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Martin Luther King Jr. statue at University of Texas
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Black history in Austin: 15 notable landmarks

See the historic spaces and people that shaped black culture and civil rights in the city

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Martin Luther King Jr. statue at University of Texas
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Tracing African-American history in Austin is complicated and compromised, both by the obvious fact of Texas’ history as a Confederate state and by less well-known local history, which includes a 1928 city planning and regulation that dislocated non-white Austinites from around the city to the area east of what is now IH-35 and was then a wide roadway called East Avenue.

While many important sites and landmarks related to Austin’s African-American culture and history have disappeared due to neglect or development, a surprising number remains, particularly (but not only) on the Eastside.

We’ve created a guide map of significant sites speak to that history and the essential role that black Americans have played in the shaping of Austin, much of it in an environment of and struggle against segregation and discrimination. There are many, so please let us know what we missed in the comments.

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1. Barbara Jordan statue on the University of Texas campus

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307 W 24th St
Austin, TX 78705

The first African-American person to serve in the Texas Senate since Reconstruction (1966-72), the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from the South (1972-78), and the first woman to deliver the keynote address at a national party convention (Democratic Convention 1976 and again in 1992), Barbara Jordan was a groundbreaker, a powerful orator, and a force of nature. There is a statue of her at Austin’s airport, and this one on the UT campus, where she also taught, become—in 2009!—the first statue of a woman on the school’s grounds.

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2. Oakwood Annex Cemetery

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1601 Navasota St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 978-2320
Visit Website

It’s Austin’s oldest cemetery, and it’s a big, rambling place that takes up two big Eastside blocks. It’s full of Austin and Texas history—you will see the names of its residents on some of the surrounding streets, as well as in accounts of the Battle of the Alamo—big trees, and lovely monuments. Covering more than 40 acres, the cemetery includes sections historically dedicated to Austin’s African-American, Latino, and Jewish populations. It became a Texas Historic Landmark in 1972 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

3. Downs-Mabson Field

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2816 E 12th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 974-6700
Visit Website

Downs-Mabson Field is a significant place in baseball history. It was once the home field of the Austin Black Senators (a team in the professional “Negro League” of the pre-integration area). Willie Wells was the most famous of the Senators, and you’ll probably see his portrait around town, especially if you go looking for the art of painter/musician Tim Kerr. Other notable players of the time who graced the field were Satchel Paige, Smokey Joe Williams, Willie Mays, and Buck O’Neil. It was also the home ballpark of Samuel Huston College before it combined with Tillotson College in 1952, and the Huston Tillotson University Rams continue to play there.

4. Texas African American History Memorial

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100 W 11th St
Austin, TX 78701

Overdue but still utterly necessary, the Texas African American History Memorial was installed on the state Capitol grounds in 2016. It serves multiple purposes, including honoring, acknowledging, and commemorating Texas’s African American population and culture and the people, collectively and individually, who contributed to it. Sculpted by Ed Dwight, it encapsulates African American history from the 1500s to the present, features depictions of Hendrick Arnold and Barbara Jordan, and includes elements acknowledging Juneteenth (June 19, 1865), the day enslaved African Americans finally received news of their emancipation.

5. W.H. Passon Historical Society

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1501 E 12th St
Austin, TX 78702

Named after educator Wesley H. Passon (1864-1933), who in 1907 wrote what is believed to be the first published history focused on African Americans in Austin, the society was formed in 1975 to preserve related materials and sites. Although tours of the collection inside the building are currently unavailable, the Gothic Revival house—a National Register of Historic Places site—and the outdoor sculptures are worth a look.

W.H. Passon Historical Society on East 12th Street
Larry D. Moore (CC BY-SA 3.0)

6. The Limerick-Frazier House

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1501 E 12th St
Austin, TX 78702

The Swede Hill home was built in 1876 by Joseph Limerick, an immigrant and stonemason, and purchased in 1905 by John W. Frazier, a professor at Samuel Huston College. After his death, his widow, Laura Allman Frazier, operated the house as lodging for African American students and travelers during the segregated Jim Crow era. The building has also been an important site in recent history. Author and educator Toni Tipton-Martin, whose book The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks won a James Beard Foundation award among others, taught local children the history and virtues of healthy home cooking there as well as launching the Pies for Peace initiative, which carries on today, from the house.

The Limerick-Frazier House
Larry D. Moore via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

7. The Connelly-Yerwood House

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1115 E 12th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 608-7298
Visit Website

The former of home of the Kate and Michael Connelly family, who built it was built in 1904, the small pink house stands out on East 12th Street as one of the few remaining homes of its time, one once surrounded by many similar houses. Dr. Charles Yerwood bought the house in 1926 and opened a practice on East Sixth Street in the late 1920s. His daughters, Connie and Joyce, became doctors, and Connie Yerwood moved back to Austin in 1936 to become the first African American doctor to work for what is now the Department of State Health Services. The building is currently owned by the city of Austin’s Neighborhood Conservation and Development department and serves as the office for the Anderson Community Development Corporation.

Small pink Victorian-era house
Connelly Yerwood House
Larry D. Moore via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

8. The Colored Teachers State Association building

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1191 Navasota St
Austin, TX 78702

The building that housed the Colored Teachers State Association building, serving African American teachers from 1952 until 1966, is significant not only for the group’s central role in desegregating Texas public schools and winning equal rights and wages for the state’s African-American teachers; it was also designed by John S. Chase, was the state’s first African-American architect. The family of Ella Mae Pease purchased it for her use as a hair salon in 1972, and it became a social center for the the neighborhood. In 2017, the University of Texas purchased it to preserve Chase’s and the organization’s legacy and to function as a community engagement center. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a state landmark as well.

Small, one-story building with flat roof and historic marker in front
House of Elegance, in former Colored Teachers State Association
Cindy WIdner

9. Rosewood Courts

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Rosewood Ave
Austin, TX 78702

Unlike many of the places on this list, Rosewood Courts is a fully occupied housing complex—private residences rather than a monument or space open to the public (although a stroll up Chicon Street north of Rosewood Avenue will give you a good idea of their look and layout). It’s also an important place in the history of Austin as well as of the United States in general. They were the first housing projects built for African Americans under the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 and, as with Santa Rita and Chalmers Courts a few blocks north, future U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson played a key role in their development when he was still a U.S. congressman.

10. L.C. Anderson High School (final Eastside location)

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900 Thompson St
Austin, TX 78702

This history of Austin’s Anderson High School is an emblematic story of dislocation and near erasure. It starts with Robertson Hill School, built in 1884 at San Marcos and 11th streets. One of the city’s first schools for black children, it was relocated to Olive and Curve streets in 1907, adding high school grades and renamed E.H. Anderson High School. In 1913, it moved to Pennsylvania Street, on the current site of Kealing Middle School. In 1938, it was renamed in memory of L.C. Anderson, E.H.’s brother and a longtime principal. In 1953, a new Anderson High School opened at on Thompson Street but closed in 1971 as part of a court-ordered desegregation plan. A completely decontextualized L.C. Anderson High School on Mesa Drive in Northwest Austin opened in 1974. There have since been efforts to represent the school’s history and accomplishments when it was on the Eastside, both at its current location and in East Austin.

Low, long red brick building, lawn, trees, street in front
Final Eastside site of L.C. Anderson High School
Via Google Street View

11. George Washington Carver Museum

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1165 Angelina St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 974-4926
Visit Website

The Carver Public Library was Austin’s first, and the museum next door is an important expansion of that foundational legacy. It’s also a place that encompasses history, contemporary art, and community—a gathering spot that hosts events and festivals throughout the year. Be sure to see the outdoor sculptures, particularly the moving Juneteenth monument and other statuary around the outside of the building.

12. Texas Music Museum

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1009 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 472-8891
Visit Website

The Texas Music Museum collects and preserves artifacts, documents, and reference material surrounding the diverse traditions of Texas music and uses these collections in the presentation of exhibits, educational programs, and performances. African-American and Latinx musicians are more well-represented here than they are in many popular music museums.

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13. Victory Grill

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1104 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Victory Grill opened in 1945 and gained national renown as a live blues, jazz, and soul club on the “chitlin circuit,” a term that refers to the music venues where African American musicians could play during segregation. Inside are numerous photos and histories from that time and beyond. The former nightclub is now open on a sporadic basis, usually rented out for live shows, and various efforts to serve food at the front cafe have been sadly short-lived. Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, an outdoor venue (with food trucks!) next to the restaurant and club, carries the torch for the historic space, hosting live jazz, soul, blues, and other events on a full-time basis.

Victory Grill
Victory Grill, 2011
Larry Moore, via WIkimedia Commons

14. Huston Tillotson University

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900 Chicon St
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 505-3000
Visit Website

In 1878, Samuel Huston College moved to Austin from Dallas, where the Ku Klux Klan had burned down its building. Then located on San Bernard Street where Wesley United Church now stands, it was the first institution of higher learning in Austin. Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute opened on Chicon Street in 1881. In 1952, the two merged to become Huston Tillotson College. The institution changed its name to Huston Tillotson University in 2005, but it still presides over East Austin from the original hilltop location of the Tillotson campus.

Anthony and Louise Viaer Alumni Hall at Huston-Tillotson University
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

1. Barbara Jordan statue on the University of Texas campus

307 W 24th St, Austin, TX 78705

The first African-American person to serve in the Texas Senate since Reconstruction (1966-72), the first African American woman elected to the U.S. Congress from the South (1972-78), and the first woman to deliver the keynote address at a national party convention (Democratic Convention 1976 and again in 1992), Barbara Jordan was a groundbreaker, a powerful orator, and a force of nature. There is a statue of her at Austin’s airport, and this one on the UT campus, where she also taught, become—in 2009!—the first statue of a woman on the school’s grounds.

307 W 24th St
Austin, TX 78705

2. Oakwood Annex Cemetery

1601 Navasota St, Austin, TX 78702

It’s Austin’s oldest cemetery, and it’s a big, rambling place that takes up two big Eastside blocks. It’s full of Austin and Texas history—you will see the names of its residents on some of the surrounding streets, as well as in accounts of the Battle of the Alamo—big trees, and lovely monuments. Covering more than 40 acres, the cemetery includes sections historically dedicated to Austin’s African-American, Latino, and Jewish populations. It became a Texas Historic Landmark in 1972 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

1601 Navasota St
Austin, TX 78702

3. Downs-Mabson Field

2816 E 12th St, Austin, TX 78702

Downs-Mabson Field is a significant place in baseball history. It was once the home field of the Austin Black Senators (a team in the professional “Negro League” of the pre-integration area). Willie Wells was the most famous of the Senators, and you’ll probably see his portrait around town, especially if you go looking for the art of painter/musician Tim Kerr. Other notable players of the time who graced the field were Satchel Paige, Smokey Joe Williams, Willie Mays, and Buck O’Neil. It was also the home ballpark of Samuel Huston College before it combined with Tillotson College in 1952, and the Huston Tillotson University Rams continue to play there.

2816 E 12th St
Austin, TX 78702

4. Texas African American History Memorial

100 W 11th St, Austin, TX 78701

Overdue but still utterly necessary, the Texas African American History Memorial was installed on the state Capitol grounds in 2016. It serves multiple purposes, including honoring, acknowledging, and commemorating Texas’s African American population and culture and the people, collectively and individually, who contributed to it. Sculpted by Ed Dwight, it encapsulates African American history from the 1500s to the present, features depictions of Hendrick Arnold and Barbara Jordan, and includes elements acknowledging Juneteenth (June 19, 1865), the day enslaved African Americans finally received news of their emancipation.

100 W 11th St
Austin, TX 78701

5. W.H. Passon Historical Society

1501 E 12th St, Austin, TX 78702
W.H. Passon Historical Society on East 12th Street
Larry D. Moore (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Named after educator Wesley H. Passon (1864-1933), who in 1907 wrote what is believed to be the first published history focused on African Americans in Austin, the society was formed in 1975 to preserve related materials and sites. Although tours of the collection inside the building are currently unavailable, the Gothic Revival house—a National Register of Historic Places site—and the outdoor sculptures are worth a look.

1501 E 12th St
Austin, TX 78702

6. The Limerick-Frazier House

1501 E 12th St, Austin, TX 78702
The Limerick-Frazier House
Larry D. Moore via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Swede Hill home was built in 1876 by Joseph Limerick, an immigrant and stonemason, and purchased in 1905 by John W. Frazier, a professor at Samuel Huston College. After his death, his widow, Laura Allman Frazier, operated the house as lodging for African American students and travelers during the segregated Jim Crow era. The building has also been an important site in recent history. Author and educator Toni Tipton-Martin, whose book The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks won a James Beard Foundation award among others, taught local children the history and virtues of healthy home cooking there as well as launching the Pies for Peace initiative, which carries on today, from the house.

1501 E 12th St
Austin, TX 78702

7. The Connelly-Yerwood House

1115 E 12th St, Austin, TX 78702
Small pink Victorian-era house
Connelly Yerwood House
Larry D. Moore via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The former of home of the Kate and Michael Connelly family, who built it was built in 1904, the small pink house stands out on East 12th Street as one of the few remaining homes of its time, one once surrounded by many similar houses. Dr. Charles Yerwood bought the house in 1926 and opened a practice on East Sixth Street in the late 1920s. His daughters, Connie and Joyce, became doctors, and Connie Yerwood moved back to Austin in 1936 to become the first African American doctor to work for what is now the Department of State Health Services. The building is currently owned by the city of Austin’s Neighborhood Conservation and Development department and serves as the office for the Anderson Community Development Corporation.

1115 E 12th St
Austin, TX 78702

8. The Colored Teachers State Association building

1191 Navasota St, Austin, TX 78702
Small, one-story building with flat roof and historic marker in front
House of Elegance, in former Colored Teachers State Association
Cindy WIdner

The building that housed the Colored Teachers State Association building, serving African American teachers from 1952 until 1966, is significant not only for the group’s central role in desegregating Texas public schools and winning equal rights and wages for the state’s African-American teachers; it was also designed by John S. Chase, was the state’s first African-American architect. The family of Ella Mae Pease purchased it for her use as a hair salon in 1972, and it became a social center for the the neighborhood. In 2017, the University of Texas purchased it to preserve Chase’s and the organization’s legacy and to function as a community engagement center. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a state landmark as well.

1191 Navasota St
Austin, TX 78702

9. Rosewood Courts

Rosewood Ave, Austin, TX 78702

Unlike many of the places on this list, Rosewood Courts is a fully occupied housing complex—private residences rather than a monument or space open to the public (although a stroll up Chicon Street north of Rosewood Avenue will give you a good idea of their look and layout). It’s also an important place in the history of Austin as well as of the United States in general. They were the first housing projects built for African Americans under the U.S. Housing Act of 1937 and, as with Santa Rita and Chalmers Courts a few blocks north, future U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson played a key role in their development when he was still a U.S. congressman.

Rosewood Ave
Austin, TX 78702

10. L.C. Anderson High School (final Eastside location)

900 Thompson St, Austin, TX 78702
Low, long red brick building, lawn, trees, street in front
Final Eastside site of L.C. Anderson High School
Via Google Street View

This history of Austin’s Anderson High School is an emblematic story of dislocation and near erasure. It starts with Robertson Hill School, built in 1884 at San Marcos and 11th streets. One of the city’s first schools for black children, it was relocated to Olive and Curve streets in 1907, adding high school grades and renamed E.H. Anderson High School. In 1913, it moved to Pennsylvania Street, on the current site of Kealing Middle School. In 1938, it was renamed in memory of L.C. Anderson, E.H.’s brother and a longtime principal. In 1953, a new Anderson High School opened at on Thompson Street but closed in 1971 as part of a court-ordered desegregation plan. A completely decontextualized L.C. Anderson High School on Mesa Drive in Northwest Austin opened in 1974. There have since been efforts to represent the school’s history and accomplishments when it was on the Eastside, both at its current location and in East Austin.

900 Thompson St
Austin, TX 78702

11. George Washington Carver Museum

1165 Angelina St, Austin, TX 78702

The Carver Public Library was Austin’s first, and the museum next door is an important expansion of that foundational legacy. It’s also a place that encompasses history, contemporary art, and community—a gathering spot that hosts events and festivals throughout the year. Be sure to see the outdoor sculptures, particularly the moving Juneteenth monument and other statuary around the outside of the building.

1165 Angelina St
Austin, TX 78702

12. Texas Music Museum

1009 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702

The Texas Music Museum collects and preserves artifacts, documents, and reference material surrounding the diverse traditions of Texas music and uses these collections in the presentation of exhibits, educational programs, and performances. African-American and Latinx musicians are more well-represented here than they are in many popular music museums.

1009 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702

13. Victory Grill

1104 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702
Victory Grill
Victory Grill, 2011
Larry Moore, via WIkimedia Commons

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Victory Grill opened in 1945 and gained national renown as a live blues, jazz, and soul club on the “chitlin circuit,” a term that refers to the music venues where African American musicians could play during segregation. Inside are numerous photos and histories from that time and beyond. The former nightclub is now open on a sporadic basis, usually rented out for live shows, and various efforts to serve food at the front cafe have been sadly short-lived. Kenny Dorham’s Backyard, an outdoor venue (with food trucks!) next to the restaurant and club, carries the torch for the historic space, hosting live jazz, soul, blues, and other events on a full-time basis.

1104 E 11th St
Austin, TX 78702

14. Huston Tillotson University

900 Chicon St, Austin, TX 78702
Anthony and Louise Viaer Alumni Hall at Huston-Tillotson University
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

In 1878, Samuel Huston College moved to Austin from Dallas, where the Ku Klux Klan had burned down its building. Then located on San Bernard Street where Wesley United Church now stands, it was the first institution of higher learning in Austin. Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute opened on Chicon Street in 1881. In 1952, the two merged to become Huston Tillotson College. The institution changed its name to Huston Tillotson University in 2005, but it still presides over East Austin from the original hilltop location of the Tillotson campus.

900 Chicon St
Austin, TX 78702