The African American Heritage Project is a collaborative effort between the Department of History and the Center for East Texas Studies at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) in Nacogdoches, Texas, and the Black Heritage Association of Nacogdoches. Founded in 1998, the Heritage Project seeks to collect oral, written, and pictorial documentation related to the role of African Americans in the history and culture of Nacogdoches and East Texas. Materials gathered through the project, including the oral histories, are archived and made available to researchers through the cooperation of the Center for East Texas Studies and the East Texas Research Collections of the Steen Library at SFASU. School children as well as graduate students have been introduced to the materials collected by the project, and research papers and at least one thesis have already resulted from their interest in the collection.
Oral histories gathered for the project explore black churches and schools throughout Nacogdoches County and have supported the restoration of the historic Zion Hill Church, a fine example of black church architecture in Texas. In town, oral histories have been gathered focusing on the Shawnee Street neighborhood and the former all-black E. J. Campbell High School. In 2003, the project began an expansion program into neighboring counties.
The driving force behind the founding of the Nacogdoches African American Heritage Project was Birdie Belle Davis Webb, who died in spring 2005. The project continues, inspired by her memory. TOHA board members will present the Barnes Award to the Nacogdoches African American Heritage Project at a reception hosted by Dr. Jere Jackson, director of the Center for East Texas Studies, on the afternoon of September 21, 2006, the opening day of the fall meeting of the East Texas Historical Association.