A Portrait of Houston: History, Personalities & “Can-Do” Spirit

December 30, 2013

Houston skyline by Hequals2henry

Over the last 178 years, Houston has evolved from a muddy bayou outpost to a city with one of the largest ports in the world, major oil and space industries, the world’s largest medical center, a full complement of performing and visual arts, and the most diverse population of any city in the country. In her upcoming class, historian and Houston expert Betty Trapp Chapman covers Houston’s history, personalities, and  “can-do” spirit. We asked Chapman for a preview of her upcoming class.

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about your upcoming class?

Chapman: We will look at Houston’s history and how it created the city we know today. However, we will not just look at facts and figures, but, rather, we will try to  understand the mind-set and attitudes of the Houstonians who were always involved in what was happening as the city grew and developed. There were always those who thought Houston could stretch beyond its present boundaries whether  in business, culture, industry or any other area. That is what has become known as Houston’s “can-do spirit.” Having said that, we will look at many specific individuals who played a role in our historic past.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about Houston?

Chapman: One little–known fact is the role women played in the city’s development, especially in the cultural arena. At a time when women had few legal rights and were conceded little influence outside the home, Houston’s female community was responsible for initiating many of the cultural institutions we still enjoy today. It is revealing to see how this was accomplished.

WIH Reporter: What are the misconceptions that people have about Houston?

Chapman: There are many misconceptions about Houston as a city. First and foremost, we are sometimes considered to be “western” in our genetic make-up. Actually, Houston was more southern than western in its formative years and beyond.  Cowboys and cattle drives were not prominent in the city’s formation. Rather, business always took precedence and that, of course, has led the city in its development. Unfortunately, we are not always thought of as a cultural oasis when, actually, we are ranked among the top cities in the county for our arts scene.

 WIH Reporter: What materials you be using in your class?

Chapman: Media will include PowerPoint presentations utilizing many historic photographs, as well as current ones.  There will also be historic maps to scrutinize  up-close. Books pertinent to particular subjects will be brought to class and there will be an extensive Bibliography distributed for those who want to explore Houston’s history on their own.

Chapman’s 6-week class begins at 1 p.m. on March 18, 2014. For more information, click here.