NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - If Nacogdoches author Jeri Mills had her way every school in Nacogdoches County would teach black history, not just during Black History Month, but all year long.
The historian's book release of "African-Americans in Nacogdoches County" illustrates the devotion Mills has for community history.
"This box is full of research," Mills said.
Mills is an active researcher and writer of African-American history, but she certainly knows the value of a historic photograph.
These photographs are part of the Mertie Mim collection," Mills said. "A woman, mind you, who was a photographer in this area. She took all kinds of pictures."
The images fill much of Mills' just released book, "African-Americans in Nacogdoches County." The photographer's nephew provided Mill's box loads of photos.
"When I got this, I just felt like this is a treasure because they're so many photographs here of the early life," Mills said.
Not all the archival photos came so easy.
"The challenge was to go into the community and have people to trust me enough to loan the pictures and tell their stories," Mills said.
They're stories of survival, heartbreak, and achievement.
"They're entertaining. And these are what you call the affluent African-Americans at that time," Mills said. "They're doctors, business people."
There are a lot of firsts for African-Americans in Nacogdoches County. Reverend Larry Wade was a pharmacist. Noah Mims was a Lone Star feed driver, and Lawson Reed established churches.
"And this was really something," Mill said.
Mills refers to one of the few historic events she didn't know about previously. A group of Nacogdoches County African-Americans chartered an airplane to Europe.
"If I hadn't seen this picture I would have said, 'No way,'" Mills said.
Mill's focus is on Nacogdoches County, but it's a glimpse of life from the 30s to 60s in all of East Texas.
"Each town has its own individual personality, each community's historical facts, but at the same time they have a lot in common." Mills said.
Mills believes people of all races should learn the accomplishments of African-Americans in their own community. In Nacogdoches County, there was a black entrepreneur of medicinal water who was unfortunately taken advantage of by white Houston businessmen.
Want to know more? View, read, and research, Jeri Mills advised.
Jeri Mills will host a book signing and reception on Tuesday, February 24 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Stone Fort Museum on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus.Nac
Mills will also be one of many featured artists and authors at an African-American Heritage event this Saturday at the SFA student center beginning at three o'clock.