After a year of hands-off social distancing, COVID has stimulated our historical memory to memorialize “Four Galveston Women” by the name of Maud Cuney-Hare, Jessie McGuire Dent, Albertine Hall Yeager and Izola Fedford Collins for their outstanding contributions.

Each of these women were educators, as well as artists. Their life stories interpret America and Texas. Women are the bearers of culture and teaching is kin to preparing others for life, mentoring them to excel in leadership and how to handle adversity and racism.

Cuney-Hare (1874-1936), born to mixed-race parents, attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While considered privileged, she fought to secure political and economic freedom for people with African heritage.

Dent (1891-1948) was a founder of the second all-Black female sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, along with four other girls from Texas who were at Howard University in the nation’s capital and participated when white women marched in the 1913 parade for equal voting rights.

Yeager’s (1897-1969) work was closer to home, by providing a loving home for as many as 1,000 children who were either orphaned or whose mothers required child care. And in spite of any and all racism, Galveston is the city which magnifies emancipation, on an island of color where people lived and worked together before and after the Civil War.

Collins (1929-2017) ends the Nia Cultural Center’s series of reenactments by conducting the Galveston Symphony Orchestra to perform her original composition “Galveston Survives.”

The Nia Cultural Center educates; conducts Freedom School each summer; has conducted Girl’s Rites of Passage ceremonies; and honors and recognizes Juneteenth each year. This year, in spite of Confederate monuments coming down, Nia is building up memorials to African Americans born and bred on the island, who enriched the island’s culture, its commerce and its communities.

These “Four Galveston Women” will be featured in a Juneteenth celebration event, including a film screening and discussion, at 6 p.m. June 11 at the Juneteenth Legacy Project’s headquarters at 2211 Strand in Galveston. Naomi Carrier, an author, historian and founder and executive director of the Texas Center for African American Living History will be the presenter.

We’re also working to have a reenactment event with QR codes at Wright Cuney Park, McGuire Dent Recreation Center at Menard Park, The Albertine Youth Crisis Center of Galveston County and Reedy Chapel A.M.E. Church, all on Galveston Island, which will be one of several African American tours that will enhance the Emancipation National Historic Trail, now being studied by the National Park Service.

For information, you can call me at 409-457-8955.

Sue Johnson is the executive director of the Nia Cultural Center in Galveston.


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