The 2013 Denton County Office of History and Culture speaker series rolls on Thursday with a program titled “Bare Feet to Iron Rims: Tracing Denton’s Transportation Development Through Black History.”
University of North Texas doctoral candidate Deborah Kilgore will present a history of trails, railroads and the transition to automobiles and buses in Denton County.
“The title is ‘Bare Feet to Iron Rims’ because when slaves came to Denton County, many of them walked and were barefoot,” Kilgore said. “Into the 1870s, getting around, they would have been barefoot or on wagons, hauling freight, supplies — they would have been involved in cattle trails.”
When the railroads arrived, it changed everything for African-Americans, offering steady wages and an inducement to move to town in search of those steady wages. It was a great opportunity for blacks, even though they did not have high-wage jobs and often had very dangerous jobs.
Kilgore plans to touch on blacks helping build and maintain the railroad, filling jobs as porters, wagon drivers and taxi drivers for university students into the 1940s. In addition, she will touch on Quakertown and its dissolving and the resettling of many black communities by the railroad tracks where the railroad became a dividing line to the black community.
Kilgore hopes the presentation will provide a better understanding of national, state and regional events that also happened on a local level. For example, she noted laws of segregation in railcars and buses, the bus boycotts and how changes at the national level trickled down to the local level.
“The trains that came through, who worked on those trains, what jobs they had that reflected race relations, the national laws,” Kilgore said. “When those are struck down or things change, transportation changes again — you get to see the national become local.”
Kilgore also hopes the lecture spurs people to do a little more digging into their own history and preserve more documents, records and photos.
“All too often, things end up thrown out or forgotten,” she said.
Peggy Riddle, executive director of the office of history and culture, said the lecture will present a new topic for Denton County’s history.
“I think it’s something that will appeal to a wide variety of people, and I think it’s one of those undertold stories,” she said.
The lecture will also help the office, as one of the goals this year is to have an exhibit that explores early transportation in the county.
“This leads right into what we want to accomplish with our exhibit, so we are thrilled she is able to come and do this program for us,” Riddle said.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
IF YOU GO
• What: “Bare Feet to Iron Rims: Tracing Denton’s Transportation Development Through Black History,” a presentation by Deborah Kilgore on the history of trails, railroads and the transition to automobiles and buses in Denton County.
• When: 12:15 p.m. Thursday
• Where: Commissioners Courtroom on the second floor of the Courthouse on the Square, 110 W. Hickory St.
• Details: Free and open to the public.