AUSTIN, Texas – The Austin History Center is displaying a collection of photographs giving Austinites a glimpse into the history of segregation in the city.
The center had to fight to get the photos for Black History Month as the pieces of history were almost thrown away for good.
“It’s a collection of photographs that were taken in the 40s, 50s and 60s,” said Mike Miller with the Austin History Center.
Dozens of photos captured a rarely-seen side of Austin.
“The ones, certainly from the 50s, were from the age of segregation,” said Karen Riles with the Austin History Center.
The photos are from the then-named Travis County Extension Agency; a local government office dedicated to teaching men and women of all ages about agriculture and home life.
“They were taken by an amateur photographer. Black and white, some polaroids,” said Riles.
During the 50s, the agency’s services were segregated, but staff still kept records. However, those moments in time were almost lost to history as the collection was thrown in the dumpster. Historians said it was a lucky break that the photos were found by a relative of Karen Riles.
“She says, 'Well I have a box of photographs that are from Austin that I think you may be interested in,” said Riles.
The treasure box held nearly 600 photos, catching raw moments in time. The amateur photos offer a real documentation of life during that time for African Americans living in Travis County.
“It’s just a wonderful collection of beautiful photographs that never should’ve been thrown in the trash,” said Riles.
The exhibit will run through April.
You can also see the photos online at the Austin History Center website.