HOUSTON – Here is a look at some of the major historic Houston birthdays coming up in this particular calendar year.
150 years ago: Opening of Emancipation Park
Although the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the South in 1863, Texas received no news of the proclamation until Union General Gordon Granger proclaimed it in Galveston on June 19, 1865. Those released began to celebrate the day as June 17th. Houston Reverend Jack Yates, a Baptist pastor and former slave, led an effort among the city’s African-American community to raise money and purchase land dedicated to the Juneteenth celebrations. Yate Church, Antioch Baptist Church, and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church formed the Colored People’s Festival and Emancipation Park Association and in 1872 they pooled $ 1,000 to purchase ten acres of land. which they named Emancipation Park.
110 years ago: Rice University opened
On September 12, 1912, Rice University opened with 77 students and a dozen faculty members. Four years later, at the start of the university, 35 bachelor’s and master’s degrees were awarded. The first doctorate was awarded two years later in 1918.
100 years ago: the Houston Zoo opened its doors
In 1922, the City of Houston moved its collection of animals to a fenced area at Hermann Park, the start of what we now recognize as the Houston Zoo, according to Barrie Scardino’s “Houston’s Hermann Park, A Century of Community”. Bradley. Under the direction of eclectic zookeeper Hans Nagel, the zoo has acquired hundreds of additional animals, including two Asian elephants, in previous decades.
75 years ago: founding of Texas Southern University
Texas Southern University was established on March 3, 1947 by the 50th Texas Legislature. The institution became the first state-supported institution in the city of Houston. In 1951, the university’s name changed from Texas State University for Negroes to Texas Southern University after students called on the state legislature to remove the phrase “for blacks.”
75 years ago: the Texas City disaster
On April 16, 1947, the SS Grandcamp, moored in Texas City and loaded with 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer, exploded. 16 hours later, a nearby ship, also loaded with ammonium nitrate, exploded. The combined explosions resulted in the country’s largest industrial disaster, killing around 500 to 600 people and injuring thousands, according to the The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
75 years ago: founding of the Alley Theater
In 1946, Nina Vance, a drama teacher at San Jacinto High School, took a leave of absence to direct plays for the Jewish Community Center. With encouragement from his friends, Vance soon began to form a local theater company. Using $ 2.14 she found in her purse, Vance bought 214 penny postcards. On them, she wrote “It begins! “Do you want a new theater for Houston?” And on October 7, 1947, over 100 postcard recipients met with Vance to discuss a new theater company. The group met in a small dance studio at the end of a long alley, which inspired the company’s name: The Alley. Barely two months later, on November 18, 1947, the new company presented its first production, a war play called A Sound of Hunting.
50 years ago: the space shuttle program began
On January 5, 1972, President Richard Nixon announced the creation of the Space Shuttle program. Humanity’s first reusable spacecraft, space shuttles represented a giant leap in space travel technology. NASA launched Columbia, the first space shuttle, in 1981.
50 years ago: the Houston Museum of Contemporary Art opened its doors
In 1972, the Museum of Contemporary Art opened at the corner of Montrose Boulevard and Bissonnet Street, opposite the Houston Museum of Fine Arts.
25 years ago: the city elected its first black mayor
Houston elected its first black mayor, Lee P. Brown, to power in 1997. Brown was re-elected twice and served as the city’s mayor from 1998 to 2004.
10 years ago: Houston Texans joined NFL
The Houston Texans began their inaugural NFL season at Reliant Stadium (now NRG Stadium) in 2002. The team earned their first victory against the Dallas Cowboys on September 8, 2002. The Texans remain the youngest franchise in the league.
Sources: Website of the Théâtre de l’Allée, City of Houston website, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Contemporary art museum website, “Houston’s Hermann Park, A Century of Community” by Barrie Scardino Bradley University of South Texas website, Rice University website, NASA website, NFL website
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