NewsBlack History Month


Remembering Waco's Black history, both past and present

Posted: 4:35 PM, Feb 08, 2023
Updated: 2023-02-09 00:12:17-05

WACO, Texas — When you make your way through Waco, you see the Alico building, the Silos and maybe even City Hall, but what you don't see is the amount of history once made on the now busy city streets.

Adrienne Cain studies these stories every day at Baylor's Institute for Oral History. During Black History Month, she said there's a lot people can learn from Waco's past.

"It's not just Black history, it is history in general and also Waco's history," Cain said. "African Americans have contributed quite a bit to Waco and McLennan County and I think it's important that people recognize that."

From the once Waco-based HBCU Paul Quinn college to the Farmers Improvement Society, which helped black farmers get equal treatment following the Civil War, Cain said there are many inspiring stories that have come out of Waco.

"There's a breadth of history here," she said. "When you think of Black history, there's more than Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Rosa Parks. Think locally, there's so many people and so many places who mean so much to the history of Waco."

Local people are still making history every day in Waco, like McLennan County Commissioner Patricia Miller.

After a lifelong dream to serve, Miller became the first African American woman on the McLennan County Commissioners Court in 2019.

"I never saw myself in elected leadership," she told 25 News. "I'm the only female, I'm the only minority, and I'm the only democrat. I have a lot of hats to wear, but I am proud to be all three."

She now has the chance to be that important representation for the Black community, not just in Waco but all across the state.

Of the 1,016 county commissioners statewide, just 32 are African American. Of that, only five are women.

"That's impressive and fascinating, but it also shows like there's a lot of work that needs to be done," Cain said. "I think sometimes when we have what I call 'living legends' around us, we don't think about her being a part of Black history."

"I hope that young women when they see women like myself in positions where they deliver policy, where they make decisions, that they see themselves able to do the same thing," Miller said. "I think women need to play an active role in making policy and decisions on the public."

Miller said representation in history matters because it shows future generations they can also make an impact.

"If they were voting and fighting for housing, job equity, quality education, if these are issues still prominent in your community, it's on you now and you get that understanding from learning that's what we have done," she said.

"I know sometimes we might look at these figures like wow they did so much, how did they do so much? It's just one step at a time," Cain added. "These are just regular people who had a vision, wanted to see change and just make a difference."

Baylor's Institute for Oral History is hosting a Black history walk this weekend. The group will visit some of the most influential spots in Waco and hear the stories the African American stories behind them.