In this issue: Water’s Bluff, Invitation to a TxFCP Virtual Open House on April 19, Aya Symposium, student and volunteer work in Burleson County, educational opportunities, and more!

Freedom Colony Feature

Water’s Bluff (Smith County)

Water’s Bluff in northeastern Smith County is about a mile south of the Sabine River near Winona. The community supported several church congregations and a school, which in 1884 educated 38 school-aged pupils. A new school supported in part by the Rosenwald Fund was constructed around 1925 – shortly after, it burned. It was replaced soon afterward, possibly by the school pictured below.

The name Water’s Bluff may be a variation on Walter’s Bluff, drawing on the name of a white landowner who appears in the 1850 Smith County census. Maps in 1960 identified Water’s Bluff as a settlement of approximately thirty homes, two churches, a cemetery, a school building, and one business.

The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Atlas has fantastic information about Water’s Bluff, especially about the many talented educators at the school, submitted by volunteer and professional librarian at UT Tyler Vicki Betts. We are always looking for more information. Are you a descendant? We want to hear from you! Tell us more about a settlement here.

We are looking for more information about Smith County freedom colonies. Please share stories, memories, and information about locations, African American history, and remaining structures in these settlements: Blackjack, New Mountain, Jones Valley, Cold Hill, Wallace Grove, and St. Violet.

Sources: The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Atlas, TSHA Handbook

Do you have information about freedom colonies in Smith County or in Texas? Want to get involved as a volunteer? Learn more!

TxFCP News

Virtual Open House on April 19 at 6 pm

Join us via Zoom for a Virtual Open House on Tuesday, April 19, from 6-7 pm to discuss the future of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project. We are looking for your input! Director and Founder Dr. Andrea Roberts is joining the University of Virginia, and we know you have questions about the transition, as well as the capacity and direction of the program moving forward. Register for the event here.

“More Than Monuments” Class in Burleson County

Dr. Andrea Roberts’ “More Than Monuments: Preservation as Social Justice” class has been hard at work with our amazing volunteers on the freedom colonies of Burleson County!

This undergrad course is assessing the current needs of at-risk properties, identifying features in the cultural landscapes, and using archival material to form arguments for the historic significance of African American vernacular architecture and landscapes.

A very special thanks to the TxFCP volunteers, community leaders, and descendants who are sharing their stories as part of this project, especially Dr. Monique Williams of the Heir+Loom Foundation and independent researcher Gloria Smith. Thanks also to Phyllis Earles and T. DeWayne Moore at PVAMU.

AAC Workshop Coming Soon – Looking for a Co-Host!

We’re planning to host a virtual workshop for our Adopt-A-County volunteers in May or June, and we’d like to find an organization interesting in co-hosting! Are you interested in sharing your research practices, triumphs, and challenges with the larger community of freedom colony researchers? Let us know! Email

Aya Symposium Registration and Call for Presentations Open

The 2022 Aya Symposium will be held May 19 in Dallas and online! The call for presentations is open until April 24. Find out more about the Aya Symposium here and the call for presentations here. TxFCP team member Jennifer Blanks will be presenting – we’re looking forward to seeing you there!

Freedom Colony Events and Opportunities

Are you hosting a Juneteenth event in Texas and want to let people know? Send us your event listing! We’ll be putting together a Juneteenth event index again this year and would love to include your event. Email us at with the details!

Free Webinar: Virtual Genealogy and Justice Webinar

Saturday April 16, 1 – 2:30 PM CST. The River Road African American Museum is hosting a free genealogy workshop that will educate participants about DNA testing and the differences between Family Search and platforms. Register here.

Free Virtual Event: Behind the Big House—Preserving and Interpreting the Material History of Slavery in the U.S.

Thursday April 21, 3 – 4:30 PM. When residents and tourists visit sites of slavery, whose stories are told? All too often the lives of slaveowners are centered, obscuring the lives of enslaved people. Jodi Skipper’s new book, Behind the Big House, candidly documents her eight-year collaboration with the Behind the Big House program, a community-based model used at local historic sites to address slavery in the collective narrative of U.S. history and culture.

She will be joined by two national leaders in preserving the material traces of enslaved people and their descendants: Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Texas A&M University and founder of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Andrea Roberts, and preservation architect and founder of the Saving Slave Houses project Jobie Hill. Presented by the University of Iowa. This virtual event is free and open to all. Learn more and register here.

Free Lecture: Fruit of the Earth – Using Deed Records to Uncover Your Ancestors with Robyn Smith

Deed records are one of the best collections for researching family history, but their legal language can intimidate even seasoned researchers. In this session genealogist Robyn Smith describes how deed records can identify multiple generations of a family and reveal the social history of a community. This program will also include a discussion with Ebonie Alexander, Director of the Black Family Land Trust. Robyn has been researching her family and others for over 25 years. Presented by the National Museum of African American History and Culture. View here.

Free Online Course: Presenting at Conferences

The Texas Center for Local Food has a free course “Presenting at Conferences” Learn to create a plan for an engaging presentation, get ready to present, and deliver an effective presentation. The course is not a scheduled time – in just 40 minutes and with the support of helpful course downloads, you’ll learn how to feel calm and confident when presenting. Enroll here.

Exhibit: “Freedom Colonies: Tracing Historic Black Settlements of Washington County” at the 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.

The Bus Depot Gallery at 313 East Alamo is open 10 AM till 4 PM every Saturday. Other times are available by appointment. Find out more at or call 979.830.8445.

Make Your Voice Heard

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!