Mollie Stevenson, Jr., carried herself with the elegance of a model and the wisdom of an old ranch hand when she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. Stevenson, Jr., 62, was honoredby the museum in 2001 for her work in educating the public about the important roles of multicultural settlers in Western history and her families own ranching legacy. She founded the American Cowboy Museum on her family’s Texas ranch to highlight the role of blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and women in the West.
One of her cherished artifacts is on display. It is a copy of her great grandmother’s slave paper, which, as expected, never fails to mesmerize. “So few people have seen one: She was sold into slavery for life in Texas in 1856, before the Emancipation Proclamation,”
says Stevenson Jr., whose interest in education and ranching is a family tradition.
Her mother grew up on the 150-year-old ranch, attended college, and then returned. During the era of segregation, she invited black children out to the ranch to play.
“Black kids couldn’t go to the city parks, so she brought them out by the truckload,” Stevenson Jr. says.
Today the ranch is one of the oldest black-owned ranches in America. This legacy began when her mother’s grandfather, E. R. Taylor, a white man, married Ann, a slave, despite laws prohibiting interracial marriages. The two lived together on the ranch and instilled the importance of education, love of the land and public service—values that prevail in the family to this day. In addition, the family donated a 26-acre preserve to the Houston Parks Board so children could visit and interact with goats, peacocks, and other animals.
Her mother would be proud, says close friend Marsha Harris. “There’s a lot of Mollie Sr. in Mollie Jr.” Harris says. “She’s thoughtful, full of energy, and takes great pleasure in sharing what she loveswith others.”
“She’s thoughtful, full of energy, and takes great pleasure in sharing what she loves with others.”