By Jack Gray
Many of Hunt County’s historical African-Americans are celebrated in a coloring book published this month under the auspices of the Hunt County Historical Commission.
Greenville artist Joseph McCowan teamed with authors Dr. Jim Conrad and Andrew Pope to create the book that features 36 of McCowan’s original drawings of significant African-Americans and their schools, churches and businesses.
Conrad and Pope, a student at Texas A&M University-Commerce, conducted much of the research for the project and wrote the text.
Conrad served 30 years as director of archives at A&M-Commerce. He said the book depicts “the proud heritage of Hunt County’s black community.” It is dedicated to “all of those young people who want to know.”
The book’s release this month coincides with the observance of Black History Month.
The book is titled “Historical African Americans of Hunt County, Texas,” and Conrad said “the idea for it began to blossom during a trip to Philadelphia where I was introduced to an old-time Philadelphia coloring book.”
“The impact of cultural contributions made by African-Americans in so many ways here in Hunt County is staggering,” Conrad said. “The coloring book attempts to convey that sense of accomplishment in a way that will be meaningful to children. I have been studying African-American history for a long time.”
Ten years ago he co-authored the book “Freedom Colonies: Black Texans in the Age of Jim Crow” that was published by the University of Texas Press.
African-Americans featured in the coloring book range from Jim Brigham, a slave who purchased his family’s freedom in the Civil War era and settled in the community now called Neylandville, to the late Harvey “Too Mean” Martin, an All-American defensive end who played football at what was then East Texas State University in Commerce and later set the career sacks record for the Dallas Cowboys.
Others who supported the project include Carol Taylor, former head of the genealogy program at the Greenville Public Library; Cheryl Westhafer of the Commerce Public Library and Conrad’s fiancé, Pamela Cattabiani.
Priced at $ 6.95 per copy, the coloring book may be purchased at Hastings and the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum in Greenville.
The Commerce and Greenville public libraries both have copies available for library patrons to check out.
Production costs were personally underwritten by Conrad.