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History programs offer insight

Two upcoming programs offer excellent opportunities to learn more about the history and accomplishments of African-Americans in Denton County.

First up, at 12:15 p.m. today, is a program titled “Bare Feet to Iron Rims: Tracing Denton’s Transportation Development Through Black History,” presented by Deborah Kilgore, a University of North Texas doctoral candidate.

The free program is part of the 2013 Denton County Office of History and Culture speaker series and will be offered in the Commissioners Courtroom on the second floor of the Courthouse on the Square, 110 W. Hickory St.

“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.”

The arrival of the railroad changed everything for African-Americans, Kilgore said, and her program will touch on blacks helping build and maintain the railroad. In addition, she will discuss 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.

This weekend, a Denton church plans a two-part program with activities for the entire community to celebrate African-American History Month.

Events are planned from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, at St. James A.M.E. Church, 1107 E. Oak St.

Saturday’s activities will include a health and wellness fair with free screenings, nutrition and fitness information, guest speakers, skits and an inventor’s exhibit. Students from several Denton schools created posters depicting the African-American experience, and these will be on display.

The Denton County Office of History and Culture will present “Historic African American Families of Denton County: The Quakertown Story” from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. The story will be presented by Gretel L’Heureux, Denton County education/tourism coordinator.

Chelsea Stallings, museum assistant for the Denton County Office of History and Culture and a graduate student from the History Department at the University of North Texas, will give a presentation of oral history interviews from Quakertown descendants.

The church’s celebration will culminate with a concert featuring church choirs, soloists and singing groups from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

We appreciate the efforts of those involved in planning and organizing these programs and others like them to honor the contributions and achievements of African-Americans in Denton County.

Often neglected, this is a portion of our history that should be shared and appreciated by all residents.

Kilgore, the guest speaker for today’s program at the Courthouse on the Square, told us that she hopes her lecture will spur people to do a little more digging into their own history and preserve more documents, records and photos.

We couldn’t agree more. As Kilgore said, such items too often end up thrown out or forgotten, and that’s a terrible waste.

And the result is often a slanted view of history.