In this issue: A letter from Dr. Andrea Roberts, Texas Rural African American Heritage Grant, Dabney Hill featured in TCLF Landslide 2021, Real Places Conference 2022, and more!

Letter from the Founder and Director

Happy holiday greetings! At the end of an eventful 2021, I am privileged to address you all: freedom colony descendants, advocates, volunteers, and supporters. The Texas Freedom Colonies Project exists because of you. Without your input, we cannot be a resource for the freedom colonies statewide, and we are grateful for your work with us as The Project grows!

2021 Highlights

The number of located freedom colonies on our Atlas has grown from 367 to 423, in part thanks to the over 75 piece s of new input added to the Atlas in 2021. We have a new website with a growing library of resources, including Black land retention and farm legislation news. We launched the Texas African American Cemetery Registry. We tested our cemetery assessment tool with descendants in Deep East Texas with support from the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. And we completed a strategic plan for the future of our online services and environment. Our team conducted Atlas demonstrations and oral history trainings to build capacity among volunteers in Austin and Brenham.

KUT 90.5, the Austin NPR affiliate, featured our work in a series of three extended interviews, which increased web traffic and event attendance. The Guardian newspaper highlighted our team’s work in an article about the disproportionate risk Black cemeteries face from development and climate change. The Cultural Landscape Foundation also highlighted us in their Stewardship Stories. We attained a competitive internal grant to support Brazos Valley area research and preservation. Increasingly, our work has become a sought after model and inspiration for social justice and preservation around the country. Team leadership and doctoral students presented our research findings at conferences and symposia, including: National Humanities Conference, Virginia Assembly, The Center for Preservation of Civil Rights Sites, Texas Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, Harvard University Graduate School of Design, National Conference for Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education, National Forum on Historic Preservation Policy, and the Re-Centering the Margins: Justice and Equity in Preservation Conference, University of Maryland. And Natalie Franz joined us as an Assistant Director

2022 Vision

In 2022, we will narrow and deepen our focus in three areas: capacity building, research, and collaboration. Geographically, we will sustain our regional focus on the counties surrounding Texas A&M University and those in which we still have the most data on freedom colonies missing.

  • Capacity Building: Building descendant capacity to preserve heritage, research, and access resources
    • We are developing and testing new cemetery condition assessment and planning tools
    • Conducting Adopt a County training on archiving materials on our safe, secure intranet
  • Research: Locating unmapped settlements and producing applied research on the state of freedom colonies
    • Use a demonstration site approach to serving endangered communities, archives, and sites, with a pilot in the Brazos Valley
    • Map 50 % of not yet located/unverified freedom colonies in-person and online;
    • Audit public input and study relationships between risk and settlements
    • Publish our findings in peer-reviewed journals and present them at conferences
    • Begin designing a biennial report, “The State of Texas Freedom Colonies,” for release on Juneteenth 2023
  • Collaboration: Collaboration that leads to impact and change
    • Matching our technical assistance and research inquiries to experts and students who can address them
    • Work with public agencies to ensure improved engagement, service, and consultation with descendant communities
    • Develop a system for matching volunteers and supporters to descendants and settlements in need
    • Continue collaboration with museums, HBCUs, and other groups to preserve historic Black settlement heritage

Winter Hiatus 2021-2022

To direct our growth in 2022, The Texas Freedom Colonies Project team has decided to pause, regroup, and revitalize during the winter break. We are unavailable from December 22 – February 1. Our website is always open with many of the resources you may need, and emails to will be returned beginning February 1.

Over the holidays, as you gather with family and friends, consider sharing your story with us or even interviewing someone using the oral history “quick start” guide from our November newsletter.

Please continue to share your ideas and knowledge. The Project cannot succeed without your ongoing support and involvement. We are looking forward to continuing our work with you in 2022!


Andrea Roberts, PhD
Founder and Director, The Texas Freedom Colonies Project

TxFCP News

Texas Rural African American Heritage Grant

An amazing opportunity for rural African American Heritage resources is available through Preservation Texas. Preliminary Applications are due January 4! This program will provide matching grants of up to $75,000 to support the stabilization, preservation, restoration, or rehabilitation of at least ten rural African-American historic buildings in Texas that had institutional or commercial uses. Click here for more information and to apply!

The Texas Rural African-American Heritage Grants Program has been made possible by a generous $750,000 Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant to Preservation Texas from the National Park Service.

Questions? Contact Evan Thompson, Executive Director of Preservation Texas at thompson @

Dabney Hill Featured in TCLF Landslide 2021

Dabney Hill is representative of the challenges facing the remaining extant Freedom Colonies, which have seldom been recognized or protected as significant cultural landscapes. The Texas Freedom Colonies Project nominated Dabney Hill for The Cultural Landscape Foundation’s 2021 Landslide list as an outstanding example of a Texas Freedom Colony that still has an active, living community and whose historic vernacular landscape retains a legible community core despite suffering severe storm damage in recent years. We are excited they’ve been included and hope this increased visibility will aid preservation efforts at Dabney Hill and other freedom colonies.

The goal of Landslide® is to draw immediate and lasting attention to threatened cultural landscapes. The theme of this year’s list is Race and Space: Hidden Histories Revealed – it presents thirteen sites across eleven states and spanning almost a millennium of history. These cultural landscapes broaden our awareness about the origins of our nation and illustrate the dramatic social and geographic changes of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Examined together, these sites represent local stories and global themes, shedding light on how settlement and removal, slavery and Jim Crow, urban renewal, and environmental injustice have shaped our national landscape and continue to impact communities, families, individuals, and cultural and natural resources.

Photo and video: Owen Schwartzbard, Edwards Media, 2021

Real Places Conference 2022

February 2 – 4, 2021 in Austin – We’re Giving Away A Free Registration to a TxFCP Volunteer!

We hope you will join us February 2–4 for the Texas Historical Commission’s sixth annual Real Places Conference in person in Austin!

The Texas Freedom Colonies Project will be presenting sessions on February 3 with Preservation Texas and others about African American rural cultural landscapes, diversifying preservation leadership, engaged preservation research, and more!


We’re giving away a free registration to one of our volunteers!

If you’re a volunteer interested in attending Real Places 2022 in Austin for free, send us an email at – be sure to put “Real Places” in the subject line. We’ll randomly select someone the first week in January!

The conference provides opportunities to learn from and network with professional staff, volunteers, and supporters of historic preservation and heritage tourism. This includes county historical commissions, Main Street managers and board members, historic preservation officers and design review boards, architects and engineers, historians, archeologists, curators, interpreters, managers of museums and historic sites, as well as Texas Historical Commission staff, Texas Heritage Trail Regions, and other partner agencies. Follow the Texas Historical Commission on social media and sign up for the email list below to stay updated on the latest announcements.

Texas Statewide Historic Preservation Plan

As the State Historic Preservation Office, the Texas Historical Commission (THC) must produce a Statewide Preservation Plan periodically to align preservation efforts at the local, regional, and state levels. The THC oversees the planning process and participates as one of many key stakeholders from across the state—this is a preservation plan for Texans by Texans. Stakeholders represent communities, organizations, and causes related to Texas history and cultural resources. Together, stakeholders meet, share ideas, express concerns, and prioritize goals that will move preservation forward and expand the ways in which we save what’s meaningful about Texas’ unique character.

The SWP’s robust engagement structure ensures that the planning process captures voices from communities and regions across the state. Visit the engagement platform.

Stakeholder meetings will take place virtually and in-person around the state. The next virtual stakeholder meeting is January 7. Read more and register here.

We’ll be back for the February 2022 Newsletter!

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