As recently as the early 1970s, black residents of sleepy Commerce, Texas, lived, quite literally, in “The Hole.” “The Hole” was the name given to the historically segregated section of the city, and was established in the late 19th century to provide housing for blacks who staffed the local university. Residents of “The Hole” established schools, churches, restaurants, shops, and other business to provide services that Jim Crow segregation meant were unavailable on the other side of town. However, though they were legally part of the city of Commerce, they remained without paved streets or access to city sewage systems, bereft of police or ambulance coverage, and lacking in adequate electric, telephone and postal services. Even after what is now Texas A&M University-Commerce desegregated in 1964, the blacks who worked on campus returned nightly to their segregated community on the wrong side of the tracks.
December 19, 2013