Spotlight: Curtis Graves8
Without exception, each of the “cast members” we have interviewed for THE GREEN BOOK CHRONICLES have shared personal stories far beyond our expectations. What we thought would be one or two significant moments from each person turned into so many inspiring stories that it will be challenging if not impossible to include every story from every person we interviewed in one film! Heartfelt thanks to all those in front of the camera for their interviews and inspiration.
Below Curtis Graves shares more about his personal background, ranging from his family ancestry on the Evergreen Plantation up river from New Orleans to his father and uncle being the first African-Americans to own an ESSO gas station in Louisiana to Graves serving in the Texas State Legislature and beyond, coming full circle with his photography series, “Echoes of Slavery”:
Starting in 1967, Curtis Graves served for six years as the first African American Representative in the Texas State Legislature since the 1870’s. Later he went on to a career for thirty years in administration at the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA). Throughout he has been an avid photographer as well as a musician and his photography gallery can be viewed at http://www.gravesfineartphotos.webs.com.
Left: Curtis Graves’ school picture from New Orleans, 1945-46 / Right: UPI Newspaper photo with caption: “Rep. Curtis Graves of Houston, looks on as his 2-year-old daughter, Gretchen, talks on the telephone at his floor desk in the House of Representatives at Austin. The representatives have phones at their desks to keep in touch with their offices since secretaries aren’t allowed on the House floor.” (photos courtesy of Curtis Graves)
Growing up in New Orleans, Graves’ father and uncle were the first African American owners of an ESSO gas station franchise in the state and he remembers using the Green Books sold there to plan vacations. Graves writes:
Top left: Victor Haydel, born c. 1830 in Edgar, Louisiana / Top Right: Celeste B Haydel, born c. 1840 in the same town next door / Lower left: Their daughter-in-law, Josephine Honore Haydel at age 19 in New Orleans, 1900 / Lower right: Mabel, Josephine’s daughter, and Joseph Graves in 1955, Curtis Graves’ parents (photos courtesy of Curtis Graves)
Top: “Echoes of Slavery” / Below: “Evergreen’s Big House”, both from Evergreen Plantation, Louisiana (photos by Curtis Graves, Graves Fine Arts Photos)
Once again I would like to express how very proud I am of you! Throughout the years you have set an example of integrity, responsibility and achievement. You have continually given back, both to the African American Community, and to this Great Country we call America.
As a member of your family not only do I love you but I salute you.
Carolyn Graves Pate
Hello Ms. Pate,
Thank you for being the first person to comment on our website! All of us working on the film feel honored to have met Curtis and are inspired for all the same reasons you are! Can’t wait to show our film trailer which we aiming to finish so we can post it sometime on Monday 9/2. As you can imagine, Curtis is an outstanding storyteller and adds so much to the project. Thank you again and let us know what you think about the trailer when you see it!
Hello Mr. Graves. My name is Tim Graves and I worked at the LBB, Sunset Commission, and other jobs around the Texas Legislature from 1977-2013. Now retired, I am returning to my true life’s interest- photography. I have seen some of your photos on the web and found them excellent and intriguing. If you have any interest, I would enjoy visiting with you.
Hello Mr. Graves,
Thanks for your interest in our film and website! I’m not sure when Curtis Graves will see your comment, so I will forward it to him in an email. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to see our new trailer and know about the Indiegogo campaign we just launched yesterday. You can find links to both on the home page of this website. — Becky
Wow this is so amazing!
Thank you, Hillary! We are in the process of raising finishing funds so that we can complete the film.
[…] life has been recorded by one of her descendants, Curtis M. Graves, according to oral history of his grandfather, Elphége Haydel (1879 -1959). Graves’ story about […]
Thank you for sharing this, Mr. Henderson!