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History without a home: PVILCA in search of space to house Black high school sports history

The PVIL lost much of its history during the process of integration. Two former athletes have recovered so much of it, they now need a place to store it.

AUSTIN, Texas — From 1920 to 1970, the state of Texas' high school athletics looked much different than it does today.

The University Interscholastic League, or UIL, was a league for only white students, while the Prairie View Interscholastic League was for Black students.

The PVIL folded upon integration and much of its history, record books and trophies were lost with it.

Two former PVIL athletes have spent the past decade digging it back up, and they've now assembled so many artifacts that they're now looking for a permanent home for them.

Robert Brown, the PVILCA chairman of the board of directors, is one of the men responsible for preserving this history and making it come to life. Every February for Black History Month, he showcases an exhibit.

It's an exhibit on wheels that's transported from his home in Houston to the UIL office in Downtown Austin.

“It took us 12 years to get over 600 pieces – mostly jackets, newspaper articles and jerseys,” he said.

Each of the items represents a piece of history from the segregation era in Texas.

“Over here is the 1967 State Class A Championships,” Brown said, motioning to one of the trophies featured in the exhibit. “The Wheatley basketball team won 11 state championships … and this is called 'A League of Their Own.' The Houston Chronicle wrote about the PVIL. Instead of having an oral history on Blacks, we have a pictorial history where we can talk about – and you can see, touch and feel. We can show these things a lot better than they can keep them at home.”

A home is also what Leroy Bookman hopes to find.

“This needs to be posted somewhere in a museum. All of the pictures of the Anderson teams that I have. What would be nice would be a spot in a museum. That’s where they belong,” he said.

Bookman is in charge of telling Anderson High School's part of this story, and has been doing this work since 2010.

He's done such a good job, his collection is starting to take over his house.

“A lot of work. A lot of work trying to do the research. A lot of work," he said. “For a long time, Anderson traditionally was winning everything. We have more people in the PVIL Hall of Fame than any other school.”

Credit: KVUE News

Bookman and Brown serve on the board of the PVILCA together. Their group is dedicated to filling rooms with knowledge and keeping the history alive.

That effort is on full display the moment the display in the UIL office comes down at the start of March – the conclusion of Black History Month. Brown hauls his exhibit back to Houston, hoping one day to find a permanent place.

“It’s the ideal situation to have this in Austin or Houston,” he said.

For now, it's history without a home – history that needs a home if it wants to survive.

“Can you imagine a wall full of plaques with pictures on it?” Brown asked.

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