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Drusilla Dunjee Houston

Brooks-Bertram, Peggy

Drusilla Dunjee Houston was a prolific, but now forgotten, African-American woman writer of the American West. She was a skilled journalist, Racial Uplift matriarch, and community builder in early Oklahoma (Brooks-Bertram 2002, xlii). We learn from Derek Allen’s 1936 Federal Writers Project report that she was also an accomplished musician who studied at the Northwestern Conservatory of Music in Minnesota where she trained in classical piano. In addition to her community work, Houston engaged in pioneering African American scholarship in which she crafted a series of historical texts on ancient African history, most notably, what she called “The Wonderful Ethiopians.” Her first book in the series, Wonderful Ethiopians of the Ancient Cushite Empires Book 1: Nations of the Cushite Empire, Marvelous Facts from Authentic Records, was self-published in 1926 and was followed by at least six others, all written somewhere between 1915 and 1926 (Brooks-Bertram 2002, 69). Regrettably, four volumes in the series appear lost, but Volume II subtitled Origin of Civilization from the Cushites was discovered in 1998 and published again in 2007. Houston was the daughter of Rev. John William Dungy, famed church builder who started the American Baptist Home Missionary Society. In addition to writing historical texts, Houston worked as a contributing editor for the Oklahoma Black Dispatch, a newspaper she ran with her brother civil rights activist Roscoe Conkling Dunjee who founded the Oklahoma branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Between 1914 and her death in 1941 Houston wrote nearly 3,000 editorials on subjects including the Tulsa Race Riot, the Houston Riots of 1917, and the East St. Louis Massacre, one example of which is a 1922 article in the Oklahoma Black Dispatch on caring for Black children.

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Film
Libraries
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Women Film Pioneers Project
Published Here
October 15, 2019