By Kayla Jones
San Marcos is home to a rich African-American history that many people are not aware of, with a thriving community located just three minutes away from the Texas State campus. The Calaboose: African American History Museum has played a crucial role in preserving artifacts and the history of this era. Their goal is to honor the legacy of the African-American experience in Hays County. Visitors to the museum can step into the past and experience the life of an African-American citizen living in this area. Admission to the museum is free, but donations are welcomed. They only request that every person in your party signs in upon entering. The museum also features a rotating open gallery that changes seasonally and is curated by local artists, ensuring that every visit is unique.
As soon as you step inside, a volunteer docent greets you and gives you a tour. They explain the exhibits and answer any questions you may have about the displays. The museum building used to be a jail in the 1910s, which the docent will inform you about. One of the displays showcases Ku Klux Klan regalia and newspapers about them. These displays give visitors a glimpse into how African-American citizens who lived in the area were treated. The Calaboose has many other displays to offer its visitors, but these are just a few examples. It is also important to highlight the majority of these displays were donations given by families in the community.
The museum would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the people behind the scenes who keep it running. Mrs. Johnnie Odoms Armstead started the Calaboose in 1997 with the help of people in the community. She rescued the building from destruction and was granted the rights by the City to form the museum. 26 years later, the museum is still educating people locally and visitors about the past thanks to the hard work and dedication of every volunteer and board member who takes time to ensure everything runs smoothly. Many of these workers have lives outside the museum and manage to juggle families, jobs, and whatever else life throws at them while maintaining the dignity and vision that Mrs. Armstead had.
The Calaboose Museum offers various programs and events that are open to the community, including events for kids. Recently, the museum hosted the annual Eddie Durham Jazz Fest in honor of the famous jazz player and San Marcos native, Eddie Durham. The festival featured performances by Morris Nelms and The Calaboose Players, TXST Jazz Ensemble, Central Texas Women of Jazz, and more. With great vibes, jazz music, and excellent company, this event was the perfect place to be over the weekend! If you missed this year’s jazz fest, don’t worry. Just make sure to plan ahead so you can attend next year’s festival!
If you’re interested in learning about the Calaboose, I highly recommend visiting them! They’re open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Only on certain occasions will the museum be closed, but they will always post an announcement about it through their Facebook page, so be sure to follow them. They can also accommodate groups and schedule special visits and tours if you are interested in bringing your family or classroom!
If this sounds like something you would want to be a part of there are a variety of ways to support them such as making donations, volunteering as a docent, or becoming a board member, check out their website for more information. They are always accepting eager and driven people who want to better the community! This is an excellent opportunity to learn and meet some of the native San Marcosians who have lived here their entire lives!
Written by: Danielle De Lucia