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By Brandon C. Williams

The Post Newspaper Editor

Madame N.A. Franklin was a unique trailblazer of her time. During a period when few Black women were influential in business deep in the heart of Jim Crow-era Texas, Franklin flipped the script and began — via horse and buggy — teaching and offering Black beauty products throughout the state.

Mind you, it was 1915, a mere two years before the United States would find itself into World War I and light years before segregation began to finally tear down the walls of hate. Based out of San Antonio, Franklin took a quantum leap and opened businesses in both Houston and Dallas. More than a century later, Franklin Beauty School, now known as Franklin Institute, made its way to Galveston County, calling Texas City home as of this past April 30.

“We loved the opportunity it presented,” said Ron Jemison, Jr., the fourth-generation owner of Franklin Institute. “I started doing some research on the area and saw there were schools out here before, but we know that the quality of education that we bring to the table was very different than a lot of schools we had seen in the barber industry.”

Having expanded into barber training in 2011, Franklin Institute had opened locations in both the northern and southern part of Houston before moving closer to the waters of Galveston. Located at 8030 FM 1765, its Texas City school is positioned for aspiring barbers and beauty technicians throughout the county to begin a new career.

“Seeing all the growth around Texas City and La Marque made it feel like perfect timing,” said Jemison.

Franklin Institute is firmly a family business, as Jemison and his wife, Zameika, are also joined by four of their five children, including daughter Brea, who is a licensed stylist who also has owned her own saloon, BeeCrowned, for more than three years.

“It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” smiled Brea Jemison, who has been styling hair since she was 14 years old. She is also a graduate of the University of Houston, majoring in Organizational Leadership.

One of the benefits of the beauty industry is that it is one of the few jobs that are recession-proof. Through an education at Franklin Institute, Jemison wants potential students to know opportunities will abound once they have been trained in the Franklin way.

Although they have used social media to spread the word of their presence, Jemison and his family have used the tried-and-true method of going door-to-door. Thus far, they have seen their knocking turn into potential students knocking on their doors. 

“What we’re also finding out is that people have already heard about us from previous business that we’ve done,” said Jemison.

The family business found its way to Chicago in the 1920s before Franklin handed the business over to her daughter, Abby, and son-in-law, J.H. Jemison after she passed away in 1934. One year later, Franklin Institute arrived in Houston, where it became one of the state’s first beauty colleges.

Jemison’s parents took over the business shortly after his birth; he and his brother, Sean, followed along to keep things rolling.

Becoming a licensed barber or cosmetologist can take up to six months. During the 1,000 hours of class, students are taught first-hand in a Top Gun-caliber class that has seen thousands achieve their goal in the decades since it first opened.

“Striving for excellence has always been the motto,” Jemison said of the lessons his grandfather taught him. “His most famous saying was ‘keep the lights on.’ I didn’t really understand it when I was young, but once I got into management, I understood.”

Through it all, Jemison has always kept family and spiritual life ahead of business. No matter how long the day might have been, he was always there for ballgames, school events and other activities for his kids.

The Texas City school will eventually add esthetician, nail courses, hair weaving and eyelash extension courses in the future. For now, Franklin Institute will use its bread and butter to strengthen its presence in the area.

“I think it’s exciting,” added Brea Jemison. “I feel like we’re continuing on with the legacy my grandmother would have wanted us to.”

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