HOUSTON - He’s a huge part of Houston’s history and chances are you have no idea why. This Black History month we’re highlighting Jack Yates and showing you how his relatives are continuing his legacy.
Reverend Jack Yates, who was actually a free man in Virginia, had to go back into slavery here in Texas in order to stay with his family.
We caught up with two of his great, great, great-granddaughters at the school that bears his name, Jack Yates High School.
“It’s amazing to be able to walk the halls of a building that’s so amazing, that’s named after my great great great grandfather. You know you can feel the history here,” says Shelby Stewart.
"I love it. It’s actually a lot different from when I was in school years ago. It’s a beautiful building,” adds Jasmine Terry who attended Yates High. “I really didn’t tell anyone it was named after my great, great, great grandfather. I was shy."
It’s fitting for a school to carry his name because Yates not only learned to read, write, and do arithmetic at a time when it was illegal for blacks to do so, he also taught other black people.
“He learned because at the time he was born, the slave owner's wife had a son and she died in childbirth, so Yates' mother was brought into the house to take care of him,” explains Yates' great-granddaughter Jacqueline Whiting Bostic.
Yates opened Houston’s first black church Antioch Missionary in 1866 and opened a school for blacks. His many accomplishments are documented and on display with The Heritage Society. In fact, Sam Houston Park has the very two-story house that Yates built himself and lived in.
Yates bought property, showed others how to do the same, and helped many black families build homes after slavery.
“He really helped to develop the area we know as Freedman’s Town,” adds Whiting Bostic.
His loved ones say they are continuing his legacy by volunteering and bringing others together.
“That’s the whole reason for me opening a space in Third Ward, Le Chateau. I created a networking platform. I want us to connect and push the culture forward,” says Terry.
“When you look at black history there are so many people that we know of but there are also so many people that get overlooked. So I encourage everyone to dig deep into the archives,” says Stewart.