Blackwell School Alliance sees a busy month as attention grows for site designation

Sue Ann Pemberton (left) presents Alliance President Gretel Enck with a donation to support the preservation and restoration of the Blackwell School.

MARFA — With a recent front page article in the Los Angeles Times about the Blackwell School Alliance’s mission to preserve this school’s history, the alliance has received visits from multiple dignitaries and journalists in February. 

Congressman Tony Gonzales and staff from the National Parks Conservation Association visited the schoolhouse on Saturday, February 12. Gonzales shepherded the bill to designate the Blackwell School as a National Historic Site through the House of Representatives, with a 417-8 vote to approve in December. Members of the alliance provided a tour, shared stories and discussed current needs for building restoration. 

During the week of February 14, reporters visited the school to understand and share the experience of attending this segregated school for children of Mexican descent. Monica Ortiz from El Paso Times and Angela Sandoval with Univision, along with their videographers, met with former students and community members

On Friday, February 18, Bishop Michael Hunn of the Episcopal Diocese of the Rio Grande visited the Blackwell School on the recommendation of Alliance Board Member and Marfa’s Episcopal Vicar Mike Wallens. The Diocese provides services and resources to underserved communities in Texas and New Mexico. Bishop Hunn particularly connected to the untold stories represented at the Blackwell School. 

Responding to the alliance’s fundraising campaign to restore the Blackwell School, Texas Historical Foundation member Sue Ann Pemberton presented the alliance with a $5,000 donation from the foundation. Also last week, the alliance learned that the Summerlee Foundation will contribute $30,000 to the project. The alliance has now raised $100,000 to match a grant request to the Economic Development Agency’s American Rescue Plan Act funding for Tourism Construction. 

Alliance President Gretel Enck noted, “We have worked a long time to advocate for this special place, and it’s paying off. We are grateful to everyone who has supported, and continues to support, the Blackwell School. The alumni deserve to have their stories known, and with all this help, that goal is being achieved.”

The Blackwell School served the Mexican American students of Marfa from 1909 until 1965 when Marfa schools achieved integration. Today, the Blackwell School welcomes visitors to learn about this important piece of Marfa history. Open hours are Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Learn more at