We Called Him Professor: Blackshear Elementary and Legacy of Principal Friendly R. Rice

PHOTOBoywithWateringCanButterfliesThe magical figures of a new mural that Ryan Runcie is painting on a front wall of Blackshear Elementary School at 1712 E. 11th Street are delighting kids and drawing butterflies and bees to look and see leading up to the mural’s unveiling on Friday, April 26 at 8:00 AM.

Following the inspiration of parents Micaela Murphy and Ashley Keyfitz, Blackshear Bridge, Six Square, Huston-Tillotson University, and Austin Revitalization Authority commissioned Runcie to honor the life of longtime Principal Friendly R. Rice and his legacy of innovative education (1931-1972) during Austin’s era of segregated public schools.

Gina Tillis, President of Blackshear Bridge says, “The mural acknowledges and affirms the historic African American legacy of Blackshear Elementary School. Its beauty affirms current and future African American families and students to fully own their place in this school and neighborhood.”

RiceboardingAirplanePHOTOBackground: Principal Friendly R. Rice

The Ivy-league educated Friendly R. Rice developed a progressive philosophy of educating the whole child and administering to make sure his students’ basic needs were met in order to facilitate their learning. He created a wheel diagram depicting the complex elements of the educational world he aspired to and achieved at Blackshear Elementary School. Concerned about the nutritional wellbeing of his students’ young minds, Principal Rice introduced the first hot lunch program in the school district and a school garden. During the 1930’s Depression, the garden served a practical need providing students food and skills to grow their own food.  Rice created the first library in an African American elementary school in the Southwest and hired librarian Algerene Akins Craig. Runcie fancifully illustrates Rice’s legacy in the new mural and shows the evolution of Blackshear into a national Blue Ribbon School and Fine Arts Academy.

2019 Friendly Rice PHOTOIn 2017, the Blackshear Elementary School PTA renamed the school’s garden after the former Principal Friendly R. Rice. Beginning that year, current Principal Rick Garner and Rice’s daughter, retired Austin Community College Professor Vonnye Rice Gardner established the Friendly R. Rice birthday party, an educational moment during student assembly at the school in late April around the time of Rice’s birthday (April 18, 1907) anniversary.

Carver Museum Exhibit and Blackshear Reunion

The Reunion breakfast at 8:30 AM this Friday of Blackshear Elementary School alumni, parents, faculty, staff and community members will bring together long-time generational Austinites.

 “As a Blackshear alum, the Reunion on Friday morning is a great opportunity to celebrate the richness of east Austin and those who received their primary education under the leadership of Principal Friendly R. Rice,” said Arlene Youngblood, a community advocate who attended Blackshear from 1962 to 1968.  “We look forward to seeing all of you who were students, faculty, and supportive parents at Blackshear coming out to join us.”

The City of Austin’s George Washington Carver Museum, Genealogy and Cultural Center staff Bamidele Demerson, Carre Adams, and Faith Weaver are working with Blackshear Reunion and Friendly Rice Exhibit Chair Arlene Youngblood and the Austin History Center’s new African American history archivist kYmberly Keeton to mount a corresponding exhibit — Blackshear Elementary School and the Legacy of Principal Friendly R. Rice – see it in the foyer of the Carver at 1165 Angelina Street in late April or early May 2019.  Thanks go to Ms. Youngblood and City of Austin curatorial staff.


Mural-Exhibit-Reunion Team (l-r) Arlene Youngblood, Nell Peterson, Donna Hoffman, kYmberly Keeton, Gina Tillis, Ashley Keyfitz, Micaela Murphy

Blackshear Bridge and our partners welcome Austinites to join in the festivities and celebrate the rich legacy of Principal Friendly R. Rice this week with the Blackshear community!

All welcome.

Thank you to our Mural and Reunion sponsors, Blackshear Bridge, Six Square, Huston-Tillotson University, Austin Revitalization Authority, Google Fiber and all the volunteers and financial backers. The Friendly R. Rice mural and reunion would not have been possible without your help.


BlackshearBridgeLogoclear    Six Square Vector Logo ARA Logo 2016 (transparent PNG)  2018-12 HT LOGO  Google-Fiber-logo-long


Thursday, April 25, 5:30PM Proclamation by Mayor & Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, Austin City Hall, 301 W. 2nd Street

Friday, April 26 7:30 – 10:00 AM  Blackshear Elementary School, 1712 E. 11th Street

   7:30 AM, Friendly R. Rice Birthday Anniversary at student assembly in gymnasium

   8:00 AM, Unveiling of the Mural, outside near garden

   8:30 AM, Reunion Breakfast, inside in cafeteria


For more information, email hello@blackshearbridge.org





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