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 also on various local Bicentennial Committees. As the bicentennial year approached, Mrs. Rolla became concerned that the history of Tarrant County’s black citizens 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. In order to rectify this situation, Mrs. 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, art work and other relevant material.
The Society had a three goals: 1) to collect, preserve, and make available to the public, material relating to the history of black people in Tarrant County; 2) to educate the public about the contributions of black citizens to the history of the county, and 3) to help black people in Tarrant County develop the skills necessary to research their family histories, thereby recognizing their importance.
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 & Archives Unit.
The collection was acquired by Lenora Rolla and the Society over many years. There was very little documentation regarding the provenance of the items in the collection. Materials will continue to be added to the collection.
Processing the Collection
When the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Collection was sent to the Library, the initial processing was performed by George Thomas Kellam, Archivist and Ken Hopkins, Manager of the Genealogy, History & Archives Unit. Ruth Ginsburg, a volunteer processed the majority of the collection. Staff members, Harry Max Hill and Kimberly Wells, also processed various aspects of the collection, along with Earlene Jackson, a volunteer. Other volunteers assisted in the processing of the collection including Kelly DeBerry, who worked with the photographs.
Scope and Contents Note
The collection consists of 242 boxes of materials and is arranged into 11 series with the bulk of the items consisting of information dating from the last half of the twentieth century. The series are as follows:
- Series I : Society Records - This series consist of the records relating to the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society.
- Series II : Individual Collections - This series consist of the personal papers of prominent individuals in the black community of Fort Worth including Bertha Collins, Aureila Harris, Lillian Horace, Francine Morrison and Lenora Rolla.
- Series III : Local Black Community - This collection consists of items relating to the black community of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. It has various sub-series.
- Series IV : Obituaries -This series consists of newspaper obituaries and funeral programs of African-Americans who died in Fort Worth.
- Series V : Scrapbooks - This series consists of various scrapbooks on a wide variety of topics and compiled by unknown individuals.
- Series VI : Newspapers - This series consists of issues of the various African-American newspapers in Fort Worth like the Fort Worth Mind, Fort Worth Defender and Lake Como Weekly. It also includes issues from African-American newspapers from Dallas, Texas and the United States.
- Series VII : Books - This series consists of various books on a wide variety of topics. Of special interest might be the books regarding training of African-American WACS during World War II.
- Series VIII : Photographs - This series consists of photographs of the African-American Community of Fort Worth. They are divided into identified and unidentified and then subdivided by people, groups, and places. Also, there are three boxes of photographs by Peter Feresten, a leading photographer of the black community. NOTE: Many of the photographs are by Calvin Littlejohn, the leading photographer of the black community in Fort Worth. These photographs are noted in the collection and are not to be reproduced without permission of his estate. His collection is located at the University of Texas at Austin. NOTE 2: Photographs are also located throughout the collection mainly in the Individual Collections, i.e. photographs of Francine Morrison would be in with her papers. Also, photographs may be located in individual folders on churches, etc.
- Series IX : Subject Files - This series consists of newspaper clippings, magazines, pamphlets, booklets, etc. on various aspects of the black community.
- Series X : Calendars, Posters and Oversized Items - This series consists of calendars, posters and oversized items relating to African-American history.
- Series XI : Miscellaneous - This series contains materials that did not seem to fit in any other collection or could not be identified as belonging to another collection. The most interesting items are the slave bill of sales.
Note on Finding Aid
The Tarrant County Black Historical & Genealogical Society Collection is an open collection and new materials will be added over the coming years. This finding aid is based on the collection as it was in July 2005.
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Last updated: Oct. 17, 2014