“Ruby Houston receives community award.” Photographer unknown, 1985.
Authored by anon in “In the Shadow of the Church: Black Study in the Town of Davidson“
last updated 02.09.2021
Seventy years after the Lowery family home burned on Brady’s Alley, Ruby Houston’s home received a new roof (Times of Davidson, 2020.) Ms. Houston’s family lived in the house on Sloan Street for decades; one of the first inhabitants of the home was Ada Jenkins, for whom the Ada Jenkins Community Center is named. According to a 2020 article in the Times of Davidson, Carolina Roof Consultants was approached by an anonymous member of the Davidson community, who told them about Ms. Houston’s special role in the community. Ruby Houston’s grandfather, Logan Houston, worked with Ada Jenkins to build a new building for the Davidson Colored School in 1938. Ms. Houston herself is a longtime community organizer, who is active at the Ada Jenkins Center and, in 1985, received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Davidson College Commencement for her work.
This image of Ruby Houston, taken as she accepts the award from Dean of Students Will Terry, stuck out to me because of Ms. Houston’s gaze (Mecklenburg Gazette, 1985). As Terry looks forward, out to the crowd, or perhaps at his remarks on a teleprompter, Houston looks directly at the person holding the camera, her face serious and composed. This picture was originally published in an article in the Mecklenburg Gazette, but I came across the image in a scrapbook belonging to Maggie Smith, a Black woman from the town of Davidson. Ms. Smith’s scrapbook was donated to Archives and Special Collections and digitized by College staff as part of the Shared Stories project, which solicited, digitized, and archived photographs and documents from African-American communities in Northern Mecklenburg County. At whom is Ms. Houston looking? At the reporter, but also perhaps at friends who would be reading the article, at Maggie Smith who would meticulously cut out this image to save.