Denton, Texas, is a southern college town on the northern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The seat of Denton County and home of the University of North Texas (UNT) and Texas Woman's University (TWU), its public spaces and schools were racially segregated according to Texas laws and customs throughout most of the 20th century. UNT (then North Texas State College) and TWU began to admit black students in the mid-1950s after African Americans challenged the schools' discriminatory admissions practices through the federal courts, but Denton public schools remained segregated in the mid-1960s. Restaurants and other public accommodations remained segregated until after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
In 1964 white and black women of Denton who welcomed integration began meeting together in each others' homes out of a shared concern that the community's schools would soon be forced to desegregrate and a shared desire to make those changes proceed smoothly. The first women who attended these gatherings were mothers of school-age children and public school teachers, and as their numbers expanded they organized through their churches. They called themselves the Denton Women's Christian Interracial Fellowship, but at some point dropped "Christian" from the name of their group (DWIF) to signal that they welcomed the inclusion of Jewish Dentonites and others.
In 1987-88 UNT graduate students led by Richard Byrd interviewed twenty members of the fellowship for the UNT Oral History Program; their interviews were transcribed and added to the Program's collection, and Byrd wrote a scholarly article about the DWIF. In 2017 seven UNT graduate students recorded an additional fourteen interviews, digital copies of which are now included in the UNT Oral History Program collection.
This digital project uses excerpts from these collections to document an important chapter in Denton's history, and to explore the members of the Fellowship's memories about it and analyze how they have and have not changed over time. Our exhibits are organized into biographical sketches of the women whom we interviewed for the 2017 project and interpretive essays with source documents and recordings that highlight themes that have emerged from the interviews.