At one time Travis County hosted forty-two rural schools for black children. Without telephones and other modern tools of communications, school and church activities became the main focal point for their communities. The schools were always strapped for money and the school year was short, usually between four and seven months a year.

Because Samuel Huston and Tillotson Colleges, both located in Austin, emphasized teacher education, the rural black schools of Travis County benefited from many eminently qualified teachers. Teachers often taught four or more grades in one room. By the time students reached 7th grade they had heard all the lessons hundreds of times and many dropped out to go to work.

Personal Stories

When Juanita Martin Manor, Manor School Class of '29 Valedictorian, started first grade, there were many boys and girls in her class. By the time she graduated only four girls remained.

Henry Lee Underwood attended Summit School in the 1930s until the school burned down. Classes were then moved to the St. Stephens Church, which later became St. Stephens School.

In 2001 the Pflugerville Independent School District recognized Fannie Mae Caldwell, a teacher at the old Pflugerville and Comanche schools in the '20s, '30s and '40s, by naming the Fannie Mae Caldwell Elementary School in her honor.

Project History

The preceding items present just a small glimpse into the Historic Rural Black Schools Project. The project, sponsored by the Travis County Historical Commission, was started by Berdie Caldwell and continued by Margarine Beaman. Through interviews, records and other documentation their work offers us a unique view of our community's rich history.