First historical marker dedicated to Black woman in Wilson County honors education pioneer

Family journal gives insight into life of Minnie Washington Yates

First historical marker dedicated to Black woman in Wilson County honors education pioneer

SAN ANTONIO – A journal from the past is giving us a look into the life of a woman who was a pioneer for the Black community in Wilson County. The name Minnie Washington Yates may not be very recognizable when it comes to Black history in South Texas, but her impact on education is felt to this day.

Washington Yates was born in 1878 in Wilson County. She’s the daughter of formerly enslaved people, and despite many hardships growing up, she knew going to school meant a better life and future.

“She attended Guadalupe College (Seguin), and that was something very unheard of in that day and time for a Black person,” said Renee L. Winters-Jackson, Washington Yates’s great-granddaughter.

In 2008, Winters-Jackson came across a journal written decades before by her great-grandmother about daily life in Wilson County.

“I looked at it, and I started reading it, and I said this was written by granny. I was so full of emotion,” said Winters-Jackson. “A lot of it brought memories, and it kind of depicted what she was going through.”

The journal also showed Washington Yates’s deep commitment to education for her family and black children in the surrounding area. Washington Yates used her education to help others. She and her husband, R.C. Yates, relocated a schoolhouse from Dewees to Poth in 1916, establishing the Mount Moriah Baptist Church and Community School. It was a place where Black children could feel safe and not be discriminated against.

“Our great grandmother spearheaded education for the Black children because, at that time, they were not permitted to go to the white school,” said Winters-Jackson.

Winters-Jackson also transcribed the journal and shared copies with members of her family. One of her cousins, Jesse “JB” Brown, did more research on how diligent Washington Yates was about higher education. Brown contacted the Texas Historical Commission to share Washington Yates’s story and accomplishments.

The commission approved a Texas historical marker last October to honor Washington Yates. It’s the first historical marker dedicated to a Black woman in Wilson County. The marker is tentatively planned to be erected this spring on land still owned by the family in Poth.

“Her efforts have not gone unnoticed or unrecognized, and we are following as much as we can to the next generations to let them know you must be educated,” said Winters-Jackson.

Washington Yates died in 1970 at the age of 92. Winters-Jackson created a book from the transcribed journal to share her great-grandmother’s story and legacy.

“It had so much history in it that I wanted to share it,” said Winters-Jackson. “Our family is teeming with members who have carried that on. We have master’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees. Some of us that have done historical things themselves.”

Click here to get more information about the book.

(Courtesy: Renee L. Winters-Jackson)
(Courtesy: Renee L. Winters-Jackson)

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.