The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941

By Bernadette Pruitt | Go to book overview

THREE
Beautiful People
Agency in Houston, 1900–1941

Born in 1881, in the town of Clinton, a tiny farm community west of the Guadalupe River, just ninety miles north of the Gulf Sea in DeWitt County, Texas, Jennie Belle Murphy—known to friends and family as Ladybelle—was raised by relatives, sometime after the death of her mother, Rachel Thomas. The multiethnic, multiracial teenager of West African and Mexican descent, with a passion for sewing, gardening, and service, left home at the turn of the century to study domestic science at Guadalupe College, a private Baptist school for African Americans, located in Seguin, Texas. Already a sought-after seamstress, Murphy worked to help defray tuition and board costs, even on occasion doing alterations for the spouse of the school’s president, David Abner Jr., who later served as the director of the National Baptist Convention Theological Seminary. Her studies and work duties fortunately did not get in the way of her personal life.1

Murphy, possibly while still attending Guadalupe College, fell in love with and married Benjamin Jesse Covington of Falls County, a recent Meharry Medical College graduate. Born in 1869, in tiny Marlin, Texas, a cotton-farming community twenty-four miles south of Waco and one hundred and twenty-one miles south of Dallas, in the middle of the Blackland Prairie region in central Texas, the studious, attractive, chocolatecomplexioned son of former slaves was bedazzled by the caring, lovely, tall, fair-skinned beauty. The couple married on September 30, 1902, in Seguin, perhaps following the completion of the bride’s studies, and settled briefly in Wharton and Yoakum, near Jennie Covington’s hometown, before moving to Houston in 1903.2

Covington, who described herself as “a plain woman from the country,” no longer struggled to make ends meet, being the wife of one of the most recognizable professionals in the city of Houston.3 So prominent

-95-

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