Long before Instagram and smartphones, most people stored their cherished memories in an all-but-forgotten medium – photo albums.

Mary “Teddie” Kemp was one of them, and the memories she stored reveal what life was like in Texas in the early decades of the 20th century. In addition to images of vacations and wedding celebrations, Kemp had photographs of the charred remains of a Black man lynched in Texas.

As a historian and director of the Lynching in Texas project, Jeffrey L. Littlejohn writes that the album reveals the priority that Anglo Texans placed on white supremacy and Black subjugation.

“Teddie likely pasted the picture of Jesse Thomas’ burning body at the beginning of her album because it featured an electrifying, adrenaline-charged event that viscerally illustrated the nature of her new Texas home,” Littlejohn writes.

It is this portrayal of history, found in everyday family photo albums, that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants to ban from public schools. But in reality, lynchings were the rule rather than the exception.

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Howard Manly

Race + Equity Editor

In this photo from Aug. 20, 1922, Gene Kemp and Mary ‘Teddie’ Kemp, at left, are seen with two friends. Jeffrey L. Littlejohn

One family’s photo album includes images of a vacation, a wedding anniversary and the lynching of a Black man in Texas

Jeffrey L. Littlejohn, Sam Houston State University

If Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had his way, the state’s past of lynching Blacks would be taught as an exception rather than the rule. History tells a different story.


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