News February 9, 2024

Cover February 11, 2024
Dear Members and Friends,

In the musical Wicked, the Wizard says, “Elphaba, where I’m from we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it history.”

While perhaps not always fabricated, history is undoubtedly biased by those who write it. As we begin Black History Month, and I look back at my elementary school lessons, I think about the Wizards assertion.

We were told Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. But he got the idea from a slave known to us only as Sam, according to the University of Houston’s College of Engineering. Sam’s father had come up with a sort of comb to get the seeds out of a cotton boll, and Whitney mechanized the idea.

According to other sources, a slave named Jo Anderson developed the mechanical reaper with Cyrus McCormick, and one of Jefferson Davis’s slaves invented a new screw propeller for steam-driven ships. As slaves weren’t allowed to submit patents, the credit went to others.

Knowing about these inventive slaves would have likely tripled the number of Black Americans featured in my elementary school history classes. George Washington Carver was the only one I remember being taught, and Dr. King wasn’t yet history, he was still current news.

I began enjoying learning about Unitarian and Universalist history when I taught the ninth-grade Coming of Age class in Dallas. We would talk about those influential early Unitarians and Universalists typically ignored by trinitarian historians. At the end of the year, we would take the ninth-graders to Boston to see the actual places where some of these events occurred.

But of course, UU history is not just in New England, the history of Unitarianism and Universalism goes back over a century just here in Texas. Rev. Quillen Shinn was an untiring evangelist who brought the message of Universalism across North America. He preached in every state in the Union and across Canada and Mexico, sometimes preaching once a day. He was nicknamed the “Grasshopper Missionary” by a critic who thought his constant jumping from place to place wouldn’t yield results.

But yield results they did, even here in Harris County 125 years ago. Fifteen years later, this church was founded.

 This Sunday, join Dr. Bossen and me as we celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Unitarian Universalism in Harris County and the 110th Anniversary of this church. Of course, the first century and a quarter is only the beginning. We have many great things to do for our community and one another in the future. As Washington says in the musical Hamilton, “I know that greatness lies in you, But remember from here on in, history has its eyes on you, History has its eyes on you.”

Peace and love,

Rev. D. Scott Cooper
Associate Minister
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston