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Local civil rights icon and founder of Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church Reverend William "Bill" Lawson passed away on May 14, 2024, leaving a rich and celebrated legacy. If you would like to learn more about Reverend Lawson, HPL Digital Archives offer some fascinating primary sources.


Our Audiovisual Archives contain two interviews with Reverend Lawson: one originally recorded in 1974, and a second interview from 2008 (from the Mayor Bill White Oral History Collection) which was also videotaped. These two interviews provide a fascinating historical perspective on his work and life in Houston during the years of the Civil Rights Movement.


Reverend Lawson, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza and Rabbi Samuel Karff were known as the "Three Amigos" or "Three Wise Men" for their decades-long friendship and interfaith activism in favor of human rights and the betterment of life for all Houstonians. Archbishop Fiorenza and Rabbi Karff were also interviewed in 2008 and 2007 respectively as part of the Mayor White Oral History Collection. 


In December 2015, Reverend Lawson was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Mrs. Audrey Ann Hoffman Lawson. Mrs. Lawson's funeral program is part of HPL Digital Archives' African American Funeral Program collection and provides a unique perspective into her career as an activist in her own right, and the love and family that she and Reverend Lawson shared. 


The Lawson Collection, or “Lawson Letters,” not only document Reverend William and Mrs. Audrey Hoffman Lawson’s young adulthood and courtship, they also were the primary means of courtship. Beginning in September 1952, young Bill and Audrey exchanged letters for months before ever meeting in person, and what began as a friendly dialogue blossomed into love during the next two years of correspondence. Later in life, Reverend and Mrs. Lawson made their letters available to HPL for digitization. They are available online, an indispensable resource for historians—and anyone who appreciates a great love story!


Houston Public Library (HPL) leadership, staff, and honored guests gathered on Wednesday, September 13 at the Houston History Research Center (HHRC) within the historic Julia Ideson Building for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and rededication of the HHRC's Texas Room. The former Texas Room is now officially known as the Dorothy Knox Howe Houghton Reading Room. Speakers at the event included, HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Friends of the Texas Room President Mister McKinney and Dr. Rowena Dasch, daughter of Dorothy Knox Howe Houghton. Also in attendance was Dorothy Knox Howe Houghton's second daughter Dr. Adele Houghton. Architectural Historian Stephen Fox gave the keynote address. The ceremony was followed by a reception.

A sixth-generation Houstonian, Dorothy Knox Howe Houghton (1944 - 2018) was a gifted historian, author and researcher, and a fierce advocate for historic preservation in Houston. The archival materials she and her co-authors assembled for the book "Houston's Forgotten Heritage: Landscape, Houses, Interiors, 1824 - 1914" are now housed in the HHRC. She founded the Friends of the Texas Room and served as its president for years, supporting the work of the HHRC, and was instrumental in the restoration of the Julia Ideson Building.  

"Dorothy Knox is a descendant of the founders of Houston as well as the founders of Houston Public Library," said Lawson.

 "This is such an important and fitting honor for not only the founding president of the Friends of the Texas Room, but also for one of the most active members of Houston's historical community," said Mister McKinney of Mister McKinney's Historic Houston, who serves as the second president of the Friends group founded twenty years ago in 2003.

 "Dorothy Knox's spirit of relentless historic preservation through the support of the HHRC archives serves as an example and reminder of the difference that one dedicated person can make, and the results when you can motivate others to follow. Houston's future will benefit from Dorothy Knox’s support of its historical past."

ABOUT THE HOUSTON HISTORY RESEARCH CENTER (HHRC) Created in 1976, the HHRC is Houston Public Library's special collection focusing on Houston and Texas history. Its archival collections include one of the largest architectural archives in Texas, a significant local photographs collection, and a growing Hispanic collection. Other holdings include rare books, pamphlets and maps, and an extensive collection of oral histories. Through HHRC’s efforts, researchers can view original materials from local Houston groups, listen to oral histories, and browse a selection of digitized materials online. Learn more about the HHRC at The Friends of the Texas Room offer continual and invaluable support in the enrichment of the HHRC through donated materials and volunteer effort.

Lisa Carrico
May 6, 2023 – August 3, 2023

Central Library | 1st Floor Gallery
500 McKinney St., 77002 | 832-393-1300

Colorful needlepoint picture depicting a row of trees

The Houston Public Library presents an exhibition of needlepoint works inspired by paintings, created by local art historian, collector and writer Randy Tibbits. Tibbits describes his craft: 


“For me, paintings and drawings are food for the eye and the spirit. But I’m not an artist, making paintings and drawings of my own. I’m a craftsman translating the artistic creations of others—'appropriating' them in the Warholian sense—and making them into something a little bit mine, in wool yarn and canvas. I don’t know why I do this, except that stitching and the need to make are in my genes. I’ve been doing it for 50 years, off and on, but more recently I’ve worked many pieces as tributes to Houston art and artists of the past—another personal passion. Some of those pieces are exhibited here (and also a few that don’t have anything to do with Houston at all!).”


The exhibit is free and open to the public. Exhibit dates are subject to change.

Lisa Carrico

photo of Houston Poet Laureate Aris Kian Brown and Mayor Sylvester Turner

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Mayor Sylvester Turner is pleased to announce the new Houston Poet Laureate: Aris Kian Brown. Brown is the sixth poet laureate and the youngest to be chosen. 


The selection of Aris was announced last night at a reception hosted by the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) and the Houston Public Library (HPL) with remarks by Mayor Turner, Dr. Lawson, Dr. Irvin, and the 2021-23 Houston Poet Laureate, Emanuelee "Outspoken" Bean.  


“It is an honor to have selected Aris as the next Poet Laureate,” says Mayor Sylvester Turner. “She represents Houston’s literary future with her prophetic poetry. She will continue the Poet Laureates' hard work before her, inspire the City of Houston with her words, and bring out the poetry in everyone. My heart is gladdened to see the Houston Poet Laureate program continue to thrive and become a part of my legacy as Mayor of this Arts City.”


"Poetry, language, and building narrative power are all my life's work,” says Aris Kian Brown.  “As the next Poet Laureate, I am looking forward to being able to share my love for both community organizing and creative expression."


Brown was selected through a competitive process by a diverse group of poets, scholars, literary experts, and community representatives. The Committee consisted of Poet Laureate Emeritus, Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean; Elizabeth Gregory of the University of Houston; Terri Hamm of Kindred Stories; Rich Levy of Inprint; Eloísa Pérez-Lozano of The Acentos Review; and César Ramos of Raspa Magazine. Non-voting members include Victor Ancheta of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (MOCA) and Justin Bogert with the Houston Public Library (HPL).


"I am so pleased to join our Mayor and Cultural Affairs Director, Necole Irvin, in congratulating Aris Kian Brown," said Houston Public Library Director, Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson. "We are excited to support Ms. Brown in engaging Houston’s diverse communities served by Houston Public Library through the exciting Poet Laureate program.”


Aris’ two-year term runs through April 2025. As Poet Laureate, she will work closely with MOCA and HPL to implement her Community Outreach Project, “Space for Us: Afrofuturism and the Poetic Imagination.” Brown will conduct a series of interviews with community members across Houston asking them questions like, “What do you hope Houston looks like tomorrow?” and then “stitch” a poem utilizing those answers, allowing everyone to see the poetry that is “already embedded in everyday people.” Brown will also translate the finished poem into the top spoken languages in the city.  


Necole S. Irvin, Director of Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, is excited about Brown’s community project. “Aris will create a unique project that will speak to all residents of Houston which aligns with our office’s goal of equity, inclusion, and accessibility to the arts for all. The project is one that complements the goals of the Houston Poet Laureate program as well, which is to make poetry accessible to everyone.” 


About Aris Kian Brown
Aris Kian is a Houston enthusiast and student of abolitionists.  Her poems are published with Button Poetry, West Branch, Obsidian Lit, The West Review, and elsewhere. She is a 2019 Pushcart nominee, 2020 Best of the Net finalist, a 2021 Crystal Wilkinson Creative Writing Prize finalist, and a 2022 New Voices Contest finalist with Frontier Poetry. Kian is the 2022 recipient of the Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize in Creative Writing for Students with Service to the Houston Literary Community and ranks #2 in the 2023 Women of the World Poetry Slam. As an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor Fellow, she received her MFA from the University of Houston and currently serves as the Narrative Change & Media Manager at Houston in Action. She engages with the socio-mythological landscape of our metropolitan city in her poems and hates taking 610 West Loop.


About the Houston Poet Laureate Program
The City of Houston Poet Laureate Program celebrates Houston’s rich culture and diversity through the work of a poet who represents Houston by creating excitement about the written and spoken word as well as outreach activities, special programs, teaching, and individual works. The role of the Houston Poet Laureate is to stimulate poetic impulse, foster appreciation of poetry in all its forms, and serve Houston residents and visitors with expressions of culture through words. 

February 11, 2023 – May 4, 2023

The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street, 77019 | 832-393-1440

AND Central Library | 1st Floor Gallery
500 McKinney St., 77002 | 832-393-1300


Photo of colorful abstract art painting, "When It's Time" by John Gilchrist Photo of painting "Let Freedom Reign" by La'Toya Smith, depicting two young African American children holding an American flag umbrella while bullets rain down from above

Cover image: “Texas Queens” by Laura Casemore.

L-R: "When It's Time" by John Gilchrist; "Let Freedom Reign" by La'Toya Smith.

The biennial Citywide African American Artists Exhibition is a collaboration between the University Museum at Texas Southern University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The exhibition offers all artists of the African Diaspora in the Greater Houston area the opportunity to show their work to a broader public and art-collecting community. 

The exhibition celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022 and was curated by Michelle Barnes, CEO of the Community Artists’ Collective. The artist prizes were juried by artists Earlie Hudnall, Jr. and Vicki Meek; and Anna Walker, executive director of Lawndale Art Center.

The exhibition is spread over two HPL locations. On view at the African American History Research Center at the Gregory School are works by 47 different artists, including Curator's Choice Award winner La'Toya Smith, First Place winner James E! Walker, and Honorable Mention winners Janice McCloud Warren and AFI ESE. The Central Library's First Floor Gallery will display works by 25 different artists, including Second Place winner Eddie Filer, Jr., Third Place winner Shawn Artis, Honorable Mention winner Emmanuel Olaiyan, and 5A Choice Award winner Maria Modjo. 

In partnership with:
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
The University Museum at Texas Southern University

Exhibits are free and open to the public. Exhibit dates are subject to change.

On Monday, December 12, 2022, the Houston Public Library celebrated the unveiling of an Official Texas Historical Marker from the Texas Historical Commission for the Gregory School building at the African American History Research Center (AAHRC). The dedication ceremony took place amongst the exhibits inside and culminated outside at the marker's permanent location, at the corner of Wilson and Victor streets in Freedmen's Town/Fourth Ward. 

The event began with opening remarks from Angela Kent, Senior Manager of HPL’s History Research Centers and Miguell Ceasar, AAHRC Manager and Senior Archivist. Local historian and member of the African American Library Gregory Friends (AALGS) Debra Blacklock Sloan gave an official statement on the awarding of the marker. She also thanked the local officials who sent proclamations, like State Representative Jolanda Jones.

HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson gave remarks. “When I became the Director of the Houston Public Library in 2005, implementing Mayor Lee Brown’s vision for the Gregory School, now the African American History Research Center, was at the top on my list of goals,” said Dr. Lawson. “I have had the pleasure of seeing it evolve to become a significant destination in Houston, all while providing a unique window into the local and global Black experience.  Now we have a restored facility with an official State Historical Marker designation thanks in large part to the dedication of the Friends of the Gregory School. We are very thankful for their continuing support and longtime partnership.”   

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner read the text of the marker, after which it was unveiled. 

Mayor Turner said, “We come from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, but we are all here together for a common cause: to recognize the contributions of people and places like Gregory School that are sacred pillars of education and advancement within the African American community.” 

After the ceremony, attendees headed indoors for an open house and tour of the AAHRC facility.

January 19, 2023 – June 3, 2023

Grand Opening Reception Thursday, January 19 6 PM - 8 PM. Event is free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged.

The Julia Ideson Gallery
550 McKinney St., 77002 | 832-393-1313

The lives of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in Houston are woven intimately into the history of the larger metropolis. Asian Americans first settled in the Bayou City and its vicinity in the early twentieth century, and the community grew substantially after the relaxation of immigration laws in 1965. The archival materials displayed in this exhibit represent a sampling of the richness of AAPI experiences, offering a panoramic view of Houston's AAPI world.

Rice University’s Houston Asian American Archive (HAAA) began in 2010 and it continues to grow as a repository of materials documenting the lives and contributions of immigrants and their descendants from all corners of Asia: from East, to Southeast, to South Asia. Most of these materials consist of oral interviews. Rice student interns conduct and curate these interviews, which are housed in the Fondren Library’s Woodson Research Center with the hope that the archive, bearing witness to the role played by Asian Americans, will become the basis for the history of Asian Americans in greater Houston.

This exhibit is in partnership with the Houston Asian American Archive and the Woodson Research Center of Rice University.

More programming in celebration of this exhibit is planned through May 2023. All events are free and open to the public; registration is encouraged.

Chinese Classical Music Concert │Saturday, February 4, 2023 - 2 PM 
HPL x HAAA Present: Dancing Across Asian America! │ Saturday, March 25, 2023 - 11 AM
Exploring the World of Asian American Poets │ Saturday, April 22, 2023 - 11 AM

Ascend AAPI Spring Fashion Show │ Saturday, May 20, 2023 - 2 PM

November 12, 2022 - January 28, 2023

The African American History Research Center at the Gregory School

1300 Victor St., 77019 | 832-393-1440

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) emerged when the country was transforming from an agrarian society of farmers to an industrialized nation of factory and office workers. The BSA’s goal was to teach boys “patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues,” as well as outdoor skills, values that critics thought were lost as families moved to cities.

The first Black Boy Scouts in Houston were organized in 1935 by Reverend J. H. M. Boyce. The following year, about a dozen men completed a training course for leaders and formed seven or eight troops in the city. Although interest in Scouting started small, with only about a dozen Black Boy Scouts per troop, by 1947, their numbers grew to almost 3,000 throughout Houston.

This exhibition features photographs, ephemera, and newspaper clippings from the Harrison Family Collection. Edwin Stafford Harrison (1912-1979) was a civic leader, Methodist minister, and the first Black Precinct judge and poll tax writer in Harris County. Harrison was a Scout Executive from 1944 until his retirement in 1975.

This exhibition is free and open to the public. Dates are subject to change.

HOUSTON - The Houston Public Library (HPL) announces that its current special collections libraries now serve under the new banner of HPL’s History Research Centers. The Houston History Research Center, formerly Houston Metropolitan Research Center, was the first HPL special collections library; the Family History Research Center at the Clayton Library Campus, was established in 1968 as the Clayton Library for Genealogical Research; and the African American History Research Center was known as the African American Library at the Gregory School since 2009. 

The respective archives and origins of the History Research Centers are unchanged. The former Gregory School located in the historic Fourth Ward stands as the African American History Research Center (1300 Victor St.), devoted to documenting the Black experience in Houston and beyond. The Julia Ideson Building (550 McKinney St.), home to the Houston History Research Center, anchors the dual history of HPL and the city with a repository of architectural drawings, Hispanic Collections and an expansive local photographs and audio-visual collection. The house that William Lockhart Clayton built is synonymous with genealogy and family history research. The Family History Research Center at the Clayton Library (5300 Caroline St.) has grown to be among the top of its kind in the nation, with resources freely available in-person and online. 

Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Director of the Houston Public Library states that with this renaming, the Houston community and visitors stand to gain a greater understanding of what can be found at the History Research Centers. “The History Research Centers are wonderful destinations that will appeal to anyone wanting to discover what’s hiding in plain sight.” 

Remarking on what the public can expect, Angela Kent, Head of History Research Centers, notes, “While HPL’s special books collections and archives remain housed at their current locations, we hope that visitors can recognize and come to know all the things one can see and do at the History Research Centers. We link people to history.” Individuals and groups can tour the historic buildings, view exhibits and attend library programs, while also continuing to access and research HPL’s rare and unique special collections and archives.  

HPL’s History Research Centers are open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information visit:

Lisa Carrico

August 27, 2022 – November 5, 2022 

The Julia Ideson Gallery
550 McKinney St., 77002 | 832-393-1313

Texas modernism exhibit image

Charles T. Bowling, After the Storm, n.d., The John L. Nau III Collection of Texas Art


Opening to the public on August 27, 2022, at the historic Julia Ideson Building, is Texas Modernism(s): Houston/ Dallas in the 1930s. In Houston and Dallas, Modernism became the central focus for two small groups of local artists from 1926 – 1942. Made up of mostly youngsters, along with their forward-looking mentors, the Cherry-McNeill Group in Houston was influenced by European movements, while the Dallas Nine (and adjacent artists) up north took inspiration from their immediate surroundings and promoted Regionalism.

By showing the work of the two groups side by side, this exhibition intends to explore the looks and philosophical underpinnings of two seminal aspects of Texas art history. The Cherry-McNeill Group and the Dallas Nine strongly influenced later developments in their two respective cities, as well as the state in general. At the same time, the exhibition will demonstrate that Modernism, when it came to America, was not limited exclusively to the art centers of the East Coast.

This exhibit is free and open to the public.
Dates are subject to change.



July 30, 2022 – October 22, 2022 

The African American Library at the Gregory School

1300 Victor Street, 77019 | 832-393-1440


Fourth Ward, Motherward, an exhibit of photographs by Elbert Howze, is on view at the African American Library at the Gregory School from July 30 to October 8, 2022.

Elbert Howze (1951 – 2015) was born in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to Houston in 1973 and continued his education at the University of Houston, receiving a B.F.A. in fine art, a B.S. in technology and business technology, and an M.F.A. in photography.

Freedmen’s Town, Fourth Ward was founded by newly freed African Americans in 1865 and quickly grew into a successful, bustling, and self-sufficient community. By the middle of the 20th century, the landlocked neighborhood saw its population decline as residents moved to other Black communities around the city. Neglect, government redevelopment programs, private developers, and the relentless march toward gentrification led to the demolition of historic homes.

When Howze took an interest in the community in the 1980s, he described Fourth Ward as “a place of neglect and decay which appears to be deliberate by plan.” Although he acknowledged the physical decline of the area, Howze decided to focus his lens on its residents, preserving the enduring spirit of the neighborhood.

This exhibit is free and open to the public. Exhibit dates are subject to change.

Houston Public Library Hosts Inaugural Commemorative Lecture with Proclamation of George Floyd Remembrance Day

HOUSTON - May 25, 2022 Today, the Houston Public Library (HPL) marked the occasion of George Floyd Remembrance Day with a commemorative lecture delivered by Honorable Mayor Sylvester Turner. Following the speech, Mayor Turner declared May 25th as George Floyd Remembrance Day in the City of Houston and presented an official proclamation to members of the Floyd family who were present for the event.
“George Floyd’s tragic murder galvanized a worldwide movement for policing reform and discussions about race and social justice, especially in Houston,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “It is vital that we continue to talk about the shared history and trauma we experience as a society due to violent events, no matter how difficult those conversations may be, so that we can effectuate change. Today, we honor George Floyd’s spirit by renewing our commitment to continuing the conversation around systematic change, racism, policing reform and ways to make our community and world more loving and accepting of all differences.”

Dr. Melanye Price, endowed professor of African American studies and political science and inaugural director of the Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Social Justice at Prairie View A&M University, offered opening remarks. The Ridge Point High School Choir and composer Dr. John Cornelius were on hand for musical tributes.
In memory of Houston native George Floyd, whose murder by a Minneapolis police officer ignited worldwide protests, the event highlighted the City of Houston and HPL’s efforts to chronicle race and social justice movements and capture the accounts of witnesses to history.
“The Houston Public Library answers the call to not only document and share the significant and tumultuous events that impact our local and national communities, but also provide community space needed for ongoing civic engagement” said Houston Public Library Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson. “With this annual lecture, HPL will help fulfill the critical need for collective reflection on the George Floyd tragedy and the growing number of catastrophic events that have inspired a national reckoning with the issue of race.”

Two years after Mr. Floyd’s death, events relating to the crime—the arrest, trial, guilty verdict and sentencing of one of the police officers responsible—and the community’s response have been recorded by HPL librarians and archivists for a digital archive and physical collection on display at the African American Library at the Gregory School. 

Welcome to the Big Top! 
The Circus Comes to Town, 1910s-1980s
Julia Ideson Building- Exhibit Hall
January 15, 2022 - June 18, 2022

Circuses have entertained and enthralled American audiences since 1793. By the turn of the 20th century, large circuses like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus traveled the country by rail, boasting mile-long trains that carried death-defying performers, exotic animals, vibrantly painted wagons, and acres of tent canvas. In Houston, like many other towns and cities, circus day was one of the most important days of the year. 

Businesses and schools would close so everyone could watch dozens of elephants parade down Main Street, see the spectacle, and be transported to another world.

This exhibition features posters, costumes, photos, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia from the Heiser-Alban Collection of Circus Historical Materials, all collected by Houstonian Joseph M. Heiser for almost eighty years.

Exhibit is free and open to the public.

Exhibit dates are subject to change.



Field is required.