The city of McKinney Tuesday rolled out a new interactive website in honor of Black History Month, which highlights people, neighborhoods and locations which contribute to the city’s history.
“A few key community members alongside with city personnel used resources to collect photos, and newspaper articles to really put together a comprehensive website that showcases the black history of McKinney,” said Amy Rosenthal, the director for McKinney Main St. and McKinney Performing Arts Center. “We are so honored to share the whole history of McKinney, again we’ve had lots of stories documentation of our white settlers, but really there’s so much more, so many people that play such an important part in the development of our town and it’s an exciting way to learn more about them and honor them .”
The website features an interactive map that gives the details and context behind historical locations and people.
“It’s a dream come true. It means so much that the history of the old McKinney of its fullness is being shared,” said Beth Bentley, a community member who volunteered her time to help put together the project. “The work that we started has been built upon and it’s being appreciated and it’s being honored in this community.”
Bentley, whose family has been in McKinney for six generations, said the project was personal because her place of worship, CME Church was featured on the site.
“I’ve been a life-long member,” she said. “The church established in 1870, started in the old part of McKinney called, ‘The Run,’ but we couldn’t find old documents, when we saw it on the website we were just tears.”
The city said it hoped the interactive map and all the videos, pictures and stories serve as an online museum and textbook to help keep the history alive.
McKinney First Baptist Church, which is located at 401 W. Erwin Ave., is also featured on the site and has been in the community for 138 years.
“It makes me feel very well pleased with the fact that the city recognizes what the McKinney First Baptist Church has meant to this community,” said Pastor Louis Rosenthal, who’s been with the church for eight years. “There’s a rich history of our church, being a part of the fabric and fiber of McKinney with the designation of that historical marker.”
He explained that during segregation and the days of Jim Crow, the church was seen as a place of refuge for blacks.
“The church where the African American attended was really the only place where an African American could feel like they were somebody, it was the black preacher who stood in the pulpit and help re-dignify the African American because he worked in the field, he worked on the job, he was called ‘boy’ and other derogatory names, but when he walked into the church house, that’s where he knew he was somebody,” Rosenthal said.
He said even though they’re known as a historically black church, they’re doors are open to everyone.
“We know Jesus loved everybody, the black church reaches out to everybody,” Rosenthal said. “Because when we go to heaven, there’s not going to be certain segments, we’re all one body.”
It’s no secret McKinney, like other cities, has had racial tensions in the past, but the site is seen as a way for the city to reach out to the community to be inclusive.
“I think that’s a great first step, there’s still more first steps to go, but it’s a good step in the right direction,” Rosenthal said.
The city said the website would remain active after Black History Month and would be update and expanded over time.