Building a Community: The First Century of African American Life in Travis County

Press Release

September 10, 2012
Contact: Kanya Lyons | (512) 974-7379

Building a Community: The First Century of African American Life in Travis County, a new exhibit that takes visitors on a sojourn through a century of African American history in the Travis County area, opens on September 25, 2012 and runs through March 24, 2013 at the Austin History Center (AHC), 810 Guadalupe St. The Austin History Center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 12 noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The exhibit is free to the public. For more information please call 512-974-7480 or visit

The exhibit focuses on 1839 through 1940, the first century of African American life in Travis County, and explores the contributions and achievements as well as the obstacles faced in building a community and obtaining the American dream. Hundreds of documents and photographs mined from the AHC’s collections illustrate these stories and help reveal periods of this history that need documentation to complete the picture.

The first record of African Americans in Texas is widely believed to have begun with Estevanico, a slave held by Spanish Explorer, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza. In 1528, Estevanico was one of four survivors of the ship- wrecked Pánfilo de Narváez expedition that was stranded off the Texas coast. Although he would later be killed by the Zuni Indians, he played an important role as a translator between the explorers and the native tribes they encountered. His account, along with the other explorers, offered vital information about the Texas coast that helped lead to further exploration and eventual settlement of Texas by the Spanish.

Estevanico and other African Americans have contributed to building, protecting and supporting America. In fact, some historians estimate that Africans have been living in Texas for more than four hundred years; yet, little is known about these individuals and communities. Unfortunately, the African American story is lost in the pages of history due to lack of documentation. The AHC’s new exhibit Building a Community: The First Century of African American Life in Travis County is an attempt to bring some of that information to light.

Related programs will be offered throughout the exhibit’s run. Check for more details as these programs are planned.

Photo credit: Austin History Center PICA 36059