Brewer publishes his first collections of poetry, Echoes of Thought and Glimpses of Life
Austin historian and author Ada Simond remembers Brewer as a teacher
On the contributions of black politicians to Texas
Zan Holmes Jr., a former student of Brewer's. Holmes served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1968 to 1972.
Frank Wardlaw, founding director of the University of Texas Press
Artist John Biggers talks about his experience accompanying Brewer when collecting stories. Biggers was the founding chairman of the Art Department at Texas Southern University in Houston, teaching at the university from 1949 to 1983.
The tale of Aunt Dicy
Dr. James Byrd, a professor at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University–Commerce)
Byrd on Brewer as an educator and public speaker
Audio from a lecture by Brewer about his subject
Recurring forms of black folklore, from riddles to spirituals
Directed by William McRae with funding from Humanities Texas, this 1980 documentary chronicles the life and legacy of black folklorist J. Mason Brewer. Folklorist John Henry Faulk narrates the program. The film features audio of Brewer reading his own work, as well as interviews with his former students and colleagues, including Texas Representative Zan Holmes Jr. and famed muralist John Biggers.
John Mason Brewer (1896 - 1975) was an acclaimed scholar and writer of black folklore. Born in Goliad, he attended black public schools in Austin before studying English at Wiley College in Marshall. After serving with the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I, Brewer returned to Texas to work as a teacher and principal.
Brewer began publishing his own poetry and short stories in the 1920s. With the encouragement of noted Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie, he soon turned to collecting and publishing black folklore. Over the next 50 years, he published several major volumes, including Negrito: Dialect Poems of the Southwest (1933), The Word on the Brazos: Negro Preacher Tales from the Brazos Bottoms of Texas (1956), Dog Ghosts and Other Texas Negro Folktakes (1958), Worser Days and Better Times (1965), and American Negro Folklore (1968).
Brewer continued to teach throughout his publishing career, working as a professor at Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas Southern University in Houston, and East Texas State University (now Texas A&M University–Commerce) in Commerce. In 1951, he received an honorary Doctorate in Literature from Paul Quinn College in Waco for his "unmatched contribution to African-American literature and folklore."
Brewer was the first black member of both the Texas Folklore Society and the Texas Institute of Letters. (He broke the color barrier at the Driskill Hotel during his induction into the latter.) He was also the first African American to serve on the council of the American Folklore Society, rising to the role of vice president. Humanities Texas credits Brewer with "almost single-handedly [preserving] the African-American folklore of his home state." As a result, he is often compared to other noted black writers, such as Zora Neale Hurston, Joel Chandler Harris, and Alain Locke.
John Henry Faulk (1913-1990) was a Texas writer, humorist, television personality, lecturer, and civil rights activist. Faulk grew up in Austin, Texas, and studied at the University of Texas where he became the protégé of progressive Texas thinkers J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb, and Roy Bedicheck. Faulk's father was a socialist and staunchly anti-racist, and Faulk's upbringing, coupled with the influence of his three mentors, led his scholarly research into the civil liberties of African Americans; his master's thesis focused on the analysis of ten African-American sermons from churches along the Brazos River. Faulk taught English at the University of Texas from 1940-42, where he honed his talents of using storytelling as a commentary on societal norms in front of his students.
After serving in the Merchant Marines and the U.S. Army during WWII, he became acquainted with members of the entertainment industry through his close friend, Alan Lomax. In 1946, CBS gave Faulk his first weekly radio program. He went on to have shows on several other regional stations before beginning the John Henry Faulk Show for WCBS in 1951. The show ran for six years until Faulk famously fell victim to Cold War era McCarthyism, and his entertainment career effectively ended due to his blacklisting. In 1957, the right-wing, for-profit organization AWARE, Inc., likely in retaliation for Faulk's previous efforts to thwart AWARE's control of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists union, blacklisted Faulk for alleged communist associations and sympathies. Faulk filed and won a libel suit against the organization, winning a historic settlement that the jury determined was fair compensation, a sum much larger than Faulk sought in his original petition. Despite his courtroom victory, Faulk was unable to find work as a media entertainer again until 1975 when he joined the cast of Hee-Haw.
Faulk wrote two books, one a tell-all about his battle against blacklisting that became an Emmy-winning television movie in 1974. He returned to Austin in 1968, and, along with his work on Hee-Haw, he wrote two one-man plays, unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Congress, and again became a university lecturer, urging students to protect their First Amendment rights. Faulk married Hally Wood in 1940, Lynne Smith in 1948, and Elizabeth Peake in 1965; he had five children. John Henry Faulk died in 1990 after a battle with cancer. Austin's central branch of their public library system is named in his honor.