Whitney Brantley, a.k.a. The Dopest Historian, served as the official historian of the Garden’s Juneteenth celebration, A Wine Walk to Remember, last year and frequently hosts a variety of tours and talks related to Black history and Houston history. She recently spoke with us about her work as a public historian and upcoming community events she’s looking forward to.
Whitney Brantley was working at Rice University when she initially heard about the Houston Botanic Garden from its Vice President of Finance (a Rice alumna), who invited her to come see the space. She visited and instantly fell in love with the rich naturescapes situated right in the middle of the city.
Already well-known for her work as The Dopest Historian, when the Garden put together its 2023 Juneteenth event, a Wine Walk to Remember, Brantley was asked to be the official historian for the event. She was excited to join Pur Noire Urban Wineries,the only Black-owned winery in Downtown Houston, to bring people together for a meaningful discussion about Juneteenth.
Attendees were treated to her signature blend of history and personality celebrating the emancipation of more than 250,000 African Americans in the state of Texas on June 19, 1865. Following the history talk, there was live art, music and dancing, and wine tasting.
“I was excited that my son was able to join me at the Juneteenth event. He really enjoyed it; the Garden is a great place for kids to hang out and roam the outdoors,” Whitney said.
What makes history ‘dope’?
Brantley says she created her brand as The Dopest Historian in 2020 during the pandemic, when she was a student studying at Prairie View A&M.
“I realized that I had a passion for history and noticed that I could fill a niche. History is typically really boring to people, but I could bring some personality to it and get more people interested,” she said, adding, “People actually really like to learn about the past, but they don’t like reading long, boring books to get the info.”
Her primary goal as a historian is to make history more accessible to more people. “Sharing this knowledge with others is what I get excited about,” she said.
Brantley’s favorite part of her work is hearing how surprised people are when they learn certain history facts. She describes that spark of excitement as fuel for her passion.
“Wow, I didn’t know that!”
The native Houstonian is particularly proud to share the exciting history of the city where she was born and raised. Fans of Houston’s history can connect with The Dopest Historian at the many local community events that she leads.
“Houston has so much dope history, it’s really amazing. People say all the time ‘WOW, I didn’t know that!’”
She also believes that Houston history is so fulfilling that it could be a year-long school curriculum. “But it’s not, so we have to highlight it! The first 30-50 years of Houston history really made us who we are today,” Brantley said.
Part of studying history is uncovering the ways that different times, places, and people are interconnected. For example, the natural history of the land alongside the history of the people who live there. Brantley is especially interested in the ways that Houston’s agriculture history, Black history, and local history all overlap.
Some of the upcoming opportunities to learn from her include the Black History Tour of Houston in late February (keep an eye on her social media channels for more details!) and the Wine Walk to Remember at Houston Botanic Garden on June 19, 2024. The February tour will focus on Houston’s first Black settlement, Freedman’s Town.
Connect with Nature, Connect with History
A self-dubbed “nature person,” Brantley describes the Garden as a beautiful and serene place.
“I’m excited for more people to find out about the Houston Botanic Garden. They’ve done such a good job of highlighting the history of the land — I find it so fascinating,” she says.
The Dopest Historian is also available for events and has presented at schools, the YMCA and other local community organizations, Discovery Green, and local churches.
You can connect with her on social media @thedopesthistorian and @dope.itshistory on Instagram.