College of Arts and Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)


Edward Waldron


Houston, Race Relations, Integration, Education, Desegregation, African American History, Industrialization, Progressive Leaders


Education | History


The progressive education movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century made terrific strides in modernizing and improving education for all races in Houston, Texas. This movement embraced a democratic platform of participation and engagement for all citizens, which affected America’s social, political, and economic future for decades and gave rise to many future movements. The root of progressive politics was in the participation of a diverse and active population, social progress, and industrial development, of which Houston had a plethora in the early goings of the twentieth century. Where did this progressive assault begin? Was it a grassroots or top-down approach? These are essential question to be developed. It is vital to investigate the events that led to the creation of the Houston Independent School District in 1876. The hiring of Dr. Edison Oberholtzer as the superintendent was the first step in rebuilding and modernizing an archaic education system in Houston. This event was not a sure thing, as his appointment did not occur without objections by some. Oberholtzer would see the Houston Independent School District through World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II before his tenure would end. Ultimately, the desegregation of Houston’s public schools required the courage and conviction of hundreds of people who had major roles in the process, and the fortitude of the thousands of students--both African American and White--who challenged years of racial prejudice and institutionalized segregation to accomplish this task. Still, the story of race relations and school desegregation in Houston, Texas, remains unfinished.