In this issue: St. John Colony (Caldwell County), Aya Symposium, Juneteenth, Adopt-A-County Volunteer Workshop, TxFCP at NMAAHC, Ongoing Conversation about the Future of the Project, and more!

Freedom Colony Feature

St. John Colony (Caldwell County)

In the early 1870s, fourteen families purchased about 2,200 acres of land to establish a safe community for the formerly enslaved. Reverend John Henry Winn Sr. had settled first in Hill Prairie near Webberville, a Black settlement on the outskirts of present-day Austin. Then, he and other families migrated to Hogeye, also known as Youngs Settlement or Perryville. “Nightriders,” or the Klan, terrorized Black families and set fire to properties where Winn’s group settled in Perryville, forcing them to seek a safer place. Originally named Winn’s Colony in honor of Rev. Winn, the community name was changed to St. John Colony after Winn organized St. John Missionary Baptist Church in 1873. The community grew steadily and at its peak included homes of about 100 families, farms, stores, a school, a cotton gin, and a sorghum mill. A post office under the name Mackiesville opened in 1890 with Lewis Mackey as Postmaster.

Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, St. John Missionary Baptist Church, and St. John (Zion Union) Cemetery in St. John Colony. Photos by Michael Gross.

In addition to St. John Missionary Baptist, churches included Zion Union Missionary Baptist and Landmark Missionary Baptist. The boundaries of the colony extended into Bastrop County. The post office was closed in the 1920s, and the school was consolidated with Lockhart schools in 1968. The churches remain active, and the community graveyard, known as St. John Cemetery, or Zion Union Cemetery, contains the remains of community pioneers. Descendants of some of the founding families still reside in St. John Colony. This year marks the community’s 150th Juneteenth celebration.

Outside St. John Missionary Baptist Church is a wall telling the community’s origin story. Photos by Marshall Hill, President, St. John 19th Body

Sources: The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Atlas, THC Historical Marker, Webster Gregg, 2009, History of St. John, Rosie Darby.

Take Action! Add to the Atlas or become a TxFCP volunteer!

TxFCP News

Request a Red Envelope! TxFCP Sending Outreach Kits

Are you having a Juneteenth, homecoming, church anniversary, or other public event? Are you interested in sharing The Texas Freedom Colonies Project with attendees? Request a Red Envelope! The Red Envelope is a kit that contains postcards, the Saving Texas Freedom Colonies guidebook, stickers, hard copies of the Atlas survey forms, and a stamped envelope to send completed forms back to us. Just email us with your address and look for the Red Envelope in the mail! We’ll start sending kits the week of May 30.

April 19 Virtual Open House: Ongoing Conversation about the Future of the Project

We’re so thankful for everyone who attended our Virtual Open House on April 19 to discuss the future of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project. We had many thoughtful questions. A recording will be available soon.

Major takeaways from the event:

  • The Texas Freedom Colonies Project will continue, but we will be slowing down. We are preparing for a lull in activity after mid-June, when our project team’s capacity will be lower. Between late August and early 2023 will be our lowest capacity, and if you contact us, you will get an automated response.
  • We are developing several online resources.
  • There shouldn’t be any interruption in services on our website or Atlas. Keep adding to the Atlas!
  • We need folks to volunteer to become points of contact for their county! Email us to learn more.
  • If you have any questions for the project team, consider emailing us now!

We will keep you updated on the transition through our newsletter and social media. Please email us with ideas, suggestions, and questions at

Read more about the future of the project at Expanding Black Space: The Future of Freedom Colony Scholarship & Advocacy

We’re looking forward to Juneteenth! Visit our list of in-person and virtual Juneteenth events throughout Texas at! Have an event to share with us? Email your event flyers to!

TxFCP Events

May Events

Don’t miss this statewide conference! The 2022 Aya Symposium will be held on May 19! TxFCP team member Jennifer Blanks will be presenting – we’re looking forward to seeing you there! The event will be held online and in-person at Texas Discovery Gardens, 3601 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd; Dallas, TX 75210. Register online here:

Adopt-A-County Volunteer Workshop May 23 at 6 – 7 pm Central: Learn about conducting online research and processing photos and other materials with The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Team and your fellow volunteers! A registration link is coming soon – watch your inbox and social media!

We need folks to volunteer to become points of contact for their county AND GUEST HOST FUTURE VIRTUAL EVENTS! Email us to learn more.

June Events

“Texas Freedom Colonies” at the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Live Broadcast on Saturday, June 11 from 11 am – 12:30 pm CT

Dr. Andrea Roberts will be speaking in person at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, on Saturday, June 11. This program is part of NMAAHC’s Juneteenth programming and will be held in person at the Oprah Winfrey Theater and will also be streamed on all NMAAAHC streaming platforms. Visit the event announcement to add this to your calendar!

TxFCP Team Member to Present in Paris

This June, The Texas Freedom Colonies Project team members Valentina Aduen and Jennifer Blanks will present a research paper at IAFOR (International Academic Forum) Paris Conference on Arts and Humanities. The paper recounts lessons our team learned about engaged research during the COVID 19 pandemic. Congratulations to Valentina and Jennifer – looking forward to hearing about how your work is received on the international stage!

Recent Events

Students from TAMU More Than Monuments Course Support Burleson County Freedom Colony Descendants

Students from the “More than Monuments” course engaged in cultural landscape and cemetery assessment, conducted oral histories, and began work on a website dedicated to Burleson County freedom colony heritage. Students conducted their research at Prairie View A&M, TAMU Cushing Archives, and freedom colony sites. Dr. Roberts and Teaching Assistant Jennifer Blanks partnered with the Heir+Loom Foundation’s Dr. Monique Williams and Independent Researcher Gloria Smith. Field research was conducted with members of Sweet Home Church, Dabney Hill, Clay, Big Creek, Birch Creek Community, and other Somerville area freedom colonies, schools, churches, and cemeteries.

Dr. Roberts Speaks at Dumbarton Oaks “Landscapes in the Making” Symposium

Dr. Roberts presented “Landscapes Remembered: Visual Cultures of African American Placemaking in Texas” at the Dumbarton Oaks “Landscapes in the Making” Garden and Landscape Studies Symposium on May 7. Dumbarton Oaks is a Harvard University research institute, library, museum, and garden located in Washington, DC.

Gardens at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC. Photos by Andrea Roberts.

Around Texas: Neill-Cochran House Museum, Austin

On April 23, the Neill-Cochran House Museum hosted The Slave Dwelling Project founder Joseph McGill and Dr. Tara Dudley, among other local preservationists and scholars, celebrating local freedom colony heritage and the presence of slave labor in Austin–close to UT’s West Campus.

Along with researchers from UT Austin, the Neill-Cochran House Museum has launched a project called “Reckoning with the Past: The Untold Story of Race in Austin.” Over the next year, they’ll be restoring the slave quarters to their antebellum appearance and creating exhibits and tours that focus on the structure’s connection to slavery in Austin. (Read more at KUT Austin)

Left: Panel discussion. Right: Joseph McGill. Photos by Andrea Roberts.

Around Texas: George Washington Carver High School, Navasota

Assistant Director Natalie Franz visited George Washington Carver High School Alumni Association, Navasota’s Founder’s Day and State Rally on April 23 to talk to people about the project and learn more about the settlements of Grimes County. The Alumni Association owns the high school building, built in 1942, and works to preserve the heritage of Carver and provide scholarships to young people in the community.

Events and Opportunities

African American Cultural Roots Conference: Black Family History & Genealogy

Saturday, May 14, 8:30 am – 5 pm, Conroe. Nationally recognized Genealogy and Family History experts will help you learn to connect to your ancestors and family history. Learn more here.

Oral History Workshop

Saturday, May 21, 11:30 am – 1 pm, Manor. Oral history for the people! Learn the basics of taping simple but effective oral histories for your family, school reunions, church groups, and others! Sponsored by the Travis County Historical Commission in partnership with the City of Manor.

(Hi)stories of the Soil: Texas Land Heritage Speaker Series – The History of Austin’s Black Freedom Communities

Thursday, June 16, 6 p.m. Central, Virtual Event. Join Funmi Ogunro (film director and editor) and Rachel Winston (producer and archivist) for a discussion on the history of Austin’s Black Freedom Communities. Ogunro and Winston are part of a team currently producing a feature-length documentary about Austin’s Black Freedom Communities. Register here.

Freedom Colonies in the News

New genealogy program debuts at Brazos Valley African American Museum


A new program is being offered by the museum: the Pruitt-Sadberry Genealogy Family History Search. The program was conceived as a shared goal between museum leadership and the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Inspired by the legacy left by museum founders, volunteers from within and outside the church will now help members of the community research their family lineage. Those interested can sign up for free appointments with the program starting Tuesday. The first appointments at the museum will be open for Saturday. For more information, and to sign up, visit the following link: Brazos Valley African American Museum (

‘That’s those spirits talking ’: Freed slave’s descendants preserve 150-year-old ranch in Seguin

San Antonio Express-News

An interview with Jake’s Colony descendants Lola Kelly Wilcox Moore, Malcolm Wilcox Moore, and Mar’lon Wilcox Moore about their family land and preserving their family legacy. This article is only visible to San Antonio Express-News subscribers – if you’re not a subscriber, your local library may be.

Dallas’ Southern Gateway Park could stitch Oak Cliff back together

Axios Dallas

A section of Interstate 35E severed southern Dallas when it opened in the 1960s and gutted a historically Black community. The 5-acre park, which is designed by HKS Architects, will be completed in two stages and will be similar to the popular Klyde Warren Park over Central Expressway.

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