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Tommy Wyatt

Listen to curated clips of this oral history:
Clip 1: Changes In East Austin
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Clip 2: East Austin Clubs
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Clip 3: Police Brutality
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Clip 4: Starting The Villager
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Clip 5: Voting Rights Act
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Download Teacher Questions for this oral history in .pdf format

Biographical Notes
Tommy Wyatt is the publisher of The Villager, an African American Community newspaper that was established in 1973 and is still being published in East Austin. Mr. Wyatt was born and raised in Lubbock, Texas and moved to Austin in 1962, where he sold insurance for many years. Since moving to Austin, he has been active in the East Austin community, particularly regarding issues of importance to Austin’s African American residents. In addition to publishing and editing The Villager, Mr. Wyatt also writes a weekly column in that newspaper called “Rappin’,” in which he offers editorial viewpoints on current issues.

Abstract
Tommy Wyatt began publishing The Villager in 1973 as a means for addressing issues important to the African American Community in Austin. The newspaper’s offices are located on East 11th Street in Austin, which is a section of town that was, during the days of segregation, a thriving business and residential community for African Americans. He explains economic changes on the East Side, and describes how the dispersal of African Americans with higher incomes to other areas of town after integration left the community impoverished. Mr. Wyatt describes some of the changes that have occurred in the neighborhood over the years, including the demise of many African American-owned restaurants, bars, live music venues, movie theaters, and other businesses. He describes some of the nightclubs that used to be in the area, in particular a popular live music club called Charlie’s Playhouse. He explains that when he moved to Austin, most of the people on the east side who did not own homes leased rooms in family residences because of the lack of available apartment housing for African Americans. He describes the first apartment building built for Blacks, in which he resided. He sold insurance for many years and he talks about his experience in that business, and describes the beginnings of his newspaper in the early 1970s. He also speaks about African American elected officials in Austin, and discusses canvassing for people to pay the poll tax previous to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Mr. Wyatt was born and raised in Lubbock, Texas, and addresses the differences in that town before and after integration, as well as the differences between West Texas and Austin. Finally, he discusses police brutality and racial profiling within the Austin Police Department, and some of the efforts made by his paper and organizations like the Black Citizens Task Force and the Brown Berets to combat this problem.


Disclaimer:
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”

Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.


Tommy Wyatt

Interviewee:
Tommy Wyatt

Interviewer:
Amy Steiger

Date of Interview:
April 15, 2004

Place:
The Villager office, 1223-A Rosewood Ave., Austin, Texas

Recording Format:
Analog tape

Transcriber: 
Amy Steiger