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Fronteras: San Antonio Museum Educates and Enlightens On Local African American History

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Samuel Johnson Sutton Sr., the son of a slave, was born in Virginia in 1863. He operated a gold mine in Mexico before moving to San Antonio to become an educator.
UTSA Digital Collections
Samuel Johnson Sutton Sr., the son of a slave, was born in Virginia in 1863. He operated a gold mine in Mexico before moving to San Antonio to become an educator.
Lillian V. Smith Sutton, Samuel J. Sutton’s wife and matriarch of the family. She birthed 12 children, who all went to college and achieved in distinguished careers. The Suttons were prominent figures in the San Antonio community.
UTSA Digital Collections
Lillian V. Smith Sutton, Samuel J. Sutton’s wife and matriarch of the family. She birthed 12 children, who all went to college and achieved in distinguished careers. The Suttons were prominent figures in the San Antonio community.

While February is formally recognized as Black History Month, the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum believes Black culture should be celebrated year-round.

SAAACAM was officially incorporated in 2017 and aims to preserve and share the cultural heritage of African Americans in the San Antonio region. The museum has curated the legacies of pioneering Black San Antonio families and has collected their stories in a community-based digital archive.

As part of its mission to educate, SAAACAM is prepared to serve educators developing and adopting new African American studies curriculum. The State Board of Education approved the elective course standards in April 2020, making it Texas’ second statewide ethnic studies course. The first, Mexican-American studies, was approved in 2018.

Deborah Omowale Jarmon, CEO and director of SAAACAM, said the museum has reached out to education institutions across San Antonio to explain the resources available for teachers looking to develop curriculum for the new elective studies course. Jarmon is hopeful the collaboration will help students learn beyond the well-known histories of Black pioneers, including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King.

“If you think that there are only four people that look like you that impacted American history, then how do you really feel about your place in this country?” Jarmon posed. “And that is what SAAACAM work is all about, changing that perception for that child.”

SAAACAM’s audience is not limited to adolescents and is intended for all community members. The museum will celebrate the grand opening of its newest location in La Villita the week of Mar. 4. Registration is required for social distancing. The weekend’s events will introduce two exhibits, a film series and feature one-hour long Black History River tours.

Jarmon is hopeful SAAACAM’s new location will benefit their community outreach efforts and further spur conversations and celebrations of African American history in San Antonio.

“When we understand the contributions that each other brings, then we respect each other. And that's why our history, multicultural and racial education is so important.”

SAAACAM Overview

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Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren