Research by Lee alum leads to historical marker at Double Bayou Dance Hall

American Studies thesis sets foundation for state recognition of hall known for Texas blues

Photo of the historical marker. Caleb Moore and John Britt stand on either side.
Lee College alumnus Caleb Moore (left) joins retired instructor John Britt at the Double Bayou Dance Hall on Saturday, June 24, 2017, to celebrate the dedication of the official Texas State Historical Marker recognizing the hall’s significance to surrounding communities. Moore completed a thesis for Britt’s American Studies course that focused on the dance hall and led to the marker being erected at the site in Chambers County.

ANAHUAC, TX — Before he began researching the Double Bayou Dance Hall in Chambers County to complete his thesis for the American Studies course offered through the Lee College Honors Program, alumnus Caleb Moore had never heard of the little one-room gathering spot on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” where blues legends like T-Bone Walker and Big Joe Turner stopped to perform on their way to Houston.

Now, many of the facts that Moore uncovered for his research paper grace a Texas Historical Marker recognizing the dance hall’s significance to the predominately African-American community of Double Bayou and those who flocked to it for generations, eager to end a hard day’s work by dancing to the rich sounds of Texas blues filling the rafters and spilling into the surrounding woods.

Established in the late 1920s and constructed of wood, hog wire, and cedar logs under a tin roof, the original dance hall structure was destroyed by a storm in 1941 and rebuilt nearby just after World War II. For Moore, an honored guest at the historical marker dedication ceremony hosted in late June by the Chambers County Historical Commission, it felt good knowing he played a role in ensuring the story of the Double Bayou Dance Hall will endure even if the building itself does not.

“If people don’t write the history down, it disappears,” said Moore, who graduated from Lee College in May 2013. “Now the dance hall has something that will stay, something that’s set in stone. People can look at the marker to remember and learn about their heritage.”

The American Studies class combines American literature and history, using an interdisciplinary approach to help students examine American culture and gain an understanding of how literature reflects historical events. Retired instructor John Britt started the course and was team-teaching with faculty member Kathleen Sydnor when Moore settled on the Double Bayou Dance Hall as the focus of his final capstone project, which requires students to complete a research paper about an event of literary or historical significance.

“Lee College is one of only a few community colleges in the country with an American Studies program,” said Britt, a past executive committee member of the Chambers County Historical Commission and an award-winning author and historian. “I suggested the topic and (Moore) ran with it. He dove right into the research.”

At the dedication ceremony, descendants of the dance hall’s owners and members of the community listened to live music and reminisced on good times over old photos, mementos and plates of barbecue. Moore was surprised to see his own aunt in one of the shots in the photo archive, reminding him of the lesson he learned while working on the thesis that ultimately brought the historical marker to Double Bayou.

“You can think something doesn’t have anything to do with you, but everything in this world has a connection to you,” he said. “You just have to take the time to learn history, talk to people and explore the world around you.”

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

 

Lee College to share recordings of veteran & Baytown oral histories at June 10 event

BAYTOWN, TX — U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient Robert Bean was barely 18 when he left his East Texas home near Kirbyville to complete eight weeks of basic training at Camp Robinson in Arkansas and ship out to Europe, where he would take his place on the front lines of World War II as a private first class in the 12th Armored Division.

“I didn’t want to leave my family … but I was ready to go and get it over with,” Bean shared with a Lee College student in late 2004 as part of an oral history assignment that included recording and transcription of interviews with veterans from the local region.

The recordings and transcripts were then deposited in the archives at the Lee College Library, which has brought them to new life as digital files available now for listening online through the Portal to Texas History at the University of North Texas, and at the fourth annual Veteran’s Appreciation Day set for 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, June 10, at VFW Post 912 on North Main Street in Baytown.

“I’ve often said it made me a man before my time,” Bean recalled of his experiences in the war – from facing combat in Germany and France, to liberating two concentration camps and being seriously wounded by enemy machine gun fire. “I feel like that war and the war with Japan … was the only way to stop Adolf Hitler from eventually coming over here. … But there was nothing fun about it. It’s a nightmare that you try to forget the best you can.”

The library digitized Bean’s oral history and 119 other recordings of former military service members for the Baytown Veteran/Local Oral History Project, funded by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services through a grant to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The TexTreasures Grant aims to increase accessibility to library treasures by helping member libraries make their special collections more accessible to researchers in Texas and beyond. Lee College is one of 13 libraries, colleges and universities across the state awarded a TexTreasures Grant for fiscal year 2017.

The project also included digitization of approximately 70 oral histories about Baytown that were recorded in the 1970s and 1980s in conjunction with Sterling Municipal Library.

The community can hear all 190 digital oral histories for themselves at the Veteran’s Appreciation Day event, where attendees can climb aboard the Lee College Mobile Go Center to listen to the stories and learn more about how the original recordings were converted and made accessible on the Internet.

“This project allowed Lee College to migrate valuable oral information interview from obsolete audiocassette tapes to digital MP3 files. This will help preserve them for a longer period of time,” said Paul Arrigo, library director. “Since they are now in digital format, the library can also share these oral histories to the entire world.”

For more information about the Baytown Veteran/Local Oral History Project at Lee College, contact the library at 281.425.6379 or library@lee.edu. To learn more about the Lee College Mobile Go Center, which is available to come to various venues to assist potential students with higher education and workforce activities, visit www.lee.edu/bearebel.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee College making 190 recorded oral histories digitally accessible via the Internet

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College is bringing the voices and stories of Texas veterans to new life as part of a special project to digitize and securely archive 120 oral histories of former military service members, as well as approximately 70 oral histories that cover the history of Baytown.

Developed by the Lee College Library, the Baytown Veteran/Local Oral History Project is being funded by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services through a grant to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. The TexTreasures Grant aims to increase accessibility to library treasures by helping member libraries make their special collections more accessible to researchers in Texas and beyond. Lee College is one of 13 libraries, colleges and universities across the state awarded a TexTreasures Grant for fiscal year 2017.

As part of its digitization project, the Lee College Library will make about 96 hours of recorded veteran oral histories available for listening online. Once converted, the files will be sent to the Portal to Texas History at the University of North Texas for preservation storage, metadata creation and Internet access.

“This project allowed Lee College to migrate valuable oral information interview from obsolete audio cassette tapes to digital MP3 files. This will help preserve them for a longer period of time,” said Paul Arrigo, library director. “Since they are now in digital format, the library can also share these oral histories to the entire world, whereas previously people had to come to the Lee College Library to listen to them.”

Members of the community can hear the oral histories for themselves – including 35 hours on the history of Baytown – at the fourth annual Veteran’s Appreciation Day to be held from 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday, June 10, at VFW Post 912 on North Main Street in Baytown. Attendees can climb aboard the Lee College Mobile Go Center to listen to the stories and learn more about the digitization process from Lee College librarians, and enjoy family activities like helicopter rides and memorabilia displays at the event.

For more information about the Baytown Veteran/Local Oral History Project at Lee College, contact the library at 281.425.6379 or library@lee.edu.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

‘Sam Houston’ documentary producer Florian to speak at Lee College

Denton Florian
Denton Florian

Denton Florian, producer of a celebrated documentary on legendary American statesman, soldier and pioneer Sam Houston that won five EMMY awards, will deliver a guest presentation Tuesday, March 21, at Lee College. Both the talk and a reception to follow are free and open to the public.

A native Texan known for his storytelling, Florian will speak on “Sam Houston and Ethics” at 6 p.m., in Tucker Hall on campus. At the reception after his presentation, guests will have the opportunity to meet Florian and purchase the “Sam Houston” film.

Florian organized and led the team that produced “Sam Houston,” which assembled more than a dozen historians, biographers, professors, family descendants, Native Americans and government leaders to discuss Houston’s life and enduring legacy. The documentary has been recognized for excellence by concurrent resolutions of the Texas House and Senate and the Texas governor, and its companion website – created by Florian – is used by teachers and researchers all over the world. The film, website and assets collected in the project’s hard drives represent the largest collection of digital information about Sam Houston ever gathered.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and Texas State University, Florian is a lifelong enthusiast of early American history and frequent guest speaker for historical organizations and civic groups around the state. After completing his MBA, he served as vice president of operations for a start-up company that grew into the largest distributor of medical mobility equipment in the United States. He has also worked with non-profit organizations in the areas of strategic planning, team building and organizational change, and currently lives in Spring with his wife, Mary Lou, and their two children.

For more information about Florian’s talk and reception at Lee College, contact instructor John Britt at jbritt@lee.edu.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Mexican American Studies students to unveil mural at Baytown library

BAYTOWN, TX — Students in the Mexican American Studies program at Lee College will unveil a new, hand-painted mural next week at Sterling Municipal Library that draws on the history of Baytown and depicts the stories of those who have made an impact on Latino and multicultural history in the region.

The mural will be revealed in a special reception set for 6-8 p.m., Wednesday, May 4, in the library conference room. The event is free, open to the public, and being presented in conjunction with the Puente Project at Lee College and with the cooperation of Sterling Municipal Library.

A group of 8 students created the mural for “HUMA 2319 – American Minority Studies: Chicano/Latino Art,” an interdisciplinary Mexican American Studies course that examines the diverse cultural, artistic, economic, historical, political and social aspects of minority communities in the United States. Students in the class have explored topics ranging from race and ethnicity to gender, socioeconomic class, sexual origin, and religion.

Much of the public art created in recent years has been more graphical in nature, said Orlando Lara, instructor of the HUMA 2319 course and lead faculty member for the Mexican American Studies program. By contrast, Mexican muralists of the 1920s and 1930s — and later Chicano muralists of the 1970s and 1980s — created artwork that experimented with social and political content. He hopes the students’ mural will begin to bring back the more social and political aspects of art.

“I hope this will help reinvigorate their love of learning, community work and the role that art can play in recovering and acknowledging history,” Lara said. “For the community, both the students and I hope that it will help spur a more robust and urgent public art movement in Baytown.”

Felicite Herrera said creating the mural has given her and her classmates the opportunity to send a message and make people see what is happening in their city. “It’s about empowering everyone and not letting Mexican-American and African-American history be erased,” she said.

For more information about the mural unveiling or the Mexican American Studies program at Lee College, contact Lara at 281.425.6431 or olara.

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Black History Month events at Lee College

BAYTOWN, TX – After kicking off Black History Month with a sold-out improv comedy show, Lee College will continue its celebration of African-American culture and contributions throughout February with film screenings and a read-in, open mic night, fashion show and theatrical tribute to great black inventors.

International Education and the Reaching Excellence Against Limitations student organization are sponsoring a variety of Black History Month activities that are free and open to the public:

Tuesday, Feb. 9: Opening Reception
2 p.m., Lee College Library

Wednesday, Feb. 10: Movie screening: “Selma”
2 pm., Edythe Old Studio

Tuesday, Feb. 16: Documentary screening: “Thomlinson Hill”
2 p.m., John Britt Hall 118

Tuesday, Feb. 16: Open Mic Night
6 p.m., Performing Arts Center Black Box Theatre

Sunday, Feb. 21: “My Black is Beautiful” Fashion Show
3 p.m., Rundell Hall Conference Center

Monday, Feb. 22: Read-In
3 p.m., Edythe Old Studio

Tuesday, Feb. 23: “I Am First: Paying Tribute to Great Black Inventors”
6 p.m., Tucker Hall

Monday, Feb. 29: Movie screening: “Skin”
2 p.m., Edythe Old Studio

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Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Marquez urges students to ‘dig deeper’ into history

Lee College Honors Program alumnus and Northwestern University professor John D. Marquez, Ph.D., isn’t surprised or disheartened when his thoughts about racism and its continued and pervasive presence in society make someone angry — in fact, he’s encouraged.

Causing disruption and stirring disagreement come along with the job of being an activist and “agitator.”

“This is the role that artists and intellectuals play,” Marquez told dozens of Lee College students last week in Tucker Hall, where he appeared as part of the third annual Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Week celebration. “Without facilitating conversations and bringing up issues, we tend to gloss over and mythologize parts of the past as though they have nothing to do with our present.”

A graduate of Robert E. Lee High School, Marquez was also the honored guest at a special reception where he discussed and signed copies of his book, “Black-Brown Solidarity: Racial Politics in the New Gulf South.” The book focuses particular attention on the history of racial tension in his native Baytown — where his parents moved their family decades ago with the hope of earning a good living and achieving the American dream — and how black and Latino citizens came together to fight inequality.

Raised in The Oaks of Baytown — one of the more notorious neighborhoods in the city — Marquez said he and other children from his community were often treated as problems by the local educational system. It wasn’t until he graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, came to Lee College and enrolled in the American Studies honors course with retired instructor John Britt that he believed he could contribute more in school than just athletic ability.

“He was the first person in my life that treated me like a student,” Marquez said of Britt, whom he still considers a role model and mentor. “I impressed a teacher as an intellectual, and I had never felt valued in that way. I’ve been all over the world as an educator and speaker, but that journey started here.”

After graduating from Lee College, Marquez went on to earn his doctoral degree and co-found the Latina and Latino Studies program at Northwestern. His academic success and scholarly pursuits only strengthened his knowledge and resolve as an activist, and he continued to protest and speak out against issues ranging from border militarization to police brutality.

Citing the high numbers of blacks and Latinos currently incarcerated against the low numbers of black and Latino males who have attained a degree, Marquez challenged students to familiarize themselves with the history of their community and its unsung heroes. Be unafraid to speak truth to power, he said.

“Some look at those statistics and blame the victims for their culture, their style of dress, their style of music; they forget that there could be residual effects of a history of oppression and racial tension,” Marquez said. “Try a little harder. Dig a little deeper. The artist in an intellectual society is a moral witness; that’s what unites us all as human beings: the capacity to be honest.”