La Porte Colored School, 1924-1942

La Porte Colored School, 1924-1942


The La Porte Colored School, 1924 - 1941

In the first years of the twentieth century, Black children in La Porte were educated in a neighborhood church that was open during the week for that purpose. In 1909 the La Porte Independent School District repurposed a former Methodist church building, and the La Porte Colored School officially opened.  Viola DeWalt was the first teacher for the school. The school taught students from grades one through eight. 
In 1924, the relatively new Harris County Public Library deposited a small collection of books at the school.  DeWalt was appointed the librarian's "custodian." Schools for Black students faced challenges of irregular schedules and inadequate building space, and the lack of stability would often disrupt service from the library. The Library Laws of Texas (1920), Rule 3, Section 15 required that:
"negros of said county to be served through a separate branch or branches of the county free library, which shall be administered by custodians of the negro race under the supervision of the county librarian."
Children at the La Porte Colroed School with teacher Viola DeWaltGiven the difficulties of keeping schools for Black students open, this often meant the abrupt closure of school libraries when staffing changed.  The library station at the Hart School, which also opened in 1924, closed that same year when the teacher was transferred, and there was no longer a proper librarian custodian for the school. 
DeWalt and her students can be seen here in this undated photograph of the interior of the 1,200-square-foot building. The students checked out 92 books during the first year of service.  
The school maintained stable circulation throughout the 1920s and 1930s, peaking in 1926 with 433 books circulating. The average yearly circulation was 260.  Like most library stations in schools, the library was closed during the summer months and would occasionally close during the school year during harvest times.  
The school circulated 322 books in 1941 and 121 books during the first months of 1942.  The library was closed in May 1942. There were about 18 students enrolled at the school that year.  In 1943, DeWalt retired, and the district moved students into a two-room building, separating the children into two groups: grades one to four and grades five to eight.

Segregated Service in the 1950s

In early 1950, the La Porte Recreation Department contacted County Librarian Bernice Snell to request a branch library for the "colored people of La Porte" to be housed in the Community Building connected to the school. The City of La Porte agreed to cover the salary of the librarian.  The branch opened on June 7, 1950, with a collection of 338 books. The branch was scheduled to be open every Wednesday afternoon, but unfortunately, the operating hours were irregular and inconsistent.  The branch was closed in 1951.   

Later years

In 1953, DeWalt Elementary was opened as a neighborhood school for Black children. The school was named to honor Viola DeWalt's 34-year teaching career at the La Porte Colored School. The La Porte school system fully integrated its schools during the 1963-1964 school year. The Academy of Viola DeWalt High School continues to educate La Porte children today.
The original La Porte Colored School building was carefully repaired and restored in 2018, thanks to a Harris County Community Development Grant and matching funds from the La Porte City Council. The building reopened as a museum and historical site in July 2018.  Some of the original furniture had survived and been restored, as the building had been used to host school performances and serve as a meeting place for the community over the intervening decades.
The museum is open to the public from 11 am to 4 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. 

1924 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1926 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

(1930, July 1). Quarterly Summary, Harris County Public Library

(1931, October 1). Quarterly Summary, Harris County Public Library

1941 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

1942 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library

Branches for Colored (1946-1950?), Harris County Public Library. Note: this report contains racist and insensitive language.

1951 Annual Report, Harris County Public Library


Further Reading on the La Porte Colored School

Explore Our History. City of La Porte Texas website. (Accessed March 21, 2024)

School history. Academy of Viola DeWalt website. (Accessed February 9, 2024)

Shafter, Becky. (2018, February 14). Reconstructed La Porte Colored School near completion, will highlight city history. The Houston Chronicle, (Accessed February 9, 2024)


Further Reading on Segregation and Desegregation in Public Libraries in the Houston region

(1920, January). Texas Libraries, Volume 3, Issue 3. (Accessed February 9, 2024)

Malone, C. K. (2007). Unannounced and unexpected: The desegregation of Houston Public Library in the early 1950s. Library Trends, 55 (3), 665-674.