Every city has a story to tell. Every city wants you to remember something about it. Black Austin Tours ensures that Black histories, experiences and contributions are included in Austin's story. Black Austin Tours Founder and Guide, Javier Wallace, provides both in-person and virtual experiences that tell the hard truths, including those about some of our most visited places like Barton Springs, Zilker Park and the Texas State Capitol Building. He does this to hold the city accountable and ensure that visitors have a better understanding of the city and the sites and spaces they are visiting while here.
Soulsville Mural. Credit Javier Wallace.
Many people don't know, but the City of Austin deliberately used zoning practices to shape the city's racial geography. This included how green spaces would be incorporated to increase Austin’s appeal to visitors. Areas such as Barton Springs and Zilker Park became coveted White spaces, which excluded racialized minorities. The Black population was wholesale excluded from its use, and the non-Black Mexican-American community was occasionally allowed access to the facilities on special occasions like Easter. Under the tutelage of Separate but Equal in the Jim Crow South, the City of Austin modestly invested in segregated parks in East Austin. Rosewood Park for Blacks and Zaragoza Park for Mexicans. However, Azie Taylor Morton, a Black Austinite, who was the first and only Black person to hold U.S. Treasurer from 1977-1981, in the 1960s, she and other Black youth staged “swim-ins” at the racially segregated Barton Springs Pool. Their protest forced the City of Austin to desegregate these facilities.
Austin has a history of excluding Black people from many spaces and its narrative. It’s impossible to call Austin the Live Music Capital of the World and not center the conversation around African-Americans. The same must be said about Austin’s role in barbecue culture in the U.S. It’s a conversation that can’t be had without centering the contributions of Black people.
Black Austin Tours Guide and Founder Javier Wallace. Credit Nicole Renfro.
Black Austin Tours believes there’s a responsibility to address these issues and not revert to silencing. Residents and visitors to Austin must not be complicit in this silencing and erasure. They must be attuned to the emotional ties Black Austinites have to physical spaces and institutions. Part of being a responsible traveler is to understand the areas you temporarily visit. Here are some questions you should ask yourself: Who was there before me? Who made it possible for me to enjoy this space currently? How can I meaningfully contribute to this community?
Black Austin Tours offers both in-person tours and virtual experiences. We welcome guests from around the globe to visit Austin from the comfort of their homes and hope they visit us soon in Central Texas. For more information, to purchase tours and to stay abreast of Austin’s history that centers on Black people, follow @BlackAustinTours on social media and check out the website www.BlackAustinTours.com.
Contributed by Javier Wallace, Black Austin Tours