What do you know about Houston, Texas? That Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States? That Houston was the home of...

What do you know about Houston, Texas? That Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States? That Houston was the home of the 2016 NCAA Final Four in basketball and the home of the NFL’s Super Bowl LI in 2017? That Houston is the home of the world’s largest medical center and is also the hub of the American energy industry? All of the above are true, and even more Houston is noted for its rich diversity of people and blending of cultures.

Beginning after World War I, Houston was transformed from a black-and-white frontier town into one of the most ethnically and racially diverse urban areas in the United States. Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City (University of California Press, 2015) draws on social and cultural history to show how, despite Anglo attempts to fix racial categories through Jim Crow laws, converging migrations particularly those of Mexicans from across the border and Creoles from Louisiana complicated ideas of blackness and whiteness and introduced different understandings about race. This migration history also uses music and sound to examine these racial complexities, tracing the emergence of Houston’s blues and jazz scenes in the 1920s as well as the hybrid forms of these genres that arose when migrants forged shared social space and carved out new communities and politics. Houston Bound is both an innovative historiography about migration and immigration in the twentieth century as well as a critical examination of a city located in the former Confederacy.

Author Tyina L. Steptoe is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Arizona. Her work focuses on the cultural and social history of the United States especially race, ethnicity, and gender. After Houston Bound, her current research concerns how rhythm and blues performers Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton and Little Richard subverted and challenged gender norms in the 1950s.


James Stancil is an independent scholar, freelance journalist, and the President and CEO of Intellect U Well, Inc. a Houston-area non-profit dedicated to increasing the joy of reading and media literacy in young people.

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