Calaboose African American History Museum offers lessons on San Marcos' past

Hays County's first jail become a USO center for black World War II soldiers before it was turned into a museum. (Courtesy Calaboose Museum of African American History)
Hays County's first jail become a USO center for black World War II soldiers before it was turned into a museum. (Courtesy Calaboose Museum of African American History)

Hays County's first jail become a USO center for black World War II soldiers before it was turned into a museum. (Courtesy Calaboose Museum of African American History)

Image description
A historic look at the cotton industry offers a glimpse of a different San Marcos. (Evelin Garcia/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
Board member Elvin Holt said it is important for the museum to educate visitors on topics such as minstrel shows. (Evelin Garcia/Community Impact Newspaper)
Image description
With historic photos hanging from aged walls and vivid exhibits explaining 146 years of history, the Calaboose African American History Museum has made it its mission to safeguard local African American history in what originally served as Hays County’s first jail.

“When we start a tour, we tell all about the history of the people [photographed] and the objects. We always try to tie our exhibits to our local scene—places people know,” museum board President Elvin Holt said.

Built in 1873 the former calaboose, or jail, that once housed prisoners now hosts around 12 exhibits celebrating local black heroes in sports, music, business and the military. The museum also displays documents and newspaper clippings from periods of segregation and integration, noting the injustice and inequality.

The building was first renovated in 1990 before opening as a museum in 1997 after founder Johnnie M. Armstead worked to create a home for local African American history. Since then, the museum has served as an educational destination for the community and tourists.

“When Mrs. Armstead died, the museum nearly closed because board members dropped out, so we had to work hard to reconstitute the board. Her death was a hard blow to the museum because she was the real soul of the museum, but I was able to recruit new members,” Holt said.


Holt says there are a few controversial exhibitions at the museum that are important to showcase, as they tell the story of African American history in San Marcos. Such exhibits include images of blackface, minstrel props and a display of an original, local Klu Klux Klan robe from the 1920s.

“It’s important to display it because it’s local, and it confirms that San Marcos was a Klan-friendly town. There was a Klan rally in San Marcos that attracted 20,000 Klansmen,” Holt said.

Open on Saturdays or by appointment, the museum operates through donations and volunteer work; the utilities are funded by the city. The building received its historic landmark status in 1990, according to Holt.

The museum, Holt said, invites the community to engage with local African American history through both exhibits and events.
SHARE THIS STORY


MOST RECENT

The Davis House, located 104 N. Brushy St., Leander, is decorated with holiday lights. (Marisa Charpentier/Community Impact Newspaper)
Leander takes next step in making plans for the Davis House

Leander City Council voted Dec. 5 to have drawings and a survey completed on the house.

A candidate for interim city manager will be selected from the Texas Municipal League. (Courtesy city of Huttto)
Hutto seeks to hire interim city manager from Texas Municipal League

The city of Hutto will seek a retired city manager from the Texas Municipal League to serve as Hutto's interim city manager.

Residents in District 10 look over proposed zoning map during a meeting in October. (Iain Oldman/Community Impact Newspaper)
City Council will hear thoughts from residents on comprehensive revision to land use rules at weekend hearing

City Council will take its first of three votes on the land development code revision Dec. 9.

The new equipment coming to five Cedar Park playgrounds will be manufactured by BCI Burke, which also built the equipment at Quest Village Park (pictured) in Cedar Park. (Courtesy city of Cedar Park)
Cedar Park approves $160,493 for new equipment for five playgrounds

Cedar Park City Council authorized the purchase of $160,493 in new playground equipment for five city parks at its Dec. 5 meeting.

Michael Angelos Gourmet Foods prepares, processes and packages a line of Italian frozen dishes at a facility in Round Rock.
18 new jobs, $11M facility upgrades: Michael Angelos Gourmet Foods ups investment in Round Rock

Local manufacturer of frozen foods Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods plans to upgrade its facilities, hire additional staff with a $290,000 economic incentive boost.

Lone Star Circle of Care is opening a location in Cedar Park on Dec. 9. (Courtesy Lone Star Circle of Care)
Lone Star Circle of Care to open health center in Cedar Park Dec. 9

Lone Star Circle of Care is opening a Cedar Park location Dec. 9.

(Courtesy Fotolia)
Engineering consulting firm BGE to bring at least 80 new jobs to Round Rock

BGE, Inc. will create at least 80 jobs in Round Rock with an average salary of $80,000, according to an economic development agreement approved by Round Rock City Council Dec. 5.

Nutty Brown Cafe & Amphitheatre is a south Austin music venue that first opened in July 2000. (Community Impact Staff)
Nutty Brown Amphitheatre gets 2-year extension to build $10M venue in Round Rock

A highly-anticipated outdoor music venue has delayed its Round Rock opening once again.

A photo of the exterior of the Moxie Gymnastics and Cheer facility, taken from the parking lot.
Moxie Gymnastics and Cheer celebrates move to new facility

Moxie Gymnastics and Cheer has moved to a new location in Dripping Springs.

Sarah House, a Wells Fargo Securities senior economist and director, speaks at the Austin Chamber of Commerce's annual economic outlook, held Dec. 5 at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Austin. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Economic analyst: Austin economy still strong, but growth has tapered off heading into 2020

At the Austin Chamber of Commerce's annual economic outlook, Sarah House of Wells Fargo said Austin faces challenges of affordability and a tight labor market.

Signage is up at the new SPENGA coming to the Lakeline area. (Denise Seiler/Community Impact Newspaper)
SPENGA to open first Austin-area studio near Lakeline Mall

SPENGA—a fitness studio that incorporates spin, strength training and yoga into a high-intensity 60-minute workout—is building its first studio in the Austin area.

Back to top