Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004 Page: 50
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A RESEARCH CHALLENGE:
The African American Experience in Dallas, Texas
BY W. MARVIN DULANEY
frican-American history in Dallas,Texas, is a
very exciting and dynamic field, consisting
of a combination of themes. First is an "Old
South" theme, where African Americans confronted
a system of racial segregation and discrimination
similar to that confronted by African
Americans in other parts of the South. Second is
a theme of urban growth, with the accompanying
issues of gaining political access and influ
encing the city's development.
Finally, there is a "New South"
theme, where African
Americans have become a part
of the economic boom that has
characterized many New South
cities like Dallas in the postWorld
War II period. These
themes are important because
they help us understand the history
and experience of African
Americans in Dallas and point
us toward interpretations that
illuminate and illustrate why the
city's African-American experience
is important and unique.
This essay addresses the latter problem.
Both scholars and amateur historians have
written much about the history of Dallas. The
success of the city as a center of business, industry,
and culture in the Southwestern United
States has prompted those who want to
acknowledge, document, and celebrate that success
to write a voluminous amount of literature
on all aspects
With only a few exceptions,
preserving the African-American
experience is a twentiethcentury
Only a few archives and
libraries made any effort to
document and preserve African
American history and culture
Nevertheless, while researching the AfricanAmerican
experience in Dallas has been a very
worthwhile and invigorating endeavor for me, it
has also caused me some frustration because of
the lack of good archival and manuscript
sources. Thus, to write a history of African
Americans in the city one has to do two things:
find sources in private collections to supplement
existing resources and review and evaluate the
small amount of secondary literature available.
of its history. In addition, a substantial
number of personal and
public archival collections exist
to make amateur research and
professional scholarship on
There has not been a similar
amount of writing and
scholarship on the history of
African Americans in Dallas.
While some of the city's general
histories make an effort to
note the roles of African
Americans in various events
and seek to address the issue of
race relations in the city, there is
still no comprehensive history of African
Americans in Dallas.'
Amateur and professional historians confront
several problems when they attempt to
write about the history of the city's African
Americans. Perhaps the most important problem
they face is the lack of primary sources and good
archival collections. There are seven important
archival collections that assist historians who
write about African Americans in Dallas history.
They are the papers of A. Maceo Smith, the two
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004, periodical, 2004; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35092/m1/52/: accessed July 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.