The first of five “Soul of a People” presentations, hosted by The University of Texas - Pan American Library will be held Tuesday, June 16, at 7 p.m. in UTPA Student Union Theater.

This program is called “Slave Narratives from the Rio Grande” and the speaker will be Alberto Rodriguez, local authority on the subject. Rodriguez will discuss six narratives from slaves who once lived and worked in the Rio Grande Valley. All of these narratives were oral histories collected under the Federal Writers’ Project of the 1930s.

Rodriguez references the slave narratives in his thesis called Ethnic conflict in South Texas: 1860-1930, which he wrote in 2005 while working on his M.A. in history at The University of Texas - Pan American. Presently, he is working on this doctoral dissertation at the University of Houston.

This program will start with the screening of Prince Among Slaves (2007), a 60-minute documentary that will serve as a background for understanding slavery during the 1800s. This documentary was directed by Andrea Kalin, from Spark Media, who also directed the documentary called Soul of a People (2009), which is scheduled to be released this fall by Smithsonian Channel HD.

This program will actually be a Juneteenth celebration since Juneteenth is only three days later on Friday, June 19. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration of the ending of slavery. It was on June 19, 1865, that the Union soldiers, led by Major Gen. Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. News traveled slowly in those days and this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation become official on January 1, 1863!

Kickoff of the “Soul of a People” project at UTPA Library was previously planned for April 16 with Dr. Don Graham from UT-Austin speaking on “Texas Writers of the Great Depression of the 1930s.” However, Dr. Graham’s program has been rescheduled for Sept. 17.

UTPA Library is the only Texas library among 30 in the nation to be awarded the “Soul of a People” grant sponsored by the American Library Association Public Programs Office and supported by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): great ideas brought to life.

Virginia Haynie Gause, web and marketing librarian, is serving as project coordinator and Dr. Rob Johnson, professor of English, is serving as lead project scholar. The purpose of the grant is to present five different library outreach programs in connection with a major documentary about the Federal Writers’ Project called “Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story.”

“Soul of a People” is produced by Spark Media, Washington, D.C., and is broadcast on the Smithsonian Channel HD this fall.

For more information on the UTPA Library programs contact Virginia Haynie Gause at 956-381-2303 or