BLACKWELL SCHOOL 1909-1965
THE SHORT VERSION
Education for local children in Marfa of Mexican descent dates from 1885 when the first school opened in Marfa for all children. A new elementary school was built for the Anglo children in 1892. Then in 1909 the School Board authorized money for a new school house for the Hispanic children, and this adobe building was constructed and opened.
The school, named in 1940 for longtime principal Jesse Blackwell, served hundreds of Hispanic children up to ninth grade. Students were told to speak only English on campus; Spanish words written on slips of paper were buried on the grounds in a mock funeral ceremony. The school closed in 1965 with integration of Marfa Schools.
The building sat vacant until preservation efforts by the Blackwell School Alliance, formed in 2006. The one-story schoolhouse has a modified hip roof, front-gabled entry, and plastered 24-inch thick adobe walls on a stone foundation.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Blackwell School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The United States government, through oversight by the National Park Service, recognizes the Blackwell School as a building deemed worthy of preservation for its historical significance.
The Blackwell School is also
a designated Texas Historic Landmark. These are properties judged to be historically and architecturally significant in the state of Texas.
In addition, the Blackwell School Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization charged with preserving the Blackwell School.
Everyone has a story to tell. We organize our memories and experiences into stories. Oral history is the systematic collection of living people’s testimony about their own experiences—conducted through a recorded interview. Everyday memories of everyday people have historical importance. Oral historians gather these memories and stories and place them into an accurate historical context, storing them appropriately for use by scholars—today and into the future. Oral history projects are often organized around a shared heritage, event, or experience—in this case, the Blackwell School.
Oral history allows for the recording of perspectives of people who might not otherwise appear in the historical records. Certainly the history of the Blackwell School cannot be told without the voices of those directly involved—students, faculty and staff, neighbors, and community members. Newspaper articles, speeches, and government documents may reveal useful information, but those kinds of sources often neglect more personal and private experiences. Through oral history, we can learn about the hopes, feelings, aspirations, disappointments, family histories, and personal memories of the people who were there.
2017 saw the debut of Voices of Blackwell on Marfa Public Radio. This series of short stories was produced by Diana Nguyen and featured the voices of former students.
Hear Mario Rivera's story HERE.
Hear Lionel Salgado's story HERE.
Hear Maggie Marquez's story HERE.
Hear Dawn Shannon's story HERE.
Hear Jessi Silva's story HERE.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!!
StoryCorps is a nationally distributed radio program featuring ordinary people with unordinary stories. They came to Marfa and recorded Maggie Marquez and Jessi Silva. Hear that story HERE.