Dr. Eric Tang is an associate professor at the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis at UT-Austin. After analyzing that data a few years back, Tang wanted to look more closely at why African-Americans were leaving Austin – specifically, East Austin. KUT’s Jennifer Stayton spoke to Tang about this new research for our On My Block series.
Kealing Middle School Principal Kenisha Coburn is focused on figuring out ways to get the school’s underrepresented students to realize their academic potential. The school is divided between a magnet program, which accepts students from across the district, and the academy program, which is made up of students from the neighborhood. One of the first things Coburn noticed was the racial division between the two programs.
One-fourth of what was once a thriving business corridor for Austin’s African-American community is now owned by Eureka Holdings, a company based in Grapevine, outside Dallas. Eureka is currently renting some of these properties and the buildings on them, other properties are undeveloped and being held for undetermined future plans.
According to a book co-written by the curator of the Austin History Center, the Harlem Theater was one of only seven black-owned theaters in the country in the early 20th century. And, compared to other theaters in Austin, where black customers were either not allowed or segregated to the balcony seats, it offered moviegoers their full rights. On Dec. 30, 1973, it burned to the ground. Neither the Austin Police Department nor the fire department has records of the fire. The community has only ideas about what caused it – perhaps arson, perhaps electrical fire – but no real answers.
Huston-Tillotson University President Colette Pierce Burnette says as the neighborhood surrounding the historically black college expands, the footprint and impact of the university must, as well. HT was once two separate schools founded in the late 19th century, Samuel Huston College and Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute. In 1952, the schools combined.
The murder of 16-year-old Tamika Ross in East Austin in 1992 started a journey for social justice that would take seven long years to complete. The history of the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex may not be well known, but its impact is felt and appreciated throughout the community.
Gary Tharp, owner of Texas Sausage Company, has been running the the business since 1988. He says he’s considered moving from the East 12th Street location, but that it would likely cost more to move than it would to stay put. Tharp’s business has been in his family for the better part of 70 years.
East 11th seems to be the picture of urban renewal in Austin. Since the city launched its revitalization effort in 1999, the street has made significant progress toward becoming a visitor destination. Residential, retail and office development is booming. Just a few blocks away on East 12th, things are a lot quieter.
In East Austin a lot has changed–new homes, new businesses, new residents-–but there are some things that have stayed the same. As part of our On My Block series, KUT’s Lauren Hubbard brings us to Marshall’s Barbershop, a longtime fixture in the neighborhood that’s now one of the few black-owned businesses in the neighborhood.
Judy Mitchell grew up in the neighborhood and raised her children there, but she’s sad that many longtime residents are being offered money to leave their homes and then can’t afford to stay in the neighborhood. Mitchell owns the Ideal Soul Mart at the corner of Angelina Street and Rosewood Avenue.
On one East Austin corner, Bobby Mitchell operates Ideal Soul Mart, Ideal Beauty Salon, and Swamp Daddy’s Cajun food truck. Inches away, Charles Carver operates a law office from an Airstream in the parking lot. The convergence of these varied services is emblematic of the new businesses moving into the neighborhood.
The Black Senators, Austin’s black baseball team in the first part of the 20th century, played at Downs Field in East Austin. The field is now home to the Huston-Tillotson University Rams. Houston artist Reginald Adams and members of the East Austin senior center are commemorating the players by crafting murals.
A parcel of land in the Chestnut neighborhood of East Austin was once home to the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration. Now, it’s the proposed site of a new development that neighbors say would undermine its historical significance.
Meet Vivian Linden and Kathy Duffy, co-owners and practitioners at Rosewood Acupuncture & Ayurveda on Chicon. The office is the manifestation of a business plan they created in school to provide affordable health care to everyone.
Executive Chef and Owner of Big Easy Bar & Grill Darold Gordon, has brought a taste of his hometown of New Orleans to the neighborhood. He opened his restaurant in 2013, about eight years after Hurricane Katrina forced him to move to Central Texas. His restaurant is where the old Club 40 used to be in East Austin.
Barry J.W. Franklin of King Tears Mortuary has been in the funeral business since he was in high school. King Tears Mortuary, located at 12th and San Bernard streets in East Austin.
Charlie’s Playhouse was a blues club entertaining the predominantly black neighborhood in east Austin when it opened in the late 1950s. Within a decade the audience integration was pushing the regulars out, and in 1971 Charlie’s closed. The community is working so history doesn’t repeat itself, on the same block.
A drug market intervention by the Austin Police Department in 2012 changed the activities previously common to 12th & Chicon. Despite the positives from this effort, there have been downsides too. Several of the long-standing businesses in the area are learning to adapt to the new 12th & Chicon.
The KUT newsroom wants to share stories from the people that live near 12th and Chicon and know it best. In doing this, we do feel we have to acknowledge that our news staff does not reflect the diversity of the community we’ll be covering. We have several objectives in this project, and one of them is to learn ourselves, how to better report from this neighborhood and others in Austin. We discussed with Dr. George Sylvie, an associate professor at The University of Texas School of Journalism, the “how to’s” of covering a community we, and other media, may not be familiar with; how do you build trust, how to address stereotypes, how to seek non-official sources, how not to advocate, and more.
Changes in the population of Austin, and the people now living here, are creating opportunities, but they’re also causing tension between the newcomers and the old-timers. The impact in East Austin can be seen through new construction as well as felt by residents.