Texas Women's History Month: A Houstonian Who Fought for Equality

Mar 13, 2017

Maintaining that dual school systems were expensive, and in fact not equal though separate, Hattie Mae White led the effort to desegregate Houston schools.

Hattie Mae White holds the distinction of being the first African-American elected to significant public office in Texas since the Reconstruction. A former school teacher, she won a place on the Houston school board in 1958, a time when the city’s schools remained segregated despite the ruling of Brown v. Board of Education.

 

The wife of an optometrist and mother of five, White received widespread support from black voters and moderate support from whites. Nevertheless, a week after the election, someone shot at her car’s windshield, and her family suffered the trauma of having a gasoline-soaked cross set ablaze in their front yard.

Maintaining that dual school systems were expensive, and in fact not equal though separate, White led the effort to desegregate Houston schools. She weathered years of acrimony as other members of the board resisted the inevitability of integration.

 

Defeated by conservatives in her bid for a third term, White redirected her energy and talents to serving a number of interracial organizations and continued to fight for equality in Houston.

This month, KUT is partnering with the Ruthe Winegarten Foundation to celebrate Women's History Month. Every day, we'll bring you a short feature spotlighting a historic woman, movement, or group of women in Texas.