Diverse Arts History Project: Take One

History Project Blog Post 1: Ian Bratcher - 2/11/14

Recently, I have been conducting most of my research on various Churches, i.e. Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Fontaine Memorial Baptist Church. There are several fascinating documents available, including articles from the Austin American Statesman dating back to the early 1900s.

For Ebenezer, I have found many interesting photos of early church members and choir singers. In addition, I managed to find a document which listed many of the earliest/charter members of the church, which could lead to even deeper investigation into what times were like in Austin near the time of Ebenezer’s founding. Of course, I will not be able to speak with these original members, but have hopes of contacting current Church officials who could perhaps provide some more depth and insight into the founding of one of the largest and oldest (and historically African American) churches in East Austin. Any further information or preferably people to contact concerning Ebenezer History would be extremely valuable!

Through my research, I have found that Prof L.C. Anderson, whom Anderson high school was named after, was a key figure in the early years of Ebenezer. While researching, I came across a copy of the program for his memorial, which was held on January 10th, 1938. I believe the L.C. Anderson would be an essential figure to investigate while delving deeper into Ebenezer history. The charter years, 1875-1891, are key years to look at.

Evidently, most of my research up to this point has been on Ebenezer, but I have also begun to look at other churches and also some schools (St. Johns School and Sims Elementary). While researching, I came across several mentions of the “St. John’s Association” in conjunction with church research, which is something I believe would be useful to look into further. Jacob Fontaine founded the association in 1867.

Therefore, when considering a timeline for African American church growth in Austin, this would be a good starting/focal point. Another important focusing point would be in the early 1900s, when talk of the “negro problem” in Austin gained salience. I happened to come across a few Statesman articles, one from 1903 and one from 1904. The former mentions an appeal by J.F. Dawkins, who was the lawyer for the St. Johns Association at the time, and the latter has a huge headline mentioned one of the largest Baptist church association gatherings, “probably the largest audience ever in Austin”. There is something there….

More to come soon! I am also working on a succinct handout/pamphlet that can be handed out to individuals interested in the project. There will likely be two versions, one of the average individual interested in the content and another more detailed one for those interested in conducting research for the project.