Welcome to the Houston Rockets Black History hub, celebrating the rich history of Black Americans in Houston and recognizing the injustices that they have faced.
The theme for Black History Month 2021, as set forth by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity". Given that, we will be utilizing this page to highlight the members of our Houston Rockets family who are making Black history every day while also walking you through the unique tentpoles of Houston's Black culture.
The TSU Sit-In
Houston's First Sit-in March 4, 1960
Houston's First Sit-in was held in 1960 at Weingarten's grocery store lunch counter by 13 Texas Southern University students to protest Houston's segregation laws.
The peaceful protest, organized by Eldreway Stearns, began on the TSU campus as the students marched down Cleburne Street to the grocery store counter. Stearns even called the police to report his group's actions to ensure the safety of his compatriots and that the protest would remain peaceful.
The actions by these TSU students directly led to the desegregation of Houston and were a contributing factor to the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The grocery store no longer stands, but these students and those of other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) left a permanent impression on the American Civil Rights Movement.
The Houston Rockets Family
Stephen Silas, Houston Rockets Head Coach
A first-time head coach, Stephen Silas is the third Black head coach in Houston Rockets history. The son of legendary head coach Paul Silas, Coach Silas worked in the NBA for nearly 20 years before his hiring in October 2020.
Coach Silas draws much inspiration from his father, who was taken 9th overall in the 1964 NBA Draft before he was even allowed to use the same hotel entrance as his white teammates.
Nearly 60 years later, Coach Silas is regarded as one of the top young coaches in the NBA and is paving the way for future generations of Black head coaches.
DISCLAIMER: Originally aired in 2018
Keith Jones, Sr. VP Basketball Operations/Head Athletic Trainer, Houston Rockets
One of the longest-tenured and most-respected members of the Houston Rockets staff, Keith Jones has provided a steady hand since his hiring as Head Athletic Trainer in 1996. Keith is the first person on the scene when player needs help on or off the court, and in doing so has developed countless close relationships across the NBA landscape.
When Keith was first hired by the Rockets at age 28, he became both the youngest head trainer in the NBA as well as the only African American in the role across the league. He quickly became one of the top trainers in the game, notably working as the head trainer for the 2008 Team USA Gold Medal team in Beijing.
Now a Senior Vice President of the Rockets' Basketball Operations department, Keith's wisdom and experience are leaned upon every day to guide the organization forward.
DISCLAIMER: Originally aired in 2020
Sarah Joseph, Director of Community Relations, Houston Rockets
Also one of the longest-tenured and most-respected staff members at the Houston Rockets, Sarah Joseph has headed the Houston Rockets' community outreach efforts for over 25 years.
Thank to her relationships across Houston and with seemingly everyone to ever wear a Rockets uniform, Sarah has touched thousands of lives with her generosity, compassion and caring spirit. If there's a person in need, be it a hungry child or struggling military veteran, Sarah will do everything in her power to help.
Houston is a better place because of Sarah Joseph.
Houston’s Next Generation of Leaders
Footage courtesy of khou.com, abc13.com, click2houston.com
Chris Hollins, Former Harris County Clerk
A Houston-based attorney and fifth-generation Texan, Chris Hollins gained national attention in 2020 as the interim Harris County Clerk. Despite facing heavy scrutiny, Chris' efforts in this role led to record-setting voter turnout during the 2020 Election, in part thanks to his activation of Toyota Center as a voting center.
Chris has since ceded the role of County Clerk, but continues to be an advocate for all Houstonians and a the face of Black voting rights in the city.
Footage courtesy of khou.com, abc13.com, click2houston.com
Trae Tha Truth, Rapper/Activist
One of the pioneer's for Houston's rap scene and a diehard Rockets fans, Trae Tha Truth has made his greatest contributions to the city as an activist and local hero to Houstonians in need.
"It doesn't matter what walk of life you're from, what neighborhood you're from, what color you are, or any situation...it's just about standing for what's right."
Trae Tha Truth
Whether he's advocating for civil rights or rescuing flood victims from their homes, Trae can always be counted on to provide a voice and helping hand for the Black community.
Houston’s First Black Settlement
Known to most Houstonians as Fourth Ward, Freedmen's Town started in 1865 when enslaved Black Americans from Texas and Louisiana migrated after the Civil War. Many freedmen's towns emerged across the United States during this time, but historians believe Houston's to be the largest.
Freedmen's Town is home to many of Houston's most important cultural centers, including the Gregory School, Houston's first Black elementary school, and Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Houston's first African American Baptist Church.
In recent years, local historians have made a concerted effort to restore Freedmen's Town as an important cultural center for Black Houstonians. The Gregory School has been redeveloped to incorporate the African American Library and Rutherford B.H. Yates Museum in order to preserve the history of the neighborhood.
Houston's first public park was founded in Houston's Third Ward by former slaves Rev. Jack Yates, Richard Allen, Richard Brock and Elias Dibble and named in honor of their freedom. With Yates at the forefront, these four men pooled their money to buy 10 acres of land so they would have a home for the Juneteenth celebration of the end of slavery.
"To see it continue and know that people who had just come out of being enslaved decided that they needed a park...It not only shows you what enslaved people were capable of doing but what they did."
Jacqueline Whiting Bostic, Vice Chair, Emancipation Park Conservancy, Great Granddaughter of Jack Yates
Through the years of Jim Crow, Emancipation Park was the only park accessible to Black people in the City of Houston, and remained an important cultural center and event space until eventually falling into disrepair.
Then, in 2006, Third Ward natives Carol Pratt Blue and Bill Milligan organized "Friends of Third Ward" to revitalize the park. Now recognized as a historical landmark, the park has received over $30 million in renovations and continues to build upon its vital history. You can learn more about this renovation project by clicking here.
UNESCO Slave Route Project
Seven Houston Landmarks Dedicated as Sites of Memory
As part of its Slave Route Project, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized Emancipation Park, the African American Library at the Gregory School in Freedmen's Town, the Rutherford B.H. Yates Museum, the Middle Passage Port of Galveston, Olivewood Cemetery and Antioch Missionary Baptist Church as part of an international registry of locations associated with the transatlantic slave trade.
The project seeks to preserve the dark history of these sites and promote a culture of peace, by promoting reflection on inclusion, cultural pluralism, intercultural dialogue and the construction of new identities and citizenships. You can learn more by visiting the homepage for the project here.
Important Figures in Houston's History
Rev. Jack Yates
Founder – Freedmen's Town, Emancipation Park, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Houston Academy, Bethel Baptist Church, College Park CemeteryLearn More
Photo: Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
Leader – Civil Rights Movement, first African American elected to the Texas Senate after Reconstruction and the first Southern African-American woman elected to the United States House of Representatives, Recipient of the Presidential Medal of FreedomLearn More
Photo: Judith Sedwick
Activist, Co-Founder – Harris County Democrats, Inductee – Texas Women's Hall of FameLearn More
Robert D. Bullard
Environmental Justice & Racism Activist, known as the "father of environmental justice"Learn More
Activist, fought to prevent the demolition of Allen Parkway Village and preserve Fourth WardLearn More
Photo: Dan Hardy, Houston Chronicle
Thaddeus S. Lott Sr.
Educator instrumental in educational reform for Black schools in Houston, earning national recognitionLearn More
Superintendent of Houston Independent School District during the "Houston Miracle" that saw increased test scores and lower dropout rates, Secretary of Education who pioneered No Child Left BehindLearn More
Photo: National L.G.B.T.Q. Task Force
Activist for Black Women's & Transgender RightsLearn More
Important Landmarks & Destinations
African American Library at the Gregory School
One of the United States' few African American libraries, located in the historic Gregory SchoolWatch Video
Photo: Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
Houston's first African American Baptist ChurchLearn More
Rutherford B.H. Yates Museum
Named after Rev. Yates' Son, Served as hotel for visiting Black dignitaries and delegates in the early 1900sLearn More
Houston Museum of African American Culture
Seeks to collect, conserve, explore, interpret, and exhibit the material and intellectual culture of Africans and African Americans for all to seeLearn More
University Museum at Texas Southern University
Exhibits both past and present art and artifacts from TSU's vast collectionLearn More
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
Honors the Buffalo Soldiers, which were comprised of former slaves, freemen, and Black Civil War soldiers, and were the first to serve the U.S. armed forces during peacetimeLearn More