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UT Arlington history chair plays important role in new 'online encyclopedia' of African American history in Texas

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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Media Contact: Bridget Lewis, Office:817-272-3317, Cell:214-577-9094, blewis@uta.edu

News Topics: history, humanities, Internet, liberal arts

The Texas State Historical Association launches a new “Handbook of African American Texas” today with the help of UT Arlington History Department chairman W. Marvin Dulaney, as the nation remembers Juneteenth, or June 19, 1865.

W. Marvin Dulaney

W. Marvin Dulaney

That’s the day that Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and freed all remaining slaves in Texas. The state historical association invited Dulaney, an associate professor of history, to write the lead essay and other significant portions of the new online handbook. He authored entries for the organization’s pioneering “Handbook of Texas” 17 years ago.

“This new handbook is like an online encyclopedia of African Americans in Texas,” Dulaney said. “There is no other source like it in the state. It is authoritative, documented and verified with citations. The 850-plus entries are compiled by a wide range of scholars and graduate students who do research on African-American history in Texas.”

He added: “The handbook will be a great resource for teachers, students and anyone interested in Texas history.”

Merline Pitre, project director of The Handbook of African American Texas, said Dulaney’s involvement was key to bringing the project to fruition.

“He has helped to acknowledge the struggles and accomplishments of blacks in Texas and the need to preserve this history,” Pitre said.

In addition to writing the lead essay, Dulaney authored entries on the world-class Dallas African American Museum and Julia Scott Reed, the first African-American columnist for The Dallas Morning News (1967-1978).

Other noteworthy entries include one about Estevanico, a Moor, who was the first African Texan on record. In 1528, Estevanico accompanied Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca to the territory that would become Texas, was captured by Native Americans and held captive for five years.  Zuni Indians killed Estevanico on a second failed expedition.

Dulaney said details such as these will help people explore myths and misunderstandings about blacks in Texas.

The timing of the digital history site launch coincides with the day that news of the end of slavery finally reached Texas – more than two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. Meanwhile, a quarter million enslaved Africans in Texas had worked without pay for two seasons, not knowing they had been legally freed.  

Beth Wright, dean of the UT Arlington College of Liberal Arts, said Dulaney’s contribution to The Handbook of African American Texas highlights not only his individual expertise but the commitment by the Department of History and UT Arlington to enriching historical assets available to the public.

“Digital humanities technology enables our scholars to showcase visual as well as textual information, and they allow our researchers to update information as new discoveries are made,” Wright said. “I know that this handbook will enlighten everyone and will be a permanently useful resource.”

Dulaney described the work as a labor of love and said he hopes people will use the handbook to learn more about the African American experience in Texas and to see how essential the stories are to understanding the history of Texas overall.

“Most people think Texas history started with the Alamo and ends with the Dallas Cowboys,” Dulaney said. “People will be able to search this site and see how broad Texas history is.”

Visit www.tshaonline.org/handbook/arfican-americans to learn more about The Handbook of African American Texas.

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of about 33,800 students and more than 2,200 faculty members in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

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The University of Texas at Arlington is an Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action employer.

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