San Antonio is widely known for its rich Mexican, Native American and Spanish history, but it’s only been in recent years that the city has begun to embrace the Black history that’s been hidden in plain sight. From the Black Canary Islanders forced to live east of the San Antonio River in the 1700s, to Ellis Alley, a Black neighborhood born in the Reconstruction era, Black heritage in San Antonio runs deep.
Thanks to the tenacity of a small group of Black San Antonians who collected and preserved a trove of documents and artifacts, the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM) was formed in 2017 as both a digital archive and physical museum where you can view exhibitions like “Barrier Breakers: Pioneers in Medicine” and “Cherry Street Blues: Black Music History in San Antonio 1867-1937” near the famed River Walk. The East Side neighborhood is the heart of San Antonio’s Black community, home to Ellis Alley, part of the first African American settlement in San Antonio after Emancipation, and St. Paul United Methodist Church, the oldest Black church in the city and a safe haven during the Civil Rights movement.
While much of San Antonio’s Black heritage is rooted in the East Side, Black history will be celebrated across the city this month with a variety of tours, events and exhibitions. Feb. 12 brings the 2nd Annual Black History Month Soul Food Celebration at the Second Baptist Community Center, with guest speakers, live music and of course, soul food. On Feb. 13, SAAACAM will host a Black History River Tour, and on Feb. 28, the Witte Museum will host Untold Stories of the American West, a discussion about Black cowboy culture and history. The event supports the “Black Cowboys: An American Story” exhibition, which explores the lives of the numerous Black men, women and children who labored on the ranches of Texas.
The Carver Community Cultural Center, named after the pioneering Black agricultural scientist Dr. George Washington Carver, offers a range of Black culture-centric performances this month, and the “Spheres of Reflection” sculpture at Martin Luther King Park is a must-see any time of the year.