How I Frolicked Around and Found Out in Fredericksburg Texas

I’m a Black writer who has confidently traveled the world. From Italy, Ireland, and France to Ghana, Belize, and Barbados — I’ve never been one to shy away from a voyage.

That is, until small-town Texas comes up. Because… history.

Even in 2024, small-town Texas traveling-while-Black can lead to feelings of anxiety over how the locals will treat you, or disappointment when history tours don’t include the many significant contributions made by Black Americans, which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I got the best kind of Black History lesson on a recent trip to Fredericksburg, Texas. 

Fredericksburg is a 90-minute drive west of the capital city, set in the vast, sprawling, picturesque, winery-rich Texas hill country. The city was founded back in 1846 by German immigrants who, I’m betting, would have been schnitzel-shook if you told them a Black woman with a silk press and camera phone would be wandering freely through their town 150 years later. As it stands today, only about half a percent of the 30,000 people who live there are African American. 

So no, I did not expect anything Blackish to blow my mind. But, guess what? I frolicked around in Fredericksburg and found out.

The town is home to the National Museum of the Pacific War, which boasts “the nation’s most comprehensive account of World War II in the Asiatic-Pacific theater.” It’s an impressive museum with huge galleries filled with tens of thousands of authentic artifacts, weapons, vehicles, a whole Japanese mini-submarine, and a truly stunning video that expertly breaks down the Pacific War in about five minutes!

But, my favorite part of the tour was:

I listened intently as retired four-star general Michael William Hagee explained how the museum is now doing more global outreach, taking field trips to promote the collections and to tell the story of the Pacific War. 

This general looked directly at me and said, “We recently went to Ghana to speak to a group of students there, and we told them about Dorie Miller.” 

(I remember thinking “Dorie Miller? Harpo, who dis woman?”)

It turns out, Doris “Dorie” Miller was a Black man who grew up over a hundred years ago near Waco. In 1941, Miller was a young U.S. Navy cook and laundryman on an American battleship in the Pacific when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Despite having had no gunnery training (because . . . racism), Miller sprang into action, took control of an anti-aircraft gun (like he’d invented the thing), and started attacking back. According to reports, he also helped carry wounded soldiers to safety. (Miller was killed in the war two years later. He was the first Black sailor ever awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism.) Miller’s actions that fateful day sparked a transformation within the Navy around race and racism. Actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrayed Miller in the 2001 film “Pearl Harbor”. Right now, crews are building the first navy aircraft carrier named for an African American — the USS Doris Miller —  which is expected to officially launch in 2029. 

Doris “Dorie” Miller was a real one who, I admit, should have already held space in my mental Black history bank. But, he did not. THIS is why I travel. And, it’s why I suggest that as unappealing as small Texas towns may be to some of us, we visit them anyway. Because Black people — dead and alive — are there and waiting for us to come in and make ourselves at home.

Book: Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement, by Thomas W. Cutrer and T. Michael Parrish


CHARLOTTE’S RECOMMENDATIONS

Eats:

Cabernet Grill

2805 S State Hwy 16, Fredericksburg

Magic Mushroom: Cast iron seared Lion’s Mane mushroom topped with uber butter, gorgonzola, roasted garlic & charred lemon
Petite Butterscotch & Walnut Bread Pudding with Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Eaker Barbecue

607 W Main St, Fredericksburg

Eaker Barbecue Tray

Alla Campagna

342 W Main St, Fredericksburg

Linguine Nero: Gulf shrimp, squid ink pasta, creamy leaks, gremolata

Chocolat

Spirit-fllled chocolates

251 W. Main St., Fredericksburg

French Cognac: Hennessy filled chocolate

Attractions:

National Museum of the Pacific War

311 E Austin St, Fredericksburg

Japanese mini submarine

Longneck Manor

1749 Beyer Road, Fredericksburg

Guided experience with close-up encounters with giraffes and rhinos

Stay:

Hoffman Haus Bed & Breakfast

608 East Creek Street, Fredericksburg

Native Austinite Charlotte Moore is a writer, filmmaker, and world traveler. She is founder of UpsyDaisy Productions which produces multimedia stories that focus on what it can mean to be Black. Follow Charlotte on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

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