January 25, 2022

New Online From Fondren Library, Rice University: “‘Red Book’ Story Map Reveals History of Houston Wards’ Thriving Black Communities”

From Rice University:

The questions started coming in the moment the conversation started, and they kept coming until it wrapped up.

Norie Guthrie and Fay Yarbrough were a bit surprised, but delighted. They hosted an online panel to discuss recently aggregated data from “The Red Book of Houston,” a rare book from 1915 written by and for the Bayou City’s successful Black community.

“I’ve moderated many Zoom webinars and we usually don’t get questions that fast,” said Yarbrough, associate dean of humanities and history professor. “To have that many by the end was just crazy,” she added, and a testament to how interested the community already is in the work Guthrie and her team have done.

“I’ve been fielding a variety of emails since,” Guthrie said, laughing in agreement.

During the April 28 panel, Guthrie debuted a story map created at Rice using historic maps of Houston and spatial data painstakingly gathered from the pages of the century-old book. Familiar Houston wards once filled with thriving Black schools, churches, businesses, lodges and homes come to life as the hosts scrolled through a series of maps. The story ends with a poignant selection of shots showing the current state of a few of these Houstonians’ homes: vacant lots, freeway overpasses.

During the yearslong undertaking, Guthrie, an archivist and special collections librarian in Fondren Library’s Woodson Research Center, partnered with a team of Rice students, including Rachael Pasierowska, a doctoral candidate in Rice’s Department of History; Baker College senior Ryan Chow, an English major; Susanna Yau ’20, a history major; and Lovett College senior Tanvi Jadhav, double majoring in history and sociology.

The story map is just one example of what can be discovered in the data they compiled, cleaned and checked against city directories. Now all of it is posted online, freely available to everyone. That data includes 900 names, addresses, occupations, places of birth, education and other vital information for use by everyone from professional historians to amateur genealogists.

“There’s a lot for people to work with,” said Guthrie, whose interest in the book kicked off the data retrieval project in 2019 with the help of a Fondren Fellows grant.

Learn More, Read the Complete Post


Direct to Story Map

Direct to Dataset

Direct to Digitized Book: The Red Book of Houston: A Compendium of Social, Professional, Religious, Educational and Industrial Interests of Houston’s Colored Population (via Internet Archive)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.