Surrounded by posters about local Black history on the walls of St. Frederick’s Baptist Church in Marble Falls, Bessie Jackson talks about plans to kick off fundraising efforts for a Black History Museum on church grounds. Staff photo by Suzanne Freeman
This year’s Black History Month celebration at St. Frederick’s Baptist Church in Marble Falls kicks off the official fundraising campaign for a Black History Museum the church plans to build. The goal is to eventually raise $150,000 to $200,000 to construct, furnish, and set up the museum on its property at 301 Avenue N.
“We want to open it to the whole spectrum of Black history, not just for February,” said museum chairman Bessie Jackson, referring to Black History Month.
From 7-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 25, Calvin Richard and Brian Smith will speak on “The Struggle is Real.” Richard moved into Marble Falls, where he established a successful Christian-based fitness studio. Smith, who is Jackson’s grandson, moved out of Marble Falls to find his success. Both faced struggles on their journeys.
On Saturday, Feb. 26, festivities begin at 11 a.m. and run until 2 p.m. at the church. A free meal will be served for dine-in or takeout. World-culture musician Caleb Rojas will perform. Family activities and other entertainment are also planned.
Although the event is free, donations to the museum project will be gratefully accepted as well as sponsorships. Jackson has been busy sending letters seeking sponsors to start the construction.
Some of what the museum will highlight can be seen inside the church, where clippings from local and national publications are posted alongside contemporary and historical photographs and funeral programs for those who have died.
Along with highlighting Black history, the museum will spotlight Black members of the community who graduated from Marble Falls High School and have gone on to make a difference in the world, including Jackson’s daughter, Becky Smith Davis of Atlanta.
“She’s the owner of a company called The Bosspreneur Business Circle,” Jackson said. “She was featured in Essence Magazine in their November/December issue. She’s been on a lot of magazine covers.”
Other examples are Marquita Pride, who was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott to the State Board of Dental Examiners last year; Charles Washington, who just retired after 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps; and Marble Falls High School track star Ann Foster, who was inducted into the Abilene Christian University Sports Hall of Fame.
And there are more.
“They don’t teach that in schools,” Jackson said. “Some of these kids come from horrible backgrounds, but they did not use that as an excuse. They overcame that and are successful.”
The ultimate hope is that highlighting locals who have made good will inspire others to work harder for their own success.
“If we can get some knowledge out there for our kids to see and be inspired, then they can say, ‘I need to do better, I’m somebody,’” Jackson said. “This is knowledge-based. That’s how it helps. Teach me, teach me, teach me. Teach me there is hope. If you don’t know you can do better, then you are not going to do any better.”
Once completed, the museum will be open for tours and school field trips.
“If we don’t get but one to get out of the rut, I think it’d be worth it all,” she said. “If you take away the stigma that you’re not going to be anything, then you have equal opportunity.”
The St. Frederick’s Black History Museum is being designed to highlight and encourage that opportunity.
“If I can help somebody before I pass along then my living won’t be in vain,” Jackson said. “I want everybody to be the best they can be.”
BLACK HISTORY MONTH’S HISTORY
President Gerald Ford designated February as Black History Month to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” The year was 1976, when the nation celebrated its bicentennial. The origins of highlighting Black history in February date to 1915 with the establishment of what is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In 1926, the group set aside the second week of February as a time to focus on Black history, a time that marked the birthdays of both President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass.