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MSS 0281 Reverend Jack Yates and Antioch Baptist Church Collection

Identifier: MSS 0281

Scope and Contents

Much of the material donated by Whiting is documentation on her brother Samuel A. Countee, a celebrated African-American artist, who died in 1959; material from her aunt Pinkie Yates, whom Whiting lived with for a time and taught at the Gregory School in the Fourth Ward; documentation of Whiting’s successful efforts to establish Antioch Baptist Church as a historical landmark; and photographs.

Much of the material donated by McCullough is related to her husband, Arthur McCullough Jr., who was a teacher at Jack Yates High School and commissioner with the Houston YMCA; materials from her father Rutherford B.H. Yates Senior and the Yates Printing Company which he owned with his brother Paul; and photographs.

Collectively, this material is an assortment of church and school ephemera such as programs, memorials, yearbooks, and directories; correspondence and documents; along with historically important photographs of Rev. Jack Yates and Fourth Ward scenes and people.

Notable items in the collection include Jack Yates’ voter registration card from 1872; two photographs of Jack Yates at Emancipation Park and the Houston Academy; a panoramic print of the student body from a summer session at Prairie View in the early 1900s; correspondence and documents showing the debate over Antioch Baptist Church’s historical preservation.

Supportive documentation such as newspaper clippings, Antioch Baptist Church material from the 1990s, and complied biographical and historical sketches were added by means of research and former HMRC staff.

This is not a complete collection of Yates’ life, or of his twelve children and their decedents. Nor is this a collection of official church documents and records as no material was donated by Antioch Baptist Church


  • 1872-1994
  • Majority of material found in 1900s-1980s


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. Digital and physical reproductions and photo identification sheets of photographs should be viewed in lieu of the originals.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the Reverend Jack Yates and Antioch Baptist Church Collection must be obtained from the African American Library at the Gregory School or the appropriate copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

John Henry (Jack) Yates was born in Gloucester County, Virginia on July 11, 1828 to Robert and Rachel Yates. He was one of six children. Yates, born into slavery, is said to have learned how to read from his owner’s children. He married Harriet Willis and together had eleven children: Martha, Willis, John Henry Jr., Margaret, Mary, Maria, Sallie, Lula, Rutherford B. H., Pinkie, and Nannie. Early in their marriage, Mrs. Yates was forced to move to Matagorda County, Texas with the family who owned her. Yates was allowed to go with his wife and children. With the coming of emancipation in June of 1865, the Yates family moved to Houston and quickly became influential members of the African-American community of Freedmen’s Town in Houston’s Fourth Ward. By 1869, Yates had purchased several lots of land along Andrews street, building his house at 1318 Andrews (the Yates home was moved to Sam Houston Park in 1994).

Yates was ordained as a Baptist preacher at the first Black Baptist Convention at the original Antioch Baptist Church site (the congregation was organized in 1866) at the corner Rusk and Bagby streets in 1867. He became the first full-time pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in 1868. Under the leadership of Yates, the Antioch congregation grew which resulted in the search for a new location. In 1875, Antioch’s cornerstone bricks were laid at its present location (500 Clay St.). In 1882 with the leadership of Yates; Antioch and Trinity Methodist Church purchased land and created Emancipation Park (located on Emancipation, formally Dowling St.) for civic and social uses by African-Americans in Houston. In 1885, with the help of missionaries Jennie Peck and Florence Dysant, Yates established the Houston Baptist Academy from 1885 to the 1920s at Dunlavy and W. Dallas (formally San Felipe). In 1887, Yates’ wife, Harriet, passed away. He then married Annie Freeman and had one child, Paul.

In 1890, Antioch decided to remodel and add another floor to their building. A dispute arose with Yates and the church over the decision how to pay for the addition. Yates, feeling the church should not borrow money, left the congregation in 1890 and established Bethel Baptist Church on the corner of Andrews and Crosby streets in 1891. He then focused his efforts on getting the Northern Baptists organization to establish Bishop College in Houston, though ultimately Marshall, Texas would be chosen for the location of the college. Yates passed away on December 24, 1897 at the age of 69 after a brief illness.

Yates had many grandchildren. Two of them, Martha Countee Whiting and Olee Yates McCullough, were important to the development of this collection. Martha Countee Whiting, born in 1912, was the youngest child of Nannie Selena Yates and Thomas Countee. She had three siblings; Bernice Yates Countee (1907), Samuel Albert Countee (1909), and Rutherford Augustus Countee (1911). She married Samuel Whiting and had five daughters. Olee Yates McCullough born in 1910, was the daughter of Rutherford B.H. Yates and Erie Sherrod. Her siblings were Johnnie Mae Yates Rice (1906) and Rutherford B.H Yates II (1921). She married Arthur McCullough Jr.


4 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials



With its multiple accretions and previous arrangements, this collection has lost its original order and easily identifiable provenance. Great consideration was given to the idea of trying to reconstruct the provenance of material. Ultimately, the processing archivist felt it would be best to continue an arrangement based on topic, but better reflect the layers of content and types of material.

Arrangement of the collection is divided into four series, with series three having two subseries.

Series 1 Yates Family

Series 2 Academic Institutions

Series 3 Church and Community Life

Series 3.1 Church Life

Series 3.2 Community Life

Series 4 Photographs

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of material in this collection were Martha Countee Whiting and Olee Yates McCullough in 1985.

Related Materials

MSS0090 Martha C. Whiting (Yates Granddaughter) and Antioch Missionary Baptist Church

RG 0052 Freedmen’s Town Association

OH-GS-0002 Martha C. Whiting

MSS 0155 Olee Yates McCullough Papers

Additional Materials are held by the Houston Metropolitian Research Center:

OH E 457 Martha C. Whiting Oral History
MSS 0281 Reverend Jack Yates and Antioch Baptist Church Collection
An Inventory of Records at the African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Gregory School Repository


The African American Library at the Gregory School
1300 Victor Street
Houston, Texas 77019
Houston Metropolitan Research Center
Houston Public Library
550 McKinney St.
Houston, Texas 77002