It seems that as long as Izola Collins’ family has lived on the island, someone in the group has been doing something to improve the island.

Collins’ ancestor Horace Scull came to Galveston from Port Bolivar in 1865, after declaration of the Emancipation Proclamation. As soon as he was old enough, he joined his father in building homes for newly freed slaves who were coming here.

“They were just looking for freedom and to have a better life,” Collins said.

Collins, 83, who has traced her family history back to the 19th century, said that she believed freed men and women came to the island before 1865 and helped to create a new home for them here.

Collins’ said her grandfather, Ralph Albert Scull, was one of the first African-American men to be schooled in Galveston and then attend college. He went to Ohio for his degree and came to become the island’s first African-American teacher. His sister, Clara, became the second, and the family has been in the teaching business ever since.

“All of us have ended up teaching,” Collins said, noting that her mother would have taught for 52 years were it not for the five-year period she had to take off to raise here children. “That’s all you could do, either teach or preach, or become a domestic organizer.”

Collins was a nine-year member of the Galveston Independent School District board of trustees, and directs the Galveston Heritage Choir and teaches piano lessons in her free time. She is also a published author, having written two books of poetry and another on the history of Juneteenth.

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