23rd Cotton & Rural History Conference
Saturday, April 27, 2019
- 9:30AM-1:30PM
Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum, Greenville, Texas

Teachers who register through the Region10 website here earn 3 hours CPE.

Ken Roberts, The Cedar Choppers: Life on the Edge of Nothing

Retired economist Ken Roberts (Southwestern University, Georgetown) spent his academic years researching the effects ofeconomic change on rural working people in other countries. But, always lurking in his thoughts, were memories of the rural working people he'd encountered on the western edge of 1950s suburban Austin. These residents of the cedar barrens of the Edwards Plateau, he observed, were "a people apart" with jealously-guarded independence and mountaineer traditions spanning centuries to the Ozarks, Appalachians, and Scottish Highlands. His careful research and respect for his subjects will make this a lively and informative keynote presentation. Dr. Roberts has lived on the same ranch near Liberty Hill, Texas, for 43 years.

Scholars' Panel

In “Spreading the Gospel of Booker T. Washington: Comparing the Texas and Arkansas Little Tuskeegees,” historian Charles Baclawski will explore how Washington’s strategy for “racial uplift” played out in rural communities in Arkansas and Texas. The Farmers Improvement Society of Texas (FIS) provided a number of services to African American farmers including operating a school while the Fargo Agricultural School was one of several independent entities that offered similar services in Arkansas. Baclawski will look at the two operations and place them within the context of the early twentieth century America. Charles Baclawski holds a PhD in Heritage Studies from Arkansas State University. Currently Dr. Baclawski teaches history courses for Collin College, Cedar Valley College and Navarro College.

Early twentieth century Hopkins County's rural economy closely resembled that of other such counties along the Post Oak Strip between the East Texas pine forests to the east and the blackland prairie to the west. Capital was scarce and farmers who had a choice tended toward safety-first semi-subsistence production that largely relied on the hardworking muscles of mules and people. Farms produced sustenance for the family and modest surpluses for the market. By the late twentieth century Hopkins county's transformation into something new was complete. In "Tractors and Milk: Developments in Hopkins County Agriculture, 1945-1979," Baxley will explore Hopkins County's path to becoming one of the largest dairy producers in the region. Baxley is a recent Texas A&M University-Commerce Honors College graduate, earning the BA and MA in 2015 and 2018. He returned to his alma mater of Como-Pickton ISD where he teaches History, Government and Economics and also serves as an Adjunct Professor for Northeast Texas Community College.


Eyewitness Panel

This year’s eyewitness panel takes a departure from the norm by putting the conference organizers on the spot. Telling the conference's decades’-old origin story will be co-founders Kyle Wilkison and Jim Conrad and Executive Director Susan Lanning of the Audie Murphy / American Cotton Museum.

The conference is co-sponsored by Collin College, Texas A&M University - Commerce and the Audie Murphy American Cotton Museum.

Advance reservations may be made by contacting the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum, 600 Interstate 30 East, Greenville , Texas 75403. The museum can be reached by telephone at (903) 454-1990 or (903) 450-4502. Please call one week in advance to reserve your registration. There is a $12 registration fee to cover the barbecue lunch ($5 for students).     

Past Cotton and Rural History Conferences

For 22 years this gathering has benefited from the generosity of notable and award-winning scholars who have presented their work in the fields of history, folklore, and the oral narrative. They have included J. Brett Adams, Jacques D. Bagur, Bruce Baker, Sven Beckert, Amanda B. Biles, D. Clayton Brown, Walter Buenger, the late Robert A. Calvert, Jr., Randolph B. "Mike" Campbell, Adrienne Caughfield, James H. Conrad, Edward Countryman, Light T. Cummins, Pamela Gaiter, Karen Gerhardt, James C. Giesen, Chris Grooms, Eric Gruver, the late John Hanners, Paul Harvey, Jr., John Jackson, Melissa Johnson, Deborah Kilgore, Susan Lanning, Gwendolyn Lawe, Debbie Liles, Jeffrey Littlejohn, John Lundberg, Michelle Mears, Kay Mizell, Lois E. Myers, Nick Nelson, Kristopher Paschal, Deborah Porter, Jeri Reed, Debra Reid, Jarod H. Roll. Rebecca Sharpless, Cameron Sinclair, Thad Sitton, the late James M. Smallwood, Paul E. Sturdevant, Susanne Summers, Carol Taylor, Andres Tijerina, Andrew Torget, Stephen A. Townsend, Sam Tullock, Leland Turner, Keith Volanto, Jeannie Whayne, Patricia Wingate, Lee Winniford, Dan K. Utley, Scott Yarbrough and Nancy Beck Young.

Presenters have represented colleges, universities, libraries and museums from across Texas and the nation including Austin College, the University of Arkansas, Baylor University, Burton Cotton Gin Museum, Collin College, the University of Central Oklahoma, Eastern Illinois University, Harvard University, Hill College, the Heritage Farmstead Museum, the University of Houston, the University of Illinois-Chicago, A.C. McMillan African-American Museum, Mississippi State University, University of Newcastle (UK), New Mexico Junior College, the University of North Texas, Oklahoma State University, Paris Junior College, Sam Houston State University, St. Edward's University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University - College Station, Texas A&M University - Commerce, Texas A&M University - Kingsville, Texas Christian University, Texas Woman's University and the Weslaco Bi-Cultural Museum.

Kyle Wilkison, James H. Conrad and Andrew Baker organize the annual event and welcome paper proposals from historians working in the fields of rural, social or agricultural history.  Please submit proposals to Kyle Wilkison at the address below:  

Kyle Wilkison, PhD
Professor of History
Department of History
Collin College
Plano, Texas 75074
(972) 881-5834
FAX: (972) 881-5700

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