Texas lawmakers seek historic designation for once-segregated Marfa school

September 11, 2020
In The News

Two Texas congressmen — Republican Will Hurd and Democrat Filemon Vela — are pushing legislation to make a once-segregated school in Marfa a National Historic Site.

Hurd and Vela introduced a bill on Friday that would put the Blackwell School — a tiny schoolhouse in the far West Texas town where Mexican and Mexican American children were taught for nearly 60 years — under the supervision of the National Park Service.

While there was no state law that mandated separate schools for Hispanic students, many Texas school districts, including in Marfa, segregated students, according to the Texas Historical Commission.

Blackwell, named for its longtime principal Jesse Blackwell, served as an elementary and middle school until 1965, when Marfa’s schools were integrated and most of the Blackwell campus buildings were razed. Hurd and Vela’s legislation would protect what is left of the school, which Hurd said is “a reminder of de facto segregation throughout the mid-twentieth century.”

“We have a responsibility as a nation to care for these places and ensure the history they represent is told,” Hurd said in a statement. “Blackwell School might represent a dark time in our nation’s past, but we must not shy away from our past so future generations learn from it.”

Vela said the historic designation will “help preserve and maintain the property so that folks across Texas and the nation can visit and learn the history and experiences of Mexican-American families during this time in Texas history.”