917, and operated by Lillie Hall, the first postmaster. The first school was a one-room building but, in 1920, expanded in size and the education level rose to Grade 11, according to Burkett.
In 1929, Cuney had 100 people when U.S. Highway 175 was paved. Through the years, the population grew slightly to 170 in 1990. Today, Cuney sits as a reminder of the pioneers and the significant contribution that was made to the heritage of the first all-black community in Texas, according to www.texasescapes.com.
The Cherokee County Historical Commission’s Rusk office continues to gather information about black history.
On a national level, the month of February was selected as Black History Month because it is the birth month of President Abraham Lincoln, born Feb. 12, and Frederick Douglass, a famous abolitionist, born Feb. 14.
Dr. Cater Woodson, the second black man to graduate Harvard University was the son of a slave and he felt that black people should be educated and take pride in their heritage, so in 1920, his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi created “Negro History and Literature Week;” in 1926 he changed the name to “Negro History Week.”
This helped the Equal Rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, but by the 1970s, the name was changed to “Black History Week,” and extended to a month-long observance by 1976.
Donald M. Molloy is a published writer who lives in Chandler, Texas.