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Author: Matt

Matt Holland has been researching, presenting and writing about the Omaha DePorres Club since 2002. His writing has appeared in America, Teaching Tolerance, and the Creighton University alumni magazine.


I have had the opportunity to share the story of the Omaha DePorres Club nearly fifty times over the last several years. Many of those presentations have been for elementary and middle school students. These younger students almost always have some version of the same question at the end of my presentation; “Why do people think they are better than or treat some people as less than them because of skin color?” At this point my time is usually up, so I gently respond, “That is a good question. It’s called racism,” and leave it at that.
As we sat down to dinner last night my daughter was humming a tune in her lovely eleven-year-old voice. She paused and asked, “Did you know there is a black national anthem?” She explained that her chorus group was going to sing it at her middle school for an assembly. This led to a conversation about racism, which she closed emphatically with her opinion of racism; “Whoever thought of that or started that is just stupid.”
I recently came across an Omaha World-Herald article from December of 1996 about a group of McMillan Middle School students and a project they were involved in documenting the history of North 24th Street. As the students had encountered abandoned building after abandoned building and vacant lot after vacant lot, they asked why these homes of former businesses hadn’t stayed open. They also asked why they hadn’t been replaced.

Thanks, Tessie

In the process of researching and writing my book about the Omaha DePorres Club, I had the distinct pleasure and honor of getting to know several surviving members of the club. One of those members was Tessie Edwards. 

In the fall of 2011, Tessie graciously welcomed me into her home and over the course of several evenings she shared her memories of being a member of the Omaha DePorres Club as a young black woman in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Her memory was sharp and her stories were blunt and honest, as well as funny and poignant. I loved listening to her.

That winter I sent Tessie some early drafts of my book to get her feedback. Some time went by and then one Saturday morning the phone rang. It was Tessie. She was calling to let me know that she was watching an author interview on CSPAN’s Book TV program and she wanted let me know that someday I would be on the program as a featured author. Not knowing what to say, I thanked her and we visited for several minutes before hanging up.  Tessie died that May.

This May I received an email from Tiffany Rocque of CSPAN.  A CSPAN team was going to be in Omaha for their Cities Tour program and she wanted to interview me about my book. My interview will air on CSPAN Book TV segments over the weekend of July 4th and 5th.  Tessie gets full credit.


Fourteen years ago I sat down to interview my dad about his involvement in the Omaha DePorres Club. That interview led to an article in the Creighton University alumni magazine, then to more interviews with other DePorres Club members, followed by hours and hours of poring through the boxes of archived DePorres Club materials that my dad had stored in his attic for over fifty years. At some point around 2005 (it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when, but I do remember thinking, “What have I done?) I realized that I was going to have to write a book. So for the next eight years I researched, organized, interviewed, wrote and rewrote, read and reread until I had a finished manuscript. I sent it to publishers with no luck, so I decided to self-publish – a decision I am glad I made. I own every aspect of the book; cover to cover. No one to blame but me.

I can’t wait for people to read it and learn the story of the Omaha DePorres Club. It’s bitter and sad, raw and edgy, funny and joyous; full of courage, innocence, determination, tenacity, and faith. It has characters that are fully human; flawed, doubting, brave – with senses of humor.

It is a story I am honored to have been able to tell.

Thanks to Dave Crawford of the Creighton University Archives for his blog post  about the book yesterday. He is one of the wonderful people I met during the process of writing this book.