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Student Awarded for Research
on "Lost" Houston Area City

Kim McCullough
Kim McCullough, recipient of the C.M. Caldwell Memorial Award.

Sam Houston State University student Kim McCullough received first place in the prestigious statewide C.M. Caldwell Memorial Award competition recently for her research paper, "Independence Heights: The First All Black City in Texas."

Her paper earned top honors along with a check for $250 during the Walter P. Webb History Society meeting on March 9, held in conjunction with the Texas State Historical Association annual meeting in Corpus Christi.

The C.M. Caldwell Memorial Award is given each year to the best research paper on Texas from colleges and universities across the state.

McCullough's paper focused on a little-known incorporated area called Independence Heights in Houston. The city was founded in 1913 by a group of like-minded black businessmen who wanted to develop and protect their neighborhood, while supplying their area with electricity, water, and sewer. The area was founded as Independence Heights and had three mayors over its successful fifteen-year history. Today, the area is known as Studewood.

"It is fascinating to drive through the area," said McCullough, "and realize that it was once a prosperous, independent, thriving community with its own government. It shows that for that time period, the local black citizens had the drive and ambition to make a success of their lives and their society."

"If the minorities in that neighborhood today could redevelop that sense of togetherness, there is so much that they could do for their community," McCullough continued.

McCullough became acquainted with the history of the town through her great, great grandfather who was the third mayor of Independence Heights. She began writing on the topic as part of a course assignment for Historiography, taught by Terry Bilhartz. McCullough was required to review primary sources and documents relating to the history of the city.

Her research spans five years, during which she interviewed the few remaining residents and descendents of residents who lived in the city. University of Houston archives and the Houston Informer, an early Houston newspaper, provided vital information about the city.

Particularly valuable was the Vivian Hubbard Seals collection at the University of Houston, which included articles, photos, and information on Independence Heights.

"I thought the lists of businesses and office holders who ran the city from 1913 to 1928 were amazing," McCullough said. "The land deeds and maps of Independence Heights were a fascinating way to see the size and relationship of the businesses and homes in the city. All of the information helped me understand the many problems which these early citizens overcame and the difficulties they faced in being surrounded by all-white communities which were, at times, antagonistic."

Houston eventually recognized the city's success and annexed them in 1928.

McCullough's paper will appear in the Webb Society's Touchstone journal. She will also be presenting her paper with other scholars from across the United States in a panel at the Southwestern Social Science Association meeting in New Orleans on March 28.

McCullough is a senior with a double major in history and English.

- END -

SHSU Media Contact: Audrey Wick
March 20, 2002
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