Notable Black Galvestonians

 Notable Black Galvestonians
Norris Wright Cuney (1846–1898)

Norris Wright Cuney (1846–1898) - businessman, politician, educator, activist.

  • Born near Hempstead, Texas (NW of Houston) to a slave-owning father and enslaved woman.
  • Moved to Galveston after the Civil War (1861-1865); helped victims as volunteer nurse during the 1867 yellow fever epidemic.
  • Inspector of customs at Galveston in 1873. First black Elected alderman in Galveston in 1883 (ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1875). School director of Galveston County in 1871. Collector of customs at Galveston in 1889.
  • In 1879, led the Cotton Jammers Association (black dockworkers who could not get into the Screwmen’s Benevolent Assoc.). 1883 formed Screwmen’s Benevolent Assoc. 2. Only employer who would hire black workers in 1880s-1890s.
  • Went to Reedy Chapel AME. Buried in Lakeview Cemetery. Namesake park is located on 718 41st (Jack Johnson Blvd.).
 Notable Black Galvestonians

“Uncle” Newton Taylor - grave digger, organ blower

  • Also known as “Old Doc.” Born around 1828 in Mississippi, likely into a slave family.
  • Came to Galveston and was hired by Rev. Stephen Bird of Trinity Episcopal Church to be the church’s organ blower and grave digger.
  • Member of Holy Rosary Catholic Church and was well known in community.
  • Believed to have dug hundreds of graves for deceased Galvestonians, and he always attended their services as a mourner.
  • Died in 1905 and is buried in an unmarked plot at the Old Catholic Cemetery.
 Notable Black Galvestonians

John Arthur “Jack” Johnson (1878-1946) - heavyweight boxing champion

  • Became a professional boxer in 1897.
  • Won all but 6 of 113 fights.
  • Sentenced to jail in 1913 for violating Mann Act. Fled the country soon after and toured Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Returned to serve sentence in 1920. Was eventually pardoned May 24, 2018.
  • Received a patent for improvements on a wrench in April 18, 1922.
 Notable Black Galvestonians

Lillian Davis (1897-1955) - Librarian

  • Served as the Librarian for the Rosenberg Library Colored Branch from the 1920s through the 1950s.
  • Admired by students and highly regarded by administrators at the main library.
  • Rosenberg Library’s Colored Branch: began 1905 and discontinued in late 1950s soon after Brown v. Board of Education. John Gibson 1st Librarian.
  • Believed to be the first public library for blacks in the southern United States. Housed in an annex to Central High School, the first African American high school in Texas.
 Notable Black Galvestonians

Jessie McGuire Dent (1891-1948) - Teacher, Dean of Girls, Activist

  • Teacher of Latin and the Dean of Girls at Central High School.
  • Founding member of Delta Sigma Theta.
  • In 1943, sued for equal payment for black educators and other employees in Galveston’s public schools; they had been paid 20% less than white teachers.
  • Dent won the case on June 15, 1943 and the judge ruled that the district increase African American employees’ pay to be equal to Whites by 1945.
 Notable Black Galvestonians
 Notable Black Galvestonians

Leon Augustus Morgan (1909-1993) - educator

  • Teacher and administrator at Galveston ISD from 1934 to 1974. Taught English at Central High School.
  • Became principal of Central in 1941, as well as basketball and debate team coach.
  • Career spans segregated and integrated schools. Played a key role in integrating Galveston schools in the late 1960s.
  • Active in African-American community. Steward at Reedy Chapel AME, founder and director of Old Central Cultural Center, and taught at HBCUs Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern, and Texas College.
  • Buried at Lakeview Cemetery. Namesake school is L.A. Morgan Elementary.
 Notable Black Galvestonians

Alfreda Houston (1940-2006) - Social worker, advocate for the poor

  • Executive Director of St. Vincent’s House, a nonprofit that offers programs such as pre-school, immunization, childcare, Cub Scouts, and other recreation activities to poor and underprivileged families.
  • Graduate of Central High School.
  • First recipient of the Steel Oleander award in Galveston. Also received Rabbi Henry Cohen Humanitarian Award in 1989, the Citizen of the Year Award from the Galveston Daily News in 1997, and the NAACP Juneteenth Image Award, among her many honors.
  • In June 2015, Rosenberg Library selected her as its "Treasure of the Month."

Black Galveston Resources at Rosenberg Library (only a sample)

  • MSS96-0002 and 2001-0008. Alfreda Houston Papers
  • MS91-0008. Juneteenth Celebration Collection. 1985, 1990-1991
  • MSS 83-0049. Leon A. Morgan Papers. 1925-1985, 2000
  • MS87-0033. W. K. Hebert and Company Records. 1919-1968
  • MS89-0019. Armstead, Bert Carson, Jr. Papers. 1923-1989
  • MS2018-0050. Reginald Moore interview on convict leasing system.
  • Special Collections #120. Avenue L Baptist Church Photographic Collection
  • Special Collections #122. Leon A. Morgan Photographic Collection
  • Special Collections #141. Juneteenth Celebration Photographs
  • Special Collections #145 and 177. St. Vincent's Episcopal House Scrapbooks
  • African Americans of Galveston, Tommie Boudreaux
  • Island of Color : Where Juneteenth Started, Izola Collins.
  • Galveston's African-American Historic Places and Pioneers : A Guidebook, Old Central Cultural Center and Galveston Historical Foundation's African-American Heritage Committee

Updated 2021-10-01 KK