Texas State University Renames Dormitories After Women of Color Pioneers

In Summary

Texas State University formed a task committee to honor notable members of the Hispanic/Latino and Black communities' achievements to the university, and they're following through with the renaming of two residence halls. 

Students at Texas State University can now live on the right side of history, thanks to the renaming of two residence halls on the San Marcos Campus. 

Angelina Hall was renamed the First Five Freedom Hall in honor of the five Black women who helped integrate the university in 1963, and San Gabriel Hall was renamed Elena Zamora O’Shea Hall, after the first known Latina student to attend Texas State in 1906, per a press release from the university

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The “first five” was made up of Dana Jean Smith, Mabeleen Washington, Georgia Hoodye Cheatham, Gloria Odoms Powell and Helen Jackson Franks. 

Smith, an 18-year-old Black woman, petitioned for admission to Texas State in the summer of 1962. She was academically qualified to enroll, but President John G. Flowers responded in a letter that her application had been denied due to a whites-only provision in the college charter. Mabeleen Washington, a San Marcos resident, received a similar letter. 

It was a rule only a state legislature act or a court order could reverse, and on Feb. 4, 1963, U.S. District Judge Ben H. Rice Jr. signed a court ruling eliminating segregation at the university. 

Smith and Washington, as well as two other Black women from San Marcos, Cheatham and Powell, registered for classes almost immediately. Franks, a sophomore transfer from Huston-Tillotson College, did so the next day. 

In 1906, as well as the summers of 1911 and 1917, O’Shea attended Texas State University. She began educating children when she was 15 years old and left home to attend school in San Marcos, knowing she would eventually need a teaching certificate.

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Her belief in the significance of education led a lot of family members to pursue careers in education, both directly and indirectly, per the news release. 

“I feel that it’s quite an honor, and a very humbling experience,” said Cheatham, 76, per San Antonio Express-News. “It’s kind of overwhelming to even realize that this is happening after so many years. I never really gave it any thought at the time that when we entered school, it would be a part of history.”

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