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THE TEXAS FREEDOM COLONIES PROJECT ATLAS & STUDY Mapping the Unmapped Black Settlements of Texas

African Americans founded "freedom colonies," across Texas from 1866-1930 (from Juneteenth through the end of the Depression Era). They included places like Antioch, near Austin, Texas, pictured above. Image courtesy Mr. LeeDell Bunton and the UT Briscoe Center for American History.
Often unmapped and absent from public records, freedom colonies' place names and histories are often buried in the memories of elders and Baby Boomers. Dr. Roberts learned about Jasper County freedom colonies while interviewing Richard Johnson in his Magnolia Springs barn.

From 2014 to the present, The Texas Freedom Colonies Project founder, Dr. Andrea Roberts has documented Black settlement heritage and grassroots preservation practice among descendants of these historic communities. Freedom colonies (an umbrella term for Black settlements, Black towns, enclaves, or freedmen's towns) are everywhere -hidden behind the pine curtain of the rural countryside and underneath the concrete landscapes of Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Beaumont.

Though descendants live throughout the state or even the world, they return to preserve cemeteries, attain historic markers, & rehabilitate their homesteads. In 2012, Shankleville Community added the Odom Homestead to the National Register of Historic Places.

Until recently, planners have overlooked unmapped freedom colonies located in rural or unincorporated areas. Inspired by her own familial roots in freedom colonies, social justice, and the book Freedom Colonies by Thad Sitton, planning scholar, Dr. Roberts makes these places visible through her participatory action and ethnographic research. The result: old voices given new purposes, old stories making new maps, old places made visible and relevant.

During Dr. Roberts' research process, she recorded origin stories and grassroots preservation practices. After co-researching with descendants, she was able to create the map above, which contains 35 located freedom colonies! If there are 35 in two counties, how many are there throughout Texas? Having determined what it would take to document every freedom colony in the State, she directed her research team to develop a new crowdsourcing mapping tool. Our research team has 557+ freedom colony place names recorded, and 357 locations mapped! How many more can we map? All of them and more with your help!
Andrea Roberts, Texas Freedom Colonies Founder and Director, and her research team at Texas A&M University are excited to announce the launch of The Texas Freedom Colonies Atlas along with the Mapping Communities and Cultures Survey. Click on the Atlas Button below, to help us test and expand the freedom colony map and database of heritage and locations. See the web map tool guidebook for information about how to navigate the mapping tool.

If you or someone you know are a descendant of a Texas freedom colony, please contribute to our study's survey with your stories and/or images through the short and extended surveys. Click on the button below to access this online survey. Survey data is reviewed for inclusion in the database.

Here is what the survey looks like. You can add stories and images within the short and extended surveys. Click on the button below to access this online survey. Survey data is reviewed for inclusion in the database.

If you or someone you know are a descendant of a Texas freedom colony, please contribute to our study's survey by clicking the button below.

Interested in partnering with the research team or the Project? Email the Founder, Dr. Andrea Roberts, about collaboration and research at aroberts318@tamu.edu. For assistance navigating the tool or completing the survey, email freedomcoloniesproject@gmail.com. Return to the website or to social media by clicking the buttons below.

This project is supported by a grant from Texas A&M University's Division of Research, the College of Architecture, Center for Heritage Conservation, the Institute for Sustainable Communities, and the Center of Digital Humanities Research.

http://www.arch.tamu.edu/
http://www.codhr.dh.tamu.edu/
Created By
Andrea Roberts
Appreciate

Credits:

Shankleville Community Homecoming, Odom Family Photo Collection.

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