People’s History in Texas

For nearly two decades, the New Journalism Project (NJP), sponsor of The Rag Blog and Rag Radio, has worked with People’s History in Texas (PHIT) on a variety of projects.  The two Austin-based nonprofits plan to continue that collaboration, documenting movement history, interviewing activists, and producing videos and podcasts.

During the first reunion for The Rag, Austin’s iconic underground newspaper, in 2005, People’s History in Texas stalwarts, Glenn Scott, Richard Croxdale, Melissa Hield, and Jim Cullers had the presence of mind and technical savvy to set up and gather oral histories. Those were edited into a three-part video, The Rag: Austin Underground Press 1966-1977, that has lived on the PHIT website for many years.

A 2013 PHIT video, The Stand-Ins, documented the successful demonstrations in 1960 that integrated theaters on the “Drag” near the University of Texas. Thorne Dreyer interviewed a key organizer in those demonstrations, Dr. Leon McNealy on Rag Radio.

PHIT’s Richard Croxdale was an editor, along with Thorne Dreyer and Alice Embree, of the widely-acclaimed book Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper, published by NJP in 2016.

In 2019, NJP published a book, Talkin’ Union, based on work completed in the 70s by PHIT documenting the pecanshellers’ and garment workers’ strikes led by Texas women.

In 2020, as NJP began to gather back issues of Houston’s underground newspaper, Space City!, PHIT assisted with intern support.  NJP worked with PHIT to produce a video to promote a book project.  With PHIT intern assistance, NJP compiled a comprehensive database of articles, graphics, photos, and ads. This laid the foundation for the editors. Exploring Space City!: Houston’s Historic Underground Newspaper, edited by Thorne Dreyer, Alice Embree, Sherwood Bishop and Cam Duncan, was published in 2021.

The 2022 video Defending Dissidents: The Austin Law Commune, is a 27-minute documentary, drawn from interviews with four lawyers and a legal worker about movement attorneys who represented movement activists between 1969 and 1977.  NJP board member Alice Embree was the project coordinator.

A companion short video, Witches Hex the LBJ Library, features Vernell Pratt singing her song about being arrested and a Cam Cunningham cameo.