Curtis House displays black history in Abilene

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Black history is rich in Abilene, from the old Woodson High School to the Buffalo Soldiers, and all that history is on display at the Curtis House Cultural Center.

Reverend Andrew Penns runs the Curtis house.

“Tried to decide what we were going to put in through our nonprofit, and we finally thought it would be good to have the black history of Abilene and how we got here,” Penns says.

The nonprofit I-CAN, or Interested Citizens of Abilene North, bought the property a little more than 10 years ago, and it now houses hundreds of artifacts.

“Dyess Elementary School was the first school forced to integrate,” Penns says.

Rev. Penns explains what led to that change.

“There was a black captain. Captain John Rice that was stationed at Dyess back in the 50s with five black mothers. Captain John Rice and the mothers petitioned the base commander about their kids not going to an integrated school. The school board still reluctantly chose to integrate. What happened is the base commander went to Washington. The staff in Washington said, ‘Either you integrate or we’re pulling federal funding,'” Penns recalls.

From business owners to educators, all those stories of black excellence can be found inside the Curtis House Cultural Center.

“To see ourselves and our heroes is very important for the youth, is very important. It gives us identity, it gives us direction on the things we’re trying to do in life,” Penns says.

Andre Gwinn of the Black Chamber of Commerce says Black History Month and history as a whole are important for the youth to learn.

“For kids in general to see heroes of all colors, and see that there is strength in diversity, and to see that we all eat from the same table here in Abilene,” Gwinn says.

We’re able to sit at those tables because of the sacrifices from people before us, a story to be told for more than just a month.

“Here we do black history all year long,” he says.

Penns says the Curtis House is open most Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

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