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Fort Worth Flashback: Miz Rolla’ secured a place for local black history

Posted Feb. 17, 2013

In honor of Black History Month, each week in February Fort Worth Flashback will take a look at the role of African-American residents in our city’s history.

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In 1974, Lenora Rolla, a black journalist and political activist, was a docent at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and was serving on various bicentennial committees. As the bicentennial year approached, Rolla stressed that the history of Tarrant County’s black residents should be recognized during the celebrations.

As she delved into the history of the black community of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, she found that none of Tarrant County’s universities or libraries held any significant material relating to black history, although important archival material existed in private collections.

Rolla — known in the community as “Miz Rolla” — and a few of her friends organized the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society, which began to collect personal papers, scrapbooks, clippings, photographic collections, artwork and other relevant material.

The original home of the society was a small frame house on Rosedale Avenue. The society eventually acquired the Boone House, a large two-story structure on Humbolt Street. Unfortunately, while there was adequate space, the house had many structural problems, and the collection was endangered.

A new, secure home was found in 1997 when the collection of the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society was placed on permanent loan in the Fort Worth Public Library’s Genealogy, History and Archives unit.

This photo, from the archives, shows Rolla meeting President Lyndon B. Johnson.

The Fort Worth Library has approximately 10,000 items pertaining to the history of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. These items include city and county government documents, newspapers, directories, cemetery association records, maps as well as popular and scholarly books written by local authors or about local subjects. To learn more, call 817-392-7740 or email the Genealogy, History and Archives Section.

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