Blackwell School to record oral history interviews this weekend

A vintage photo of the playground at the Blackwell School. The Blackwell School provided education to the Marfa students of Mexican descent from 1909 to 1965. Courtesy of Marfa and Presidio County Museum.

MARFA — Blackwell School alumni, descendants and Marfa community members are invited to record in-person oral history interviews this weekend from Friday, July 21, through Sunday, July 23, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the school at 501 S. Abbott Street.

Interviews will be facilitated by Cristóbal López of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and can be conducted in English or Spanish. 

The Blackwell School, a three-room adobe schoolhouse which served local Mexican American students from 1909 to 1965, was officially designated as a National Historic Site this fall. 

Daniel Hernandez, president of the Blackwell School Alliance, the group that has run the site as a museum for years and helped achieve the National Historic Site status, said the goal of the oral history project is to preserve the personal stories of de facto segregation. Hernandez said the ongoing project hopes to capture a “broad set of perspectives,” and while there is a focus on the Blackwell School specifically, the opportunity is open to those who may want to share similar experiences.

“I don’t think we want to limit it to just Blackwell, because we really want the Blackwell School to be that microcosm and venue to be able to explore the greater issue of de facto segregation in American history,” said Hernandez. 

The newly-recorded oral history interviews will join the Blackwell School’s existing archives. 

The Blackwell School Alliance, the NPCA, and the National Park Service (NPS) are currently working with the Marfa Independent School District to facilitate the land transfer of the school and grounds from the district — which leases it to the alliance — to the NPS. Hernandez reported no major updates on the matter, but said stakeholders were working closely and a solid update could be coming soon. 

The NPS has budgeted $265,000 for maintenance of the Blackwell School in 2024, which involves hiring two park employees and more. 

For those who are interested in participating in the Blackwell School oral history interviews but are unable to attend recording sessions in person in Marfa, the NPCA is also available to conduct interviews in the El Paso and San Antonio areas, and remote interviews may be done via Zoom or telephone. 

Please contact Cristobal Lopez at [email protected] or call 210-383-2659 for more information or to schedule an interview.