ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Abstract While public awareness of incorporated black historic towns and urban neighborhoods in places like Rosewood, Florida, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Eatonville, Florida grow, less is known about unincorporated Black settlements in Texas. From 1865 to 1920, African Americans founded at least 557 self-sustaining freedom colonies in Texas. The authors engage the history of Black placemaking through the lens of Texas freedom colonies in Newton and Jasper Counties, areas better known for racial violence than liberation. The paper argues that biases in public history and historic preservation policy toward white settlerism, building integrity, and property ownership inhibit the documentation, recognition, and, consequently, the preservation of freedom colonies and their origin stories. The authors argue that freedom colonies' marginal status necessitates creative approaches to mapping and crafting arguments for these communities' "historic significance" and protection. Authors mapped freedom colonies through collection and analysis of both publically available data and intangible heritage, specifically sonic and social histories in Newton and Jasper County during a pilot study. This initial mapping exercise gave birth to the statewide crowdsourcing and mapping project, The Texas Freedom Colonies Atlas. Housed on multiple digital humanities platforms, the Atlas contains a map of 357 settlements and translates local constructions of historical significance to policymakers and cultural resource managers.
Content may be subject to copyright.
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 1/19
Current Research in Digital
History
(http://crdh.rrchnm.org)
Andrea Roberts (https://andrearobertsphd.com) and
Mohammad Javad Biazar
(https://tamu.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?
appid=7e59e4b826bc4d259f28f9f5e1c1d2f9)
Black
Placemaking in
Texas
Sonic and Social
Histories of Newton
and Jasper County
CFP
(http://crdh.rrchnm.org/cfp/)
Conference
(http://crdh.rrchnm.org/conference/)
All Volumes
(http://crdh.rrchnm.org/volume/)
About
(http://crdh.rrchnm.org/about/)
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 2/19
Freedom Colonies
from volume 2 (2019) (http://crdh.rrchnm.org/volume/2019/),
https://doi.org/10.31835/crdh.2019.06
(https://doi.org/10.31835/crdh.2019.06)
Abstract
While public awareness of incorporated black historic towns and
urban neighborhoods in places like Rosewood, Florida, Tulsa,
Oklahoma, and Eatonville, Florida grow, less is known about
unincorporated Black settlements in Texas. From 1865 to 1920,
African Americans founded at least 557 self-sustaining freedom
colonies in Texas. The authors engage the history of Black
placemaking through the lens of Texas freedom colonies in
Newton and Jasper Counties, areas better known for racial
violence than liberation. The paper argues that biases in public
history and historic preservation policy toward white settlerism,
building integrity, and property ownership inhibit the
documentation, recognition, and, consequently, the preservation
of freedom colonies and their origin stories. The authors argue
that freedom colonies' marginal status necessitates creative
approaches to mapping and crafting arguments for these
communities' "historic significance" and protection. Authors
mapped freedom colonies through collection and analysis of both
publically available data and intangible heritage, specifically
sonic and social histories in Newton and Jasper County during a
pilot study. This initial mapping exercise gave birth to the
statewide crowdsourcing and mapping project, The Texas
Freedom Colonies Atlas. Housed on multiple digital humanities
platforms, the Atlas contains a map of 357 settlements and
translates local constructions of historical significance to
policymakers and cultural resource managers.
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 3/19
Heritage is spatial, because it asks us to consider where something
occurred and why it happened there. Historical designation policies
are based on officially accepted theories of historical significance,
social location, and collective identities. Regulatory frameworks,
architectural and archaeological expertise, and social assumptions
about which places matter inform decisions about which sites are
designated as “historical” and worthy of specific land use protections.
Official processes, documentation and designation can create
homogenized histories that remove differences, conflicts, and
complexities. For example, Texas freedom colony settlement
formation and dispersal are consequences of multiple spatialized
heritages rooted in slavery, emancipation, and resistance against
racial terrorism and Jim Crow laws. Thus heritage and public history,
especially that informed by racialized regulatory regimes, become
powerful mediums through which the significance of identity and
place are mediated. This study of freedom colonies (FCs) and the
subsequent development of an online Atlas based on its findings is
one approach to reclaiming histories of Black agency in the landscape
from official heritage mediators who control what Laurajane Smith
calls Authorized Heritage Discourse.
Freedom colonies are historic African American settlements founded
after the Civil War in Texas. From 1865 to 1920, African Americans
founded at least 557 self-sustaining FCs (also known as Black
Settlements and Freedmen’s Towns) in Texas. Freedom colonies
notably reflect a trend in precipitous increases in Black land
ownership during Reconstruction and Progressive Eras. For instance,
Black Texans went from owning 1.8% of Texas farmland in 1870 (839) to
26% (12,513) in 1890. By 1900, African Americans represented 31% of
rural landowners in Texas. Freedom colonies are where these clusters
of landowners lived.
These rural Texas landscapes, historically associated with exclusion
and even hate crimes, are simultaneously under-recognized and
unprotected sites holding evidence of Black freedom-seeking
articulated through placemaking. For example, Huff Creek, in Jasper
County, (depicted in Figure 1) was a little known freedom colony. The
1
2
3
4
5
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 4/19
1998 dragging death of James Byrd, which took place on the
community’s main road, overshadowed the existence of the freedom
colony in the public imagination. Instead, popular culture considers
the City of Jasper the site of the crime rather than unincorporated
Huff Creek. FCs are also particularly vulnerable to natural disasters,
absent from public planning records, and lack access to the funding
and technical assistance afforded incorporated, urbanized, mapped
places.
Figure 1. The left image shows Huff Creek Chapel, which was once
a school. It is the last remaining anchor site of the Huff Creek
Community, a freedom colony. The Chapel faces Huff Creek Road
where James Byrd’s (center image) body was found after his
dragging death in 1998. In the right image (by Butch Ireland, 1998),
Jasper Co. Assistant DA Pat Hardy displays the chain used to drag
James Byrd Jr., for whom a hate crime bill has been named.
Archaeologists, cultural resource management professionals,
architectural historians, and even government agencies are
endeavoring to bring attention to the FCs around the country. I situate
FC preservation among similar efforts to protect and interpret
southern African American places and placemaking. Grassroots
organizations like the Historic Black Towns and Settlements
Association advocate for funding and support for incorporated Black
towns (three of which are shown in Figure 2) including Tuskegee,
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 5/19
Alabama, Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and Rosewood and Eatonville,
Florida, and western All-Black Towns in Oklahoma and Kansas. Some
of these towns still have substantial populations, are mapped, and
often have politically sophisticated leaders. By contrast, FCs were
often never officially incorporated, have small populations, and no
official representation concerning land use issues decided in Texas on
the city level. Historically, a Texas FC was “‘individually unified only by
church and school and residents’ collective belief that a community
existed.” A lack of documentation and compliance with sociolegal
constructions of place, unfortunately, caused several FCs to
disappear from public records, maps, and memory as their
populations, historic buildings, and visibility declined after World War
II. Further, a lack of estate planning made their landowners vulnerable
to land loss. Sprawl, climate change, and gentrification have
endangered what buildings remain.
Figure 2. Freedom colonies can be situated within the
Reconstruction Era Black Towns and Settlements movement. Well-
known settlements are Rosewood, FL, Nicodemus, KS, and
Eatonville, FL. In contrast to these towns, most freedom colonies
were rarely their own independent, incorporated towns.
6
7
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 6/19
Furthermore, FCs were often founded in bottomland in low-lying
areas. The legacy of these geographical vulnerabilities is highlighted
by the FEMA - Hurricane Harvey Impact layer of the Texas Freedom
Colony Atlas, (seen in figure 3) which shows that 229 FCs are in fifty-
three FEMA designated counties, constituting 41% of total FCs or 64 %
of the 357 mapped FCs. Further, the prevalence of unclear titles
among landowners and lack of historical integrity of properties in FCs
make them ineligible for FEMA, SBA, and HUD recovery funds and
even less likely to be considered endangered by public preservation
agencies.
Figure 3. The FEMA - Hurricane Harvey Impact layer of the Texas
Freedom Colony Atlas showed that 229 FCs are in 53 FEMA
8
9
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 7/19
designated counties, constituting 41% of total FCs or 64 % of the
357 mapped FCs. The map, generated from the Atlas data,
indicates the vulnerability of remaining historic sites in freedom
colonies.
All of these environmental and political vulnerabilities compromise FC
buildings and structures. As a result, while primary and secondary
sources necessary to form a strong basis for historical argumentation
may be available for FCs, that evidence is subordinate to historic
preservation’s regulatory requirement of materiality or integrity. FC’s
built environments, especially when geographically and historically
situated in vulnerable areas lacking government investment, require
different forms of evidence of place to enable interpretation, and
recognition of their freedom-seeking heritage. This article argues that
social and “sonic” histories offer evidence of historically significant
Black landscapes, rendered ungeographic by historic preservation’s
authorized heritage discourse and environmental vulnerability.
Significance and Integrity: National Historic
Preservation Regulations
To understand how historic preservation determines what makes a
place historic and thus worth recognizing or in some cases providing
certain protections, I will focus on two aspects of the federal
regulations: historical significance and integrity. These criteria are
important to planners and policymakers because they determine why
a building or place is worth preserving or designating “historic.”
The criteria are based on the “quality of significance in American
history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture is present in
districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity
of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and
association.” More specifically, these properties must be sites, people,
or architectural examples that are significant to history or prehistory.
The significance of historic sites or properties is determined using
10
11
12
13
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 8/19
the National Register’s Criteria for Evaluation. Dimensions of
significance are the architectural and historic value of the property, its
age, whether a notable resident lived in the house, evidence of a
distinct settlement pattern in a potential district, or architectural style.
A site need only reflect one dimension of significance but could be
deemed ineligible based on its lack of integrity. The integrity of a site
refers to the degree to which it is physically intact and in a location or
context relevant to the period of historic significance. The National
Register criteria guide determinations of what qualifies for federal tax
benefits. State level markers are available to properties in Texas that
are at least 50 fifty years old, and are historically or architecturally
significant, whereas subject markers can recognize individuals, events,
communities, and institutions.
While the criteria serve as a valuable guide, they require a high level
of expertise (usually requiring applicants to hire architects or
archaeologists) to survey and document to federal specifications.
Specifically, the emphasis on the built environment and architecture
has privileged the material over the intangible culture making it
difficult for freedom colonies (FCs) to be listed. All designations,
protections, and incentives are based on a regulatory framework that
emphasizes strict adherence to regulations that facilitate erasure.
Un-authorized Heritage: Newton and Jasper County
Freedom Colonies and Black Pockets
At the pre-study stage of my research in Deep East Texas, I identified
only 14 freedom colony settlements. I have identified twenty-four more
place names associated with FCs and their anchor sites in Newton
and Jasper Counties. A map (shown in figure 4) generated after a
two-year archival and ethnographic study revealed the existence of
places unmapped or absent from lists of historic sites recognized by
the state or federal government, indicating a disparity between the
number of freedom colonies, which once existed, and the markers
recognizing them. A 2015 review of Texas State Historical Markers on
the state online atlas revealed sixty-one properties and sites
recognized through the program. Of those places or sites listed, a
14
15
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 9/19
majority are classified as graveyards or cemeteries (twenty-one),
followed by churches or religious sites (ten), and cities and towns
(seven). In Newton County, three of those “towns” are the Biloxi, Cedar
Grove, and Shankleville FCs. The other markers recognize an African
American church and one of the founders of Shankleville, Stephen
McBride. Compared to Newton County, Jasper County has six state
historical markers recognizing African American affiliated sites, none
of which are FCs. Between the two counties, there are eleven sites on
the National Register of Historic Places, but the Addie and AT Odom
Homestead in Shankleville is the only African American site listed. The
FCs clusters without markers were areas bifurcated by roads or
abandoned after the once dominate corporate mills left Newton
County.
Figure 4. This map is the result of a 2-year study of freedom
colony heritage and grassroots planning in Newton and Jasper
counties. After creating a baseline list from publicly available
data, ethnographic research revealed the existence of places
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 10/19
either unmapped or absent from lists of historic sites recognized
by the state or federal government. The disparity between the
number of freedom colonies, which once existed, and the markers
recognizing them are stark. Of those mapped above, only three
markers exist which are standalone tributes to freedom colonies.
Critiques of the Significance and Integrity
Framework
Theorists contest the “expert” domination of preservation that informs
the regulatory framework. Randall Mason maintains that the physical
fabric and expertise have been overemphasized at the expense of the
“memory/fabric connection,” a broad term that includes landscapes
and material culture at all scales in the environment. The integrity of
the built environment is not always what engenders support and
action among descendants, but rather the cultural continuity reflected
in the videos of homecoming celebrations. For many people, creating
and preserving spaces where people can practice values associated
with their culture and gather in their settlements is the priority.
An urban planning history and ethnographic study of freedom colony
vulnerabilities and grassroots preservation gave birth to the Atlas. The
map emerges from a study conducted 2014–2016 during which the
author collected archival materials; audiovisual files of forty-eight
interviews and homecoming events, cemetery tours, and meetings;
field notes; and US Geological Survey Spatial Data (GSSD) of FCs
located in Newton and Jasper Texas counties. The study heavily relied
upon intangible heritage because for some FCs, the assemblage of
“citizens” attending annual events is all the evidence that a place
existed.
Observations of annual, commemorative gatherings such as family
reunions and community homecomings indicated that these events
helped sustain the diaspora’s attachments to FCs. These events are a
historical artifact of the Great Migration, as they were founded to
16
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 11/19
ensure those who left rural Texas for big cities would return home.
Homecoming presidents from Jasper and Newton County freedom
colonies (shown in figure 4) act as a cooperative network, which
gather annually at each other’s two-day gatherings. The events
celebrate not only the heritage of the community, but the offering of
funds collected for the maintenance of each settlement’s cemetery.
Artifacts of these events are sonic and ephemeral and include paper
programs (such as the one pictured in figure 6), which provide social
histories of FCs. Programs distributed to guests list visiting choirs and
congregations from settlements whose names no longer appear on
maps or anywhere else in the public record. Freedom colonies are
often only recognized and remembered during the two-day events in
which music and memories about settlements are shared among
descendants, extended family, and church families. Witnessing and
curating evidence of the social history makes visible the historically
significant sites overlooked by preservationists due to regulatory
standards, which downplay the importance of intangible heritage.
Several properties and places located in the study area are
historically significant and meaningful to descendants yet not
designated historic or protected sites.
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 12/19
Figure 5. Homecoming presidents from Jasper and Newton County
settlements are pictured at Shankeville’s 2014 Annual
Homecoming. Each represents a different freedom colony, which
is part of their homecoming network. Each leader not only plans
an individual event but also invites each settlement to attend their
respective event. At each event, an offering is collected which
funds each settlement’s cemetery maintenance for the year.
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 13/19
Figure 6. The Pleasant Hill Homecoming Celebration program
(2015) lists guest churches and communities associated with
communities not otherwise designated as significant or historic.
Freedom colonies are often only recognized and remembered
during the two-day events in which music and memories about
settlements are shared among decedents, extended family, and
church family.
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 14/19
The research process solidifies the argument that embracing creative
and performative assemblage, orality, and memory was required to
map the balance of the unknown FCs. This initial mapping exercise
gave birth to the statewide mapping project. The current digital
humanities platforms holding data—a Blogger.com website
(http://www.thetexasfreedomcoloniesproject.com/) and ArcGIS
Survey (https://tamu.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?
appid=48f89e0f870c4400a990682a09cf919f)—enable educators,
researchers, and descendant communities to demonstrate across
disciplines and outside academia, the historical significance of FC,
and facilitate re-envisioning citizen participation, mapping, and
preservation planning. In addition to the map (shown in figure 7), the
website in which it is embedded collects resident memories and
photos. At the time of this article’s publication, 357 of 557 FCs have
been mapped, with 322 FC located using publicly available data.
Figure 7. The Texas Freedom Colony Atlas
(https://tamu.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?
17
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 15/19
appid=48f89e0f870c4400a990682a09cf919f) and Survey allows
for spatialization of varied forms of place data alongside the
authorized heritage data which helps substantiate the existence
of a historically significant place. The interactive atlas’ allows for
uploading of stories, documents, photos, and memories of place
associated with the freedom colony. All visitors are invited to add
to a separate layer, “new” or unknown freedom colonies.
Historic preservation standards around what defines place and
historical significance obscure the disappearing heritage of FCs,
particularly in those settlements with low populations and little
remaining built environment. Preservation policy, as a result, has a
disparate impact on the survival of many FCs that might otherwise
thrive and benefit from federal protections and tax breaks if the
property-based bias was eliminated. Recording commemorative
events at buildings and spaces with compromised integrity but
embodied and performed constructions of a community might
substantiate significance. However, the evidence, embedded in
memory and orality, are distributed broadly across various archives,
commemorative practices, and declining structures. The goal of the
Atlas and its accompanying survey of descendants is to aggregate
layers of authorized evidence and crowdsourced data to empower
residents and to visualize the hidden histories, social vulnerabilities,
and current grassroots preservation activities for historians,
policymakers, and preservationists.
Bibliography
Boyd, Candice, and Michelle Duffy. “Sonic Geographies of Shifting
Bodies.” Interference: A Journal of Audio Culture 1, no. 2 (2012): 1–7.
Catalani, Anna, and Tobias Ackroyd. “Hearing Heritage: Soundscapes
and the Inheritance of Slavery.” Gothenburg, Sweden, 2012.
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 16/19
Kelly, Joan. Women, History & Theory: The Essays of Joan Kelly.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
Kuris, Gabriel. “A Huge Problem in Plain Sight: Untangling Heirs;
Property Rights in the American South, 2001–2017.” January 24, 2018.
https://successfulsocieties.princeton.edu/publications/huge-
problem-plain-sight-untangling-heirs-property-rights-american-south
(https://successfulsocieties.princeton.edu/publications/huge-
problem-plain-sight-untangling-heirs-property-rights-american-
south).
Mason, Randall. “Fixing Historic Preservation: A Constructive Critique
of ‘Significance’ [Research and Debate].” Places 16, no. 1 (2004).
http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/74q0j4j2
(http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/74q0j4j2).
McKittrick, Katherine. Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the
Cartographies of Struggle. University of Minnesota Press, 2006.
National Park Service. “Section II: How to Apply the National Register
Criteria for Evaluation, National Register of Historic Places Bulletin
(NRB 15).” Accessed August 27, 2014.
http://www.nps.gov/nr/publications/bulletins/nrb15/nrb15_2.htm
(http://www.nps.gov/nr/publications/bulletins/nrb15/nrb15_2.htm).
Roberts, Andrea. “The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Atlas & Study.”
Oaktrust Repository. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University, 2018.
Roberts, Andrea R. “Performance as Place Preservation: The Role of
Storytelling in the Formation of Shankleville Community’s Black
Counterpublics.” Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage, 2018,
1–20. https://doi.org/10.1080/20518196.2018.1480002
(https://doi.org/10.1080/20518196.2018.1480002).
Sandercock, Leonie. “Framing Insurgent Historiographies for Planning.”
In Making the Invisible Visible: A Multicultural Planning History, edited
by Leonie Sandercock. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 17/19
Sanders, Brandee, and Monee Fields-White. “History’s Lost Black
Towns.” The Root. January 1, 2011. https://www.theroot.com/historys-
lost-black-towns-1790868004 (https://www.theroot.com/historys-
lost-black-towns-1790868004).
Schweninger, Loren. Black Property Owners in the South, 1790–1915.
Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1997.
Sitton, Thad, and James H. Conrad, Freedom Colonies: Independent
Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow. Austin, Texas: University of Texas
Press, 2005.
Smith, Laurajane. “Editorial.” International Journal of Heritage Studies
18, no. 6 (November 2012): 533–40.
https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2012.720794
(https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2012.720794).
Smith, Susan J. “Soundscape.” Area 26, no. 3 (1994): 232–240.
State of Texas Legislature. “Government Code Chapter 442. Texas
Historical Commission.” Government. Texas Constitution and Statutes.
Accessed February 15, 2016.
http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.442.htm
(http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/GV/htm/GV.442.htm).
Temple-Raston, Dina. A Death in Texas: A Story of Race, Murder, and a
Small Town’s Struggle for Redemption. New York: H. Holt, 2002.
Notes
1. Kelly, Women, History & Theory; Sandercock, “Framing Insurgent
Historiographies.”
2. Smith, “Editorial.”
3. The Lower Southern states included in Schweninger’s comparison
are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi,
South Carolina, and Texas.
4. Schweninger, Black Property Owners, 164.
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 18/19
5. Temple-Raston, A Death in Texas. Huff Creek settlement was the
site of the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd.
6. Sanders and Fields-White, “History’s Lost Black Towns.”
7. Sitton and Conrad, Freedom Colonies, 18.
8. Roberts, “Performance as Place Preservation.”
9. Kuris, “A Huge Problem in Plain Sight.”
10. Boyd and Duffy, “Sonic Geographies of Shifting Bodies”; Smith,
“Soundscape”; Catalani and Ackroyd, “Hearing Heritage.”
11. McKittrick, Demonic Grounds.
12. Mason, “Fixing Historic Preservation,” 64.
13. National Park Service, “Section II.”
14. “Protection” means a local review process under State or local law
for proposed demolition of, changes to, or other action that may
affect historic properties designated” NHPA of 1966.
15. State of Texas Legislature, “Government Code Chapter 442.”
16. Mason, “Fixing Historic Preservation,” 71.
17. Roberts, “The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Atlas & Study.”
Authors
Andrea Roberts (https://andrearobertsphd.com), Department of
Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University,
aroberts318@tamu.edu (mailto: aroberts318@tamu.edu), 0000-0001-
9979-6026 (http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9979-6026); Mohammad
Javad Biazar
(https://tamu.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapSeries/index.html?
appid=7e59e4b826bc4d259f28f9f5e1c1d2f9), Department of
9/9/2019 Black Placemaking in Texas – Current Research in Digital History
crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v02-06-black-placemaking-in-texas/ 19/19
Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University,
mj.biazar@tamu.edu (mailto: mj.biazar@tamu.edu), 0000-0002-
7203-0511 (http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7203-0511)
(https://rrchnm.org)
(https://gmu.edu)
This publication is licensed CC-BY-NC-ND
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-
nd/4.0/).
Current Research in Digital History is published by
RRCHNM (https://rrchnm.org) at George Mason
University (https://gmu.edu) and funded by
donations to the RRCHNM Director’s Fund
(https://advancement.gmu.edu/ihm02).
ISSN 2637-5923
... Similar to communities in Cancer Alley, FC were found in low-lying areas, largely unmapped, and hard to access. 53 Spatial analysis of census and crowdsourced settlement location data and FEMA-Hurricane Harvey Impact shows that the storm impacted 64% of the 357 mapped FCs in Texas. 54 The authors also used this tripartite framework and some of the Texas Freedom Colonies Atlas database development methods to construct the two-county cemetery database. ...
Article
Full-text available
Cancer Alley is an 136,794 meters stretch of chemical and industrial plants along the Mississippi River between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Since 2005, the area has experienced more than two dozen hurricanes with major rainstorms in between. Cemeteries, although just as vulnerable to storms and cancer-causing chemicals as the local population and natural environment, are overlooked casualties of frequent hurricanes and plant siting. During hurricanes and annual flooding, cemeteries in South Louisiana sustain significant damage such as dislodged coffins, difficult to reintern remains, and burial records damaged or destroyed. African American cemeteries are vulnerable to climate change impacts such as flooding, are often inaccessible, undocumented, and rarely recognized as environmental justice concerns, until now. Recently, environmental justice activists have mobilized to resist a Formosa plant's siting close to a historic black cemetery in St James Parish. The authors hypothesized that the Formosa siting is not an isolated case but instead reflects a pattern of racialized multihazard exposure of African American people and cemeteries. They created a database of cemetery locations—many of which were previously unmapped—based on the race or ethnicity of those interred in two parishes. Then, they performed a spatial analysis comparing cemeteries' exposure to flood hazards and proximity to hazardous chemical sites based on racial makeup. Findings show that black cemeteries have more multihazard exposure than other cemeteries due to accessibility and flooding. Results indicate that racialized multihazard exposure of cemeteries should be an emerging concern of Gulf Coast disaster recovery planners and researchers.
Research
Full-text available
Beta testing version of Texas Freedom Colony crowdsourcing project, includes population, disaster and hazards overlay, and link to survey. Survey data will populate the tool during the first phase of testing. Interdisciplinary project for use by those working in heritage conservation, participatory planning, preservation outreach and compliance, planning, planning history. Link to Portal: https://spark.adobe.com/page/zOAH5v4Wcfzxx/
Article
Full-text available
From 1870 to 1920, previously enslaved Texans founded more than 540 ‘freedom colonies.’ Since then, descendants left behind seemingly intangible Black geographies where evidence of their placemaking has disappeared. However, in Shankleville, Texas, settlement founder descendants sustained attachments to, and stewardship of, their communities, even as the population decreased and physical manifestations of place dissipated. To understand how place attachments are sustained in Shankleville, I analyze descendants’ stories, storytelling practices, and the spaces in which these performances take place. In these counterpublic spaces, descendants reproduce an identity rooted in a foundational story about their freedom-seeking, fugitive slave founders. Their ritual performances of these stories at a sacred spring in Shankleville cement attachments and catalyze descendants’ involvement in heritage conservation and preservation projects. The meanings and values informing these commemorative practices disrupt commonly held assumptions about Black community formation, Black heritage, and what constitutes legitimate preservation practice.
A Huge Problem in Plain Sight: Untangling Heirs
  • Gabriel Kuris
Kuris, Gabriel. "A Huge Problem in Plain Sight: Untangling Heirs;
Section II: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, National Register of Historic Places Bulletin (NRB 15)
  • Katherine Mckittrick
McKittrick, Katherine. Demonic Grounds: Black Women and the Cartographies of Struggle. University of Minnesota Press, 2006. National Park Service. "Section II: How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation, National Register of Historic Places Bulletin (NRB 15)." Accessed August 27, 2014.
History's Lost Black Towns
  • Brandee Sanders
  • Monee Fields-White
Sanders, Brandee, and Monee Fields-White. "History's Lost Black Towns." The Root. January 1, 2011. https://www.theroot.com/historyslost-black-towns-1790868004 (https://www.theroot.com/historyslost-black-towns-1790868004).