Members to present papers at East Texas Historical Association Fall Conference

Texas Folklore Society
By Texas Folklore Society
Posted August 3, 2022 to News.

Tags: TFS, Texas Folklore Society, folkore, Robert Jack Duncan, Elizabeth Duncan, Richard Orton, Lareatha Clay, ETHA, East Texas Historical Association

Maybe it’s because of being shut in during the pandemic or maybe we just like getting together, but “gatherings” has been a hot topic at TFS over the last few months. The subject has culminated in dozens of submissions for our 2023 book, as well as an upcoming panel that will offer a sneak peek of the work of a few Texas Folklore Society members.

Robert “Jack” Duncan and Elizabeth Duncan, both past presidents and members for more than 50 years from McKinney, and Lareatha Clay, a newcomer from Dallas, will share their gatherings papers during East Texas Historical Association’s Fall Conference. The event will be held Oct. 13–15 at the Fredonia Hotel in Nacogdoches. TFS board member Richard Orton, of Nacogdoches, will serve as moderator and provide panel commentary.

Jack will present his paper on the State Fair of Texas, which his family attended regularly when he was a boy in the late 1940s and 1950s. It’s a story alive with vivid memories of traveling from the family farm to Fair Park and the intriguing folks encountered by a farm boy visiting the big city for the state’s grandest fete.

Elizabeth will share her paper about our annual meetings, which she and Jack have attended since 1970. Through her writing, Elizabeth weaves together TFS history and the connections that keep TFS, an organization of almost 115 years, stitched together. She likens the meetings to family reunions that “all the good cousins” attend.

While Lareatha is new to TFS, she has worked for years to preserve history in East Texas. She is a founder of the AYA Symposium, which has an “overarching purpose is to serve as a vehicle for the ‘multidisciplinary exploration of Texas Freedom Colonies.’” She also founded the Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival in Shankleville in 2014, paying homage to deep-seated traditions.

Purple hull peas were brought from Africa by enslaved people and later became an essential commodity in post-emancipation Texas and remain rooted in Southern history and celebrations. Lareatha’s paper will focus on the Clay Family Homecoming.

“Through Lareatha’s extensive work and through Richard’s upcoming documentary on freedom colonies, both have stressed the importance of encouraging descendants of these freedom colony communities to tell their own stories,” Past President Kay Reed Arnold said. “Like A Biscuit for Your Shoe, written by TFS member Beatrice Upshaw in 2020, our 2023 gatherings book and our annual meetings provide examples of the ways we can help folks preserve and collect these important stories.”

TFS member Debbie Liles—who is also Tarleton’s WK Gordon Endowed Chair in Texas History—will be sworn in as ETHA president during the ETHA conference in October. You can register for the event through the ETHA website.