In this issue: Dabney Hill (Burleson County), the Texas African American Cemetery Registry, the Aya Symposium, and more!

Freedom Colony Feature

Freedom Colony Feature: Dabney Hill (Burleson County)

Dabney Hill was named for one of the community’s founders and early landowners, Daniel Dabney. At the community’s core along CR 267 is Dabney Hill Missionary Baptist Church, the masonic lodge, the site of Jones High School and its gymnasium, and a cluster of homes. Dabney Hill is an outstanding example of a freedom colony that still has an active community and that has surviving community buildings at its center.

Dabney Hill Missionary Baptist Church and the Masonic Hall with a field of wildflowers in the foreground

Dabney Hill Missionary Baptist Church, with the Masonic Hall beyond, in June 2021.

The church was established in 1887 and the current building was constructed in 1905. The Masonic Hall, Ethiopian Star Lodge #308, provided a gathering place and lodging for visiting preachers and others who were not permitted to stay in area hotels during Jim Crow. Fraternal organization buildings are a rare surviving type of building in freedom colonies – the Masonic Hall speaks to the community life of Dabney Hill’s past and, with preservation, its future. The Jones School, founded to uphold a “separate but equal” education system and ultimately shuttered with integration, speaks to Dabney Hill in the modern Civil Rights era.

I Am Texas: Gloria Smith, Bullock Museum Texas Story Project

In March 2018, a major storm hit Dabney Hill and collapsed part of the church building’s roof. This video, highlighting the importance of the church and featuring inspiring researcher and Adopt-A-County volunteer Gloria Smith, shows the damage after the initial collapse. Church leaders, members, and advocates continue to work with The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, TAMU’s Center for Heritage Conservation, Preservation Texas, and others to secure the future of Dabney Hill’s historic places.

Gym building of the former Jones High School in Dabney Hill
Dabney Hill Missionary Baptist Church before the storm damage

Do you have more information about Dabney Hill? Share your story!

Would you like your freedom colony featured in a future newsletter? Email us!

TxFCP News

The Texas African American Cemetery Registry: An interview with lead graduate research assistant, Jennifer Blanks

Jennifer explains the Texas African American Cemetery Registry, the goals and purposes of the registry, and why we need your knowledge of Black burial grounds! This interview has been edited for length and clarity, read or listen to the whole interview here.

What is the Texas African American Cemetery Registry?

The Texas African American Cemetery registry is a voluntary database of Black burial grounds in Texas. The aim is to create a resource for stewards, to help us provide assistance that will help them determine the best way to protect and preserve their cemetery.

Do you have any goals of the cemetery registry you’d like to share?

We’ll hear “I know of a cemetery that’s in deplorable conditions and is inaccessible” or that there are issues around ownership of a burial ground – one of our goals is to help address those issues and help stakeholders and descendants preserve their cemetery and make it a place in space that they’re proud to visit where we can honor ancestors in a dignified way.

What other uses does the information have, for example, in terms of threat assessments?

Texas faces a host of issues – environmental issues and concerns related to the built environment – we can’t prevent or mitigate against those issues if we do not know where the cemetery is.

Who should submit to the registry?

Anybody can submit to the registry – we are interested in collecting information of any known Black burial grounds. Cemeteries are one of the best proxies to helping us identify freedom colonies, but even if it is not a freedom colony cemetery it is still important to have because it helps us understand and spatialize what kinds of issues and threats Black cemeteries in the state of Texas are facing.

What can you upload to the registry?

It can be pictures, old maps, handwritten maps, obituaries – do not think that any information is too small or too much. The simplest clue is sometimes our biggest hint in helping us identify a freedom colony. Please take advantage of the Texas African American Cemetery Registry and we look forward to looking at your uploads!

Read more or listen to the full interview audio

Black Land and the Future of Freedom Colonies: Coffee Talk Recording Available Now!

Did you miss our Juneteenth Coffee Talk? Want to review the talk for something you forgot to jot down? The recording is available on YouTube!

Black Land and the Future of Freedom Colonies | Juneteenth Coffee Talk June 2021

Visit our new Black Land Resources page for more information

TxFCP Events

Aya Symposium : Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Aya Symposium, a multidisciplinary exploration of freedom colonies, will focus on “The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity” for the virtual symposium this year. Session descriptions are available now! We’re looking forward to seeing you there (virtually!)


Questions or comments? Email us! Thank you for reading!

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Active through 04/10/2023