Visit Austin Tour Guide Harrison Eppright is an escort through history

0

Harrison David Eppright embodies Austin’s story every day.

That’s because he’s a valued tour guide for Visit Austin, as well as a visitor services manager for the non-profit tourism association. Most of the time, when there is no pandemic, it entertains and educates tourists, alumni, newcomers and potential newcomers about the city’s deep past, as well as its most important developments. recent.

“My dad was a history lover,” Eppright says. “He shared stories from his life and national history. He was an avid reader. And then the time: I was born in 1955 – mid-century America. I have been an eyewitness to history through television, radio and newspapers.

Born and raised in East Austin, the dapper Eppright also helps the city’s other historic flame keepers. For example, at noon on February 5, he will be speaking at the Angelina Eberly 2021 online event to raise funds for the Austin History Center Association. The event includes a performance of “All on board! The Train Arrives in Austin ”, a 20-minute play by Paullette MacDougal.

He shapes his own performances for tourists from the basic materials of Austin.

“I’m inspired by what I see around me, especially in East Austin, but all over town,” he says. “I like good stories. And looking around East Austin today, looking at the streets and architecture, you might not know the richness of what came before. “

Austin Story Podcast:Check out the latest episodes of Austin Found

Additionally, Eppright serves as the primary guide for the Six Square: Austin’s Black Cultural District tour, a nonprofit that seeks to preserve the community and legacy of what was identified in the 1928 city plan. like the “Negro District”. Its head office is on San Bernard Street in the same block as the Wesley United Methodist Church.

“When I was little, if you lived in San Bernard it was a sign that you had arrived,” he told Tribeza magazine in 2017.

On both sides of the family, Eppright’s roots in the region date back to the era of slavery.

He is named after his two grandfathers. His paternal grandfather was named Harrison Charles Eppright, whose father was the son of a enslaved person and his slaveholder, who adopted the offspring. His maternal grandfather, meanwhile, was David W. Bedford, whose father was enslaved and who later adopted the name of the family that had enslaved him.

“We were descended directly from the white Eppright,” he says. “It was a mark of distinction among the Black Eppright that they did not adopt that name after emancipation. It was a bit of a mark of social distinction, such was the race and perceptions at the time. “

His great-uncle Andrew H. Eppright was born in 1894 and served as a soldier in the First World War. He died at the age of 81 in 1975.

Texas History Newsletter:Sign up to receive Think, Texas every Tuesday morning

Harrison grew up on Greenwood Avenue east of Evergreen Cemetery. The films meant a trip to the Harlem Theater. A haircut meant going with her dad to Marshall’s Barber Shop on East 12th Street.

“A byproduct of segregation was that blacks of all classes lived close to each other,” says Eppright. “So wealth and poverty a few streets apart.”

While Eppright doesn’t shy away from the history of racial oppression in the city, his eyes are always on the wider horizon.

“When I talk to people from out of town, I want them to remember that we are the capital, a very historic, social, cultural, ethnic and educational city,” he says. “Austin is more than the sum of its parts.”

Harrison Eppright's roots in East Austin go back generations.

Like anyone who engages with people from the outside, he encounters common misconceptions.

“They think that outside of the music there’s not a lot going on here,” Eppright says. “They also think all of Texas is flat. They are surprised at the topography of Austin. They don’t think Austin has a lot of history. Many seem to think the history of Texas is all about the Alamo in San Antonio. They don’t think about Austin’s historical significance as the capital of Texas.

He encourages newcomers to check out documents archived at the Austin History Center and the Texas Historical Commission, as well as books about Austin on sale at stores such as BookPeople and Sue Patrick.

Eppright – whose warm voice, deep laughter, and crisp performance hint at a theatrical training as well as a time when his teachers emphasized manners, demeanor and speech – combines his dramatic and historical skills for his tours. and its performance.

On Sundays, Eppright serves as a lay reader and a member of the St. James Episcopal Church choir.

Eppright believes that Austin’s current meteoric growth, while it has disrupted many communities, also offers opportunities for more tales of the city’s history.

“Austin attracts tourists and researchers interested in Austin’s past,” he says. “So identifying and preserving Austin’s past is exciting. I think we are doing a very good job, but there is always room for improvement. We must encourage Austinites to take their role in identifying and reclaiming this past. This story is not just the past, it is the present and the future, as are the roles played by people of all colors and ethnicities in the history of Austin.

Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be contacted at [email protected]

2021 Angelina Eberly Digital Event

This event is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Austin History Center Association. Single tickets start at $ 76.99 and there are table options as well. The event begins at noon on February 5.

For tickets go to austinhistory.net

Share.

Comments are closed.