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story.lead_photo.caption A detail of a Dresden plate pattern quilt block is shown. A textile exhibit is on display at the P.J. Ahern Home. (Submitted photo)

TEXARKANA — The Texarkana Museums System kicks off the new year by looking to the past with a Saturday discussion about Texarkana desegregation and an exhibit of wintertime quilts, coats and hats.

The Museum of Regional History hosts a talk by Katherine Doan titled "Integration 1971: Equal But Separated" from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Doan, a Texarkana native, will present research findings from her student thesis at the University of Texas at Austin. Specifically, her research involved desegregation in Texarkana public schools, including the 1952 system of segregation in place at Texarkana College.

Donna Bonjour, a TMS docent, says people should register online in advance.

Katherine Doan

"Katherine is going to present her thesis, which is a historical narrative on integration in Texarkana public schools," Bonjour said. She points out that in addition to being a year for integration, 1971 was the year the TMS opened as a museum.

"She interviewed local citizens in Texarkana who were either teachers or students during the integration period, so I think she will talk about her interviews," Bonjour said about Doan's talk.

Doan discusses her academic project at the website

In the introduction to her thesis, Doan writes, "I constructed a historical narrative of the time period leading up to, defining, and following school desegregation to see how this shift affected the community as a whole. This narrative, previously undocumented, began before 'Brown (v. Board of Education)' and ended in the mid-1970s. Running the gamut of every possible detainment strategy, Texarkana is a case study in the concerted efforts of American communities to maintain 'separate but equal' school systems even after integration was ordered by the Supreme Court."

Her inspiration to research Texarkana comes from being a fifth-generation native who grew up in the Texarkana schools, as did her family several generations back.

"This history is an important tool for identifying the causes of the inequality still present in schools today," Doan writes. "Without addressing the issues at the root of the matter, this phenomenon will continue as a self-fulfilling prophecy; a prophecy that our community has allowed to perpetuate for far too long."

In an emailed statement, Doan said, "Desegregation of Texarkana schools is a fascinating and crucial time period in Texarkana's history. 1971 marks the end of the official transition, and understanding what occurred in the years before sets the scene for Texarkana in the '70s. This presentation focuses on integration of both Texarkana and Arkansas side schools between 1954 and 1970 and provides an insightful perspective on the events that took place."

The winter textiles exhibit is now part of the regular tour at the P.J. Ahern Home, up through February. It features quilts, coats and hats donated by Texarkana-area residents as far back as the 1880s in the 19th century.

"One of my favorite pieces in our textile collection is a crazy quilt from the 1890s," said the TMS curator, Jamie Simmons, in a news release about the exhibit. "It was hand stitched by the grandmother of the donor, Carol Letterman, on those long winter evenings when it was too cold to go out."

The wintertime apparel displayed at the Arkansas-side 1905 Classical Revival mansion includes silk-lined overcoats, flannel opera capes, fur muffs and more.

Said Simmons, "The coats range from the utilitarian to the ornate. One of the bustle coats is part of a wedding ensemble worn by Jessie Cook Arnold at her winter wedding in October 1880."

(Admission to "Integration 1971: Equal But Separated" is $5, or free for Texarkana Museums System members. Register at P.J. Ahern Home admission is $5, or free for TMS members. Tours are held at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. More info: 903-793-4831.)

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