Campus celebrates Texas African-American sports history

Reanna Zuniga

Prairie View Interscholastic League, an organization that governed extra-curricular activities for Texas’ African-American high school students during legalized segregation, is being honored and celebrated during a two-day conference on campus.

The event is hosted by the College of Liberal Art's John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies.

The conference, “Thursday Night Lights,” kicked off Thursday with opening remarks by several coordinators of the event, including Gregory Vincent, UT's vice president for diversity and community engagement. Vincent said he is proud to be a part of the league’s legacy.

“We often talk about segregation and talk about the pathology of it, and all that’s true, but what’s amazing about our people, we make a way out of no way. And even when we are faced with insurmountable obstacles, we make an enduring legacy of excellence,” Vincent said.  “And somehow when we’re given these scraps we turn it into a tapestry of gold, and that is exactly what the [the leagure] is about.”

The league was formed in the 1920’s as the Texas Interscholastic League of Colored Schools and, at its height, encompassed 500 member schools who had students participate in the league’s state championship events such asfootball, baseball, track and field, music and extemporaneous speaking.

Keynote speaker William Rhoden, columnist for the New York Times, spoke about the prominent national figures who came out of the league, such as politician Barbara Jordan and athletes including wide-receiver Charley Taylor and defensive tackle Joe Greene.  

“What was so interesting is I started really digging into the [the league], you realize that all around the country when you talk about black folks, whether you’re in Louisiana, whether it’s in Alabama, here, Chicago,  you got these tremendous black athletics associations that flourished and turned out all these great people, that you would have no idea,” Rhoden said.