In this issue: A new chapter for TxFCP, events and opportunities around Texas, freedom colonies in the news, and more!

Letter from the Founder and Director

The work of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project has always centered on descendant needs and voices. The Project originates from observing the ways urban planning and preservation often work around or in Black communities but not with them. Buildings are often elevated in ways that exclude or obscure place and community meaning and memory. My purpose has always been to make Black communities—invisible, dispossessed, and culturally persistent–-visible within processes and institutions that often treat them as afterthoughts or do not engage them.

Though challenging, I‘ve endeavored to balance being a researcher while prioritizing freedom colony descendants’ interests. It has not always been easy, and any lessons I have learned about balance came from freedom colony descendants. When I began this journey, the freedom colony descendants articulated a need to be recognized and shared goals. Their agenda included: creating a centralized location for information and communication among descendants; Building partnerships with institutions of higher learning, advocacy groups, and agencies; developing a learning community; holding annual meetings and symposia; and preserving heritage memorabilia associated with schools and churches.

TxFCP has made considerable progress on these agenda items as a university-based initiative. But there is still much work to be done. This next phase of our work requires expansion, breaking academic disciplinary boundaries, and tapping into ancestral wisdom and descendants’ imaginations in new ways. So, I ask you to imagine that freedom colony descendant communities around the state have full access to the technical assistance and university research support they need. Envision an online hub for the entire diaspora of descendants of historic Black settlements in Texas to connect, plan, and “map out” a future for their communities. Imagine that on this same online hub, risks and dangers facing all historic Black settlements are mapped and compared to the development and environmental patterns of risk to be fully included in regional disaster planning and funding allocations. Imagine that hundreds of churches, cemeteries, and lodges in historic Black settlements are identified, assessed for environmental risks, and documented to recognize and protect more sites. Imagine that university scholarship serves this freedom colony descendant-driven work. Now imagine that all this work online mirrors offline work responsive to local needs. Now imagine all of this being achieved in Texas and around the country!

When I join the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture this coming fall as an associate professor of urban and environmental planning and the co-director of the Center for Cultural Landscapes, I will have a unique opportunity to manifest what we only imagine now. Joining the faculty at UVA provides the perfect opportunity to extend the reach and impact of the descendant communities I’ve learned from in Texas. This position affords Texas descendants access to a broader range of supports and resources within the District of Columbia-Maryland-Virginia region while introducing Virginia descendants to an active freedom colony network in our state.

The TxFCP work of connecting, collecting, countermapping through our Atlas and co-creating through community engagement will continue. Our partnerships and collaborations will continue, with new opportunities and expanded partnerships, from a home base in Charlottesville, Virginia. I will regularly travel between Texas and Virginia to continue our work in the Lone Star State. This transition will be an ongoing conversation, and I welcome your questions (AND IDEAS) at I have answered some frequently asked questions (FAQ) below and will be holding a Virtual Open House on April 19th from 6-7pm. I appreciate your support as we enter this new chapter together. The heart of our project continues to be you – our partners, descendants, and volunteers.


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

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Will The Texas Freedom Colonies Project continue?

A: Yes! The project, our partnerships, and our collaborations will continue. Moving to UVA will expand our reach and impact geographically, but it will not diminish our commitment to working with Texas freedom colonies.

Q: Will there be changes to the Atlas or the availability of resources on your website?

A: No. The Atlas will continue and our co-research goals remain – we encourage you to share your input with us! Our website will remain up and active, and our email address and phone number will remain the same. Over time, you’ll see improvements to the Atlas and our website as we work to improve the project, just as we always have!

Q: What can I do if I have more questions?

A: Email us, or join us at our Virtual Open House on April 19 from 6-7pm! We’ll be hosting an open house via Zoom – come join the dialogue about the future of our programs. We are always available at

There will be a period of transition when more of our work will shift online, beginning in late spring. Keep up with us through this newsletter, Facebook, and Instagram!

TxFCP News

The TxFCP Partnership with Washington County’s Descendant Community

TxFCP has been engaged with volunteers in Washington County to locate and curate the histories of freedom colonies. We’ve reached milestones with the exhibit Freedom Colonies: Tracing Historic Black Settlements of Washington County, on view at the Brenham Heritage Museum Bus Depot Gallery through April 23, and Founder and Director Dr. Andrea Roberts serving as the inaugural speaker of the Seth McMeans Lecture Series on February 28th.

It was a sold-out crowd at the Bus Depot Gallery with many great contributions from the crowd from those connected to freedom colonies in Washington County – and several attendees from Austin County as well! Following the lecture, Dr. Roberts met with students from Avid, the James A. Dennis Black History Club, and the AP U.S. History Club from Brenham High School about the history of freedom colonies and how to get involved in preserving them.

Adopt-A-County Volunteer Online Training Materials Coming Soon

We’re producing new training videos for our Adopt-A-County volunteers on the Intranet, research methods, and more – information coming soon! Interested in joining our community of sustained research volunteers? Learn more here.

New Article in the Annals of the American Association of Geographers

Dr. Roberts has co-authored a new article with Maia Butler of the University of North Carolina Wilmington entitled “Contending with the Palimpsest: Reading the Land through Black Women’s Emotional Geographies.” The article features research from The Texas Freedom Colonies Project with Cynthia Matlock of Green Chapel in Cherokee County illustrating how Black women’s counternarratives resist the erasure of Black settlements.

TxFCP in the News

Harrison County Historical Commission participates in Texas Freedom Colonies Project
Marshall News Messenger
In celebration of Black History Month, the Harrison County Historical Commission was busy continuing to record the legacies of the county’s historic black settlements as part of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project

The Urgent Effort to Preserve Freedom Colonies and Black Settlements
Planning Magazine
A conversation about the challenges and importance of place-keeping with Andrea Roberts, Ph.D., founder of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project.

How saving cemeteries from weather impacts preserves Black history
Accuweather News
“Across the nation, activists and preservationists are fighting to save Black cemeteries and the personal histories they carry. One of the lasting impacts of segregation can be seen through the separation of white and Black cemeteries, and many of the latter across the United States have been overlooked, relocated or built over, contributing to not just the mistreatment of the dead, but also a loss of family history.”

Freedom Colony Events and Opportunities

Event: “Black Cowboys: A Conversation on Restored Legacies”
Monday, March 28, 6:30 pm – 9 pm at The Witte Museum. Free!

Join Deborah Omowale Jarmon, CEO/Director of San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM), in conversation with Lola Kelly Wilcox Moore of the Wilcox Ranch in Seguin and Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik of The Alexander Farm in Pilot Knob, to discuss the restoration of Black ranches and farms in Texas. TONIGHT! Reserve your spot!

Exhibit: “Black Cowboys: An American Story”
The Witte Museum

Did you know that one of four cowboys who went on the trail was Black?  ”Black Cowboys: An American Story” explores the lives and work of the numerous Black men, women and children – enslaved and free – who labored on the ranches of Texas and participated on cattle drives before the Civil War through the turn of the twentieth century. The exhibit runs through April 5, 2022.

Exhibit: “Freedom Colonies: Tracing Historic Black Settlements of Washington County”
Brenham Heritage Museum

The Freedom Colonies exhibit at the Brenham Heritage Museum will run through April 23rd. The exhibit explores the remarkable stories of formerly enslaved people and their descendants who established entire local communities following their Emancipation. The Texas Freedom Colonies Project is pleased to partner with the Brenham Heritage Museum on content development for this exhibit and the new museum, working closely with the African-American Content Committee.

New Grant Opportunity for African American Churches

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has announced a new $20 million initiative, Preserving Black Churches, that offers a national strategy for historic Black churches that are both stewarded by active congregations and being repurposed for new uses in local communities. This program will establish a new national grant fund to provide direct funding to Black churches for capital, staffing, and operations and create a Rapid Response & Emergency Grant Fund to address imminent threats to Black churches, among other facets. Sign up here for updates, including when the grant program will be open for applications.

Spring is here and Juneteenth is coming up! Do you have a freedom colony Juneteenth event you’d like us to list in our newsletter/Facebook? Let us know!

Freedom Colonies in the News

10 Black suburban towns that help tell Houston’s history as one of nation’s most diverse cities
The Houston Chronicle
“While many historically Black neighborhoods and wards are well known in Houston’s metro area, some of Houston’s history is rooted in lesser-known suburban towns that have been around for decades or even longer.”

One of Austin’s first Black communities has largely been erased. This building tells its tale
KUT Austin
“Near the corner of West 24th Street and San Gabriel in West Campus, a 152-year-old stone building sits sandwiched in the middle of a new student apartment complex. Long ago it was the site of one of the first Black-led newspapers in the South, and today it’s the last remnant of Wheatville, a Black community that once thrived in Austin’s West Side.”

Where is Tenth Street? Inside the historic freedman’s town’s neighborhood-led plan
The Oak Cliff Advocate
“Neighborhood residents recently wrote their own plan with the help of the Inclusive Communities Project. The 109-page document names discriminatory policies and financial disinvestment as unaddressed social injustices.”

Locals raise awareness about historic graves in Kendleton
The Fort Bend Star|
A road sign notes the presence of the cemetery, but a literal forest has grown up around the 4 acres of markers, some of them containing people born as early as 1827.”

‘Everything’s going to pieces’: how a port took over a Black US neighborhood
The Guardian
Port Freeport in Texas has obtained 95% of property in the East End as part of an extensive expansion – and many former residents are upset over being displaced.

Black Farmers Fear Foreclosure as Debt Relief Remains Frozen
The New York Times
“Lawsuits from white farmers have blocked $4 billion of pandemic aid that was allocated to Black farmers in the American Rescue Plan. “I trusted the government that we had a deal, and down here at the end of the day, the rug gets pulled out from under me,” said Brandon Smith, a cattle rancher in Bastrop, Texas.”

Austin-Based Artist Combats Gentrification With Immersive AR Experience at SXSW
Ad Week
“To highlight the continued cultural erasure in Austin, local artist Harper Biewen created a social media and augmented reality initiative called “What Once Was.” The AR project shows local businesses that once existed and the impact it had on the community.”

Make Your Voice Heard

Comment Period for Emancipation Trail National Historic Trail Study

The National Park Service is studying the feasibility of designating the Emancipation Trail between Galveston and Houston a National Historic Trail. The proposed Emancipation NHT extends approximately 51 miles from the Osterman Building and Reedy Chapel in Galveston, Texas, along Texas State Highway 3 and Interstate Highway 45 North, to Freedmen’s Town, then to Independence Heights and Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas, following the migration route taken by newly freed slaves and other persons of African descent from the major 19th-century seaport town of Galveston to the burgeoning community of Freedmen’s Town, located in the 4th Ward of Houston, Texas. See a map of the proposed routes, answer outreach and engagement questions, and sign up for the study mailing list here. The comment period is open until March 31.

Texas Landowner Survey

If you own or manage private working lands, The Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute would like your help to find better ways to serve you and meet your land management needs. No agricultural exemption or open space exemption is necessary for a landowner to participate, though the survey is targeting rural landowners and working lands of one acre or more. This survey is part of and informs the Texas A&M Land Trends Program. We want to help ensure that Black landowners and their concerns are represented! Learn more and take the survey here.

Texas Water Survey

Meeting the domestic water needs of a growing population coupled with various industrial, commercial, and agricultural needs can be a challenge. The Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute is conducting a general survey (survey link) of water users, water providers, community representatives, and water professionals as part of the Texas A&M Land Trends Program. If you are a state resident, they want to hear from you about water – your participation will help the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute find better ways to serve you and others across the state.

Impacted by Flooding, Pollution, High Utilities, or Winter Storms in the Houston Area? CEER Wants To Hear From You!

CEER Houston (Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience), is an advocacy, policy, solutions-driven coalition. A campaign for equitable recovery across Brazoria, Fort Bend, Jefferson, Liberty, and Harris counties is focusing on two statewide agencies being reviewed by state lawmakers this year: the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) because they are directly responsible for governing the pollution in our environment and the energy in our homes and communities. Please fill out a survey to get more information at

A “People’s Hearing on TCEQ” on April 30 will let you voice your public comments at a location in Houston and online via Zoom. Training Workshops to educate and empower will be held online April 2nd, 9th, and 16th. Reach out to CEER at or

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