“San Antonio is what San Antonio is because of us,” said Charles Andrews, speaking of Black residents, who he said have made major contributions to the city’s development since its founding.
Andrews spoke during an interview in no uncertain terms as one of the key figures in a new documentary film Family Value: Representation, Identity and Diversity of the African American Family, to premiere at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, on KSAT 12.
The one-hour documentary was inspired by the 2021 national Black History theme, the Black family, and charts the local history of four prominent families: the Andrewses, Glossons, Edwardses, and Browns.
These four families are notable for their contributions in the medical field, education, science, athletics, and the faith community, said Deborah Omowale Jarmon, executive director of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM), which co-sponsored the film with KSAT.
Omowale Jarmon said the centurylong influence of these families proves that “strong family ties create strong community ties that can make a difference.”
Andrews grew up on the West Side working for his physician father, who he said opened the first integrated medical practice not only in the city but in the southern and southwestern U.S.
“He opened his office and they came,” Andrews said of the Mexican American, German, and Black residents of the neighborhood.
As a youngster, Andrews experienced forms of discrimination that were commonplace at the time against Black residents. But there were exceptions, too. To help his father he would take the city bus into downtown to fulfill prescriptions for patients, and one white bus driver in particular – a member of a German family that ran a gas station near his father’s medical office – would allow him to sit right behind him in the front of the bus, despite posted notice that “coloreds” could sit only in the back.
If anyone complained, Andrews said, the driver would tell them, “Get off my goddamn bus.”
This and other stories of Black life in San Antonio are told throughout the documentary, with each family receiving 12 minutes of focus, which Omowale Jarmon said is “just a teaser” in terms of the rich trove of Black history stored within the SAAACAM archives.
Altogether, the Black community of San Antonio has produced intellectuals, athletes, artisans, musicians, members of the military, and others who have combined to make the city a pioneer in the ongoing quest for integration and racial equality, Andrews said.
“My family, along with the Glossons, has been instrumental in many, many firsts,” he said, including integrating the Woolworth’s lunch counter downtown and integrating the swimming pool in San Pedro Park. The Suttons of the extended Andrews family raised prominent politicians, including G.J. Sutton, the first Black elected official in the Southwest, and onetime Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton. The extended family also at one time owned the largest Black broadcasting company in the nation.
Clyde Glosson, 75, sports a giant, diamond-encrusted ring on the third finger of his left hand, the result of his role in winning Super Bowl IV as a wide receiver with the Kansas City Chiefs. Two years earlier, Glosson had qualified for the 1968 Olympics as a track athlete, though he said he was denied a chance to compete because of his Black Power activism.
That activism helped lead to the raised-fist Black Power salutes of gold medalist Tommie Smith and bronze medalist John Carlos, which Glosson said was in part a protest against the discrimination Black athletes commonly endured.
Though a highly accomplished athlete, Glosson is perhaps best known in San Antonio as an educator. He taught for 30 years at Davis Middle School and Fox Tech High School, focusing primarily on history.
Andrews said educators like Glosson have been a great benefit to the Black community, in teaching not only the curricula required at the time but important elements of Black history that white students were not commonly taught. Andrews and his fellow Black students learned early on that Black Canary Islanders were among the first settlers of what would become San Antonio, that a Black slave was among the Alamo defenders, and that Black men fought in the army of Mexican Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna.
“They taught us about who we were and how to be proud of who we were,” he said.
The work of archiving San Antonio’s Black history is ongoing, Omowale Jarmon said. The SAAACAM website includes a page seeking oral history-style entries, and once the new physical location of the archive and museum opens March 4 in La Villita, those and other stories will have a permanent place to be told.
“Black history here in San Antonio is so far-reaching, and it hasn’t even been tapped into,” she said.