On February 13, scholars at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville will hold a workshop designed to provide social studies teachers with resources and strategies for teaching local history. "Democracy and Diversity in Walker County, Texas" will take place at the White Hall computer lab on the SHSU campus from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Humanities Texas awarded a grant to the university to support the workshop.

Lesson plans dealing with local, state, and national history will cover topics such as the history of segregation, Walker County's first African American training school, the early Hispanic community, Huntsville's P.O.W. camp, and the civil rights movement. SHSU faculty members Jeff Littlejohn, Katherine Pierce, Nancy Zey, Rosanne Barker, Bob Shandle, Thomas Cox, and Bernadette Pruitt prepared these fascinating and unique lessons.

"Locals who lived through these time periods were interviewed for the oral history portion, including Donna Coffin, daughter of a Huntsville P.O.W. camp worker; James Patton, president of the Walker County Historical Commission; and Wendell Baker, founder of the Walker County Voters League," said project manager Jeff Littlejohn.

SHSU scholars gathered oral histories and other resources from a variety of academic and museum collections, including SHSU's own archives and the Sam Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center. The presentation on the early Hispanic community makes use of documents from Bob Shadle and Rosanne Barker's Boettcher Mill Oral History Project, and lesson plans on the civil rights movement feature a digital collection of Wendell Baker's photographs and memorabilia. Lesson plans will also feature political cartoons and interviews with scholars.

Thirty to sixty secondary teachers from the Huntsville region are expected to attend the workshop. Lesson plans and primary sources will later be accessible online, where they will serve as a resource for teachers and undergraduates throughout the state and nation. In addition, the project's results will be presented at scholarly conferences including those of the East Texas Historical Association, the American Association for History and Computing, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

"I don’t think there is anyone teaching Walker County history. Our objective is to show the ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity of the region, while exploring the key turning points along the route to a more democratic and inclusive society," said Littlejohn.

Samuel Walker Houston, founder of the African American Training School at Galilee, Texas. Photo courtesy of the Samuel Houston Walker Museum and Cultural Center.