The rich, complex lives of African Americans in Texas were often neglected by the mainstream media, which historically seldom ventured into Houston’s Fourth Ward, San Antonio’s East Side, South Dallas, or the black neighborhoods in smaller cities. When Bill Minutaglio began writing for Texas newspapers in the 1970s, few large publications had more than a token number of African American journalists, and they barely acknowledged the things of lasting importance to the African American community. Though hardly the most likely reporter—as a white, Italian American transplant from New York City—for the black Texas beat, Minutaglio was drawn to the African American heritage, seeking its soul in churches, on front porches, at juke joints, and anywhere else that people would allow him into their lives. His nationally award-winning writing offered many Americans their first deeper understanding of Texas’s singular, complicated African American history.
This eclectic collection gathers the best of Minutaglio’s writing about the soul of black Texas. He profiles individuals both unknown and famous, including blues legends Lightnin’ Hopkins, Amos Milburn, Robert Shaw, and Dr. Hepcat. He looks at neglected, even intentionally hidden, communities. And he wades into the musical undercurrent that touches on African Americans’ joys, longings, and frustrations, and the passing of generations. Minutaglio’s stories offer an understanding of the sweeping evolution of music, race, and justice in Texas. Moved forward by the musical heartbeat of the blues and defined by the long shadow of racism, the stories measure how far Texas has come . . . or still has to go.