Marfa, Presidio County
Listed December 4, 2019
Blackwell School in Marfa, Texas was the sole public education institution for the city’s Mexican and Mexican American children from 1909-1965. Segregated education began in Marfa in 1892 following the completion of a new school for the city’s Anglo students. Mexican children attended the city’s original school building until 1909 when the district constructed a two-room adobe brick building on South Abbot Street. Although there was no state law that mandated separate schools for Hispanic students, Texas school districts perpetuated the practice of de facto segregation through the mid-twentieth century. Known originally as the Ward or Mexican School, Blackwell School was later named for its longtime principal Jesse Blackwell. As the student population grew more buildings, like the 1927 Band Hall, were constructed next to the 1909 schoolhouse.
Blackwell School closed in 1965 following the integration of the Marfa Independent School District, and most buildings associated with the school were razed. Marfa’s Mexican and Mexican American culture and history are directly tied to the Blackwell School, and the nominated building is tangible reminder of a time when the practice of “separate but equal” dominated educational and social systems. Blackwell School is listed in the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A in the areas of Education and Ethnic Heritage: Hispanic (Mexican) at the local level of significance because it was the only public institution built for the education of the Mexican American community of Marfa, which it served for more than fifty years. It represents the period of racial segregation in Marfa and is the sole extant property directly associated with Mexican education in the city, the remaining buildings being torn down after the school closed in 1965.