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

By Bernadette Pruitt | Go to book overview

Conclusion
New Beginnings, New Institutions, New Migrations

Born in Carthage, Texas, a small community in Panola County just south of Marshall, in 1891, Anna Johnson, the eldest of six children, lived a typical East Texas life as the daughter of African-descent wage earners. The family moved in 1904 to Galveston, where Anna, a domestic, met her future husband, Clarence A. Dupree of Plaquemine, Louisiana. Orphaned at age seven, Clarence worked odd jobs at Galveston hotels and barbershops. White customers cared for Dupree by providing him with shelter, food, and clothing, probably in exchange for rendered services. Anna and Clarence soon met, fell in love, and married in 1918.1

The newlyweds moved to Houston shortly thereafter, although Clarence was subsequently drafted into the US Army and served as a cook during the remaining months of World War I. After returning home, Clarence worked as a porter at the Bender Hotel; his bride worked as a beautician in a White beauty salon. Anna soon joined a more exclusive establishment in the city’s River Oaks subdivision, securing a prosperous clientele among River Oaks and Montrose housewives. Although the two struggled during the Depression years, residing in Fourth Ward and living off Clarence Dupree’s meager earnings, they managed to save $20,000.2

By the late 1930s, they invested their savings in real estate ventures that provided important services to the Afro-American community. They reopened the Pastime Theater on McKinley in Third Ward, built the Eldorado business center at Elgin and Dowling Street, right across from Emancipation Park in Third Ward, opened a pharmacy, men’s apparel shop, paint store, and nightclub. The Eldorado Ballroom for decades would host parties, dances, and social events. Dowling, the Lennox Avenue of Houston’s African American Third Ward community, was an intelligent choice for the business center, which also made the Duprees a good deal of money.3

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