Southwestern Female Authors: Lillian B. Horace and Her Contemporaries
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Southwestern Female Authors Lillian B. Horace and Her Contemporaries Bruce A. Glasrud More than forty years ago, I completed a dissertation called “Black Texans, 1900–1930: A History” at Texas Tech University.1 During all the time I worked on what I considered to be that solid piece of research , I never saw the name of Lillian B. Horace, despite journeying to every library at every four-­ year school in the state of Texas, as well as to the State Library and numerous public libraries. Ten years later I spent two weeks in Fort Worth, Horace’s residence for many years, talked to people about blacks in Fort Worth and Dallas, and researched in the libraries at TCU and SMU and at Fort Worth’s Public Library.Yet again, I uncovered no mention of Horace. The point is that too many African Americans—and especially women—remained under the reHorace in San Antonio 140 Bruce A. Glasrud searcher’s radar. The reasons for this omission were varied—sometimes it was deliberate, due to racism and sexism, and sometimes it was simply because no one seemed to care. That is why I found Karen Kossie-­ Chernyshev’s symposium on Lillian B. Horace so exciting. Seeking information about women writers in Texas can be difficult even today. A marvelous book in which to begin is Sylvia Ann Grider and Lou Halsell Rodenberger’s TexasWomenWriters: A Tradition of Their Own; however, you will not discover Horace’s name in it.2 It is particularly difficult to locate information about women of color. Only in 2003 did Kossie-­ Chernyshev locate sources and information about Horace (as she phrased it, “I bumped into her work March 3, 2003”). The difficulties continue. They are why Betty Sue Flowers in Texas Women Writers restricted her topic (the emergence of Texas women poets, 1836 to 1936) to “published poems by Anglo poets.”3 Her stated reason, that other ethnic groups did not have the access of Anglos to publication resources, overlooks the fact that black and brown women published poetry as well as other work. We need to keep looking. The only published African American novelist we know of in Texas during the period known as the Jazz Age, or Harlem Renaissance, or Age of the Automobile, was Lillian B. Jones/Horace. In fact, she was the first known black Texas woman to publish a novel at all. Born Lillian B. Amstead in 1880, she self-­ published her novel Five Generations Hence in 1916. It was a fitting precursor to the emerging Harlem Renaissance in Texas and the nation. A strong proponent of education, Jones attended Bishop College, Prairie View A&M, and Simmons University in Kentucky , where in 1921–22 she served as dean of women and received her bachelor’s degree. Married in 1900 and divorced in 1919, Jones taught school in Fort Worth, worked for the Texas Commission on Interracial Cooperation, maintained a diary, wrote and published a biography, completed, but was not successful in publishing, another novel (Angie Brown), and published articles for the Eastern Star. Espousing education and independence for African American women, and concerned with the lack of freedom for blacks in the United States, Jones’s protagonist in Five Generations Hence was an Afro-­Texas school teacher whose vision called for blacks to go back to Africa “five generations hence.” Jones was undoubtedly familiar with the efforts at this time of black Oklahoman Chief Sam to send a boatload of African Americans to Africa from Galveston . In the novel, a black farmer befriended by the teacher moves to 141 Southwestern Female Authors Africa to pursue his dream of economic independence. In 1930, Jones married a man named Horace and adopted her new name of Lillian B. Horace. She lived until 1965.4 Black Texas author Lillian B. Horace was not alone. African American women in the Southwest struggled to write and to publish; other womendidthesame,whetherblack,white,orbrown.5AmongHorace’s female literarycontemporaries in the Southwest, nine stand out—eight from Texas, and one from New Mexico. They include African Americans Anita Scott Coleman, Josie Briggs Hall, Maud Cuney-­ Hare, and Bernice Love Wiggins; Mexican Americans Jovita Guerra Gonzalez de Mireles and Josefina Maria Niggli; and Anglos Karle Wilson Baker, Katherine Anne Porter, and Dorothy Scarborough. Interestingly, these authors used different forms—poetry, short fiction, novels—but they emphasized similar themes and concepts, including the importance of their history; of family; of the roles of women; of a female tradition (not male dominated,— and...