In this issue: Morney-Berry Farm (Dallas County), Volunteers and the Transition, TxFCP Around Texas and the Nation, Research Resources, and more!

Freedom Colony Feature

Morney-Berry Farm (Dallas County)

The Morney-Berry Farm in Dallas, Texas was established in 1876 by James and Catherine Morney. Following their deaths in the 1930s, the land was devoured by fraudulent claims. The farm was passed to the great-granddaughter of the original owners, Dallas educator Murdine Berry, with the direction from her uncle: “Do not lose the land.” Berry finally won a lawsuit to recover 80 acres of the original 120 acre homestead in 1989. She worked for decades to make the farm a place of gathering and education. Morney-Berry Farm hosts an annual Juneteenth celebration which includes structures and artifacts to demonstrate African American lifeways during enslavement and freedom. Murdine Berry died in 2017, and her family is keeping her legacy of tireless advocacy alive.

Left: Murdine Berry; Center: Morney-Berry Farm; Right: Dr. Leonard Berry, Linda Berry Henderson and Jody Berry. Photos courtesy of Jody Berry.

Homesteads like the Morney-Berry Farm are often freedom colony anchors, but are less visible than churches and cemeteries. A freedom colony near the farm might have been entwined with the nearby town of Hutchins. The town of Hutchins began as a trading point near Dawdy’s Ferry on the Trinity River around 1860 and named for a promoter of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, which came through town in 1872. Today, Hutchins is at the intersection of Interstate highways 20 and 45. Unfortunately, the projected route of the proposed bullet train between Dallas and Houston runs right through the Morney-Berry Farm.

James “Jim” Morney. Photo courtesy of Jody Berry.

Prospects for the construction of the bullet train are murky, but a Texas Supreme Court ruling recently handed the company controlling the project the power of eminent domain. This highlights the importance of visibility – government processes can’t take into account what they cannot see. The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Atlas brings visibility to historic African American settlements – add your story to the Atlas today. Our Atlas has many kinds of users – entities planning infrastructure projects are one.

Are you interested in transportation projects happening near you or your freedom colony? Do you want to learn the exact steps required to participate in transportation planning and have your voice be heard? Read our online transportation guide and watch this video tutorial to learn how to use transportation layers on the Atlas!

Sources: The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Atlas, TSHA Handbook of Texas, D Magazine, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Observer

Do you know more about the Black community near Hutchins, Texas? Share your story with us!

TxFCP News

What’s Next? Volunteers and the Transition

As The Texas Freedom Colonies Project transition to UVA continues, we are looking for volunteer support to help extend the impact and reach of the project! Are you willing to take on a volunteer role in the transition between August and February? Fill out this questionnaire and a member of the team will get back to you shortly to get you set up to help!

Do you have questions about volunteer roles, questions about the Atlas, questions about freedom colony research? Join us for Volunteer Zoom Q&A Sunday, July 24 from 6-7pm Central on Zoom at this link:

What the Transition Means Right Now

The Texas Freedom Colonies Project team is at work behind the scenes as the transition begins, but our capacity is lower than before. Expect responses to inquiries within three-five days. Are you having an event and want to get the word out about The Texas Freedom Colonies Project? We still have red envelopes available! If you are having a summer or early fall event, please get your request in by August 8 to ensure they will be mailed in a timely manner. Email us at

Juneteenth: The TxFCP Around Texas and the Nation

St. John Colony, Caldwell County
Team members Natalie Franz and Jennifer Blanks attended the St. John Colony 150th Juneteenth on June 18!

Left: color guard, Center: a speaker at Juneteenth; Right: TxFCP team member Jennifer Blanks and volunteer Mike Gross. Photos by Natalie Franz.

“Ascendant” Event, Monticello, Virginia
On June 18, Dr. Roberts was in Virginia for a special Juneteenth event at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello: “Ascendant: The Power of Descendant Communities to Shape Our Stories, Places, and Future,” a descendant community recognition event. The video of that event is here.

Left: a panel at the event; Center: a tour of the burial ground; Right: burial ground sign. Photos by Dr. Andrea Roberts.

Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival, Shankleville, Newton County
The weekend following Juneteenth, on June 25, Jennifer Blanks co-led a cemetery walk through of the Jim Shankle and Shankleville Community cemeteries at the Texas Purple Hull Pea Festival this year. Participants used The Texas African American Cemetery Registry to capture the condition of the cemeteries.

Left and right: a walk through of the Shankleville cemeteries. Center: a photo from the cemetery. Photos by Jennifer Blanks.

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

Recording available of NMAAHC Texas Freedom Colonies Event!

Dr. Andrea Roberts spoke at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, on Saturday, June 11. The video is now available! This was part of NMAAHC’s Juneteenth programming and was held in person at the Oprah Winfrey Theater at the museum.

Scenes from the Texas Freedom Colonies event at the NMAAHC, from left: presentation underway, Dr. Roberts backstage, team member Hannah Bowing in the Oprah Winfrey Theater, NMAAHC and the Washington Monument.

TxFCP Events

Zoom Q&A: This Sunday, July 24 from 6-7 pm Central

Do you have questions about volunteer roles, questions about the Atlas, questions about freedom colony research? Join us for Volunteer Zoom Q&A Sunday, July 24 from 6-7pm on Zoom at

Research Resources

New Atlas Tutorial Videos

Ever wanted to search or share information in The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Atlas, but weren’t sure how? We’ve updated our tutorial videos to help you! Visit our new Atlas Tutorials playlist on YouTube to find all our tutorials, or click on one below to view!

Freedom Colonies in the News

Juneteenth started in Texas. So did this Black town. Whites destroyed it.

Washington Post

Part 1 of 2 articles about Quakertown. “Generations of Black Texans have fought since 1866 for the nation to learn about and acknowledge the delayed emancipation of enslaved Black people in the state. Women’s oral histories help expand American awareness of Black Texans’ persistent resilience and struggles post-emancipation, which were never recorded in history textbooks.”

White racism brought down a Black community. Will there be reparations?

Washington Post

Part 2 of 2 articles about Quakertown. “In the 1880s, formerly enslaved people established a prosperous community in Denton, Tex., called Quakertown. In 1921, the city demolished it — ostensibly to protect White female students at the nearby College of Industrial Arts (now the Texas Woman’s University) from being raped by Black men of Quakertown. Two of this article’s co-authors, Ms. Alma Clark, 94, and Ms. Betty Kimble, 90, live in Denton and are documentarians and tellers of Quakertown’s history.”

‘We didn’t let this place die’: St. John Colony, Texas, endures for 150 years of grace

Austin American Statesman

“The grace can be felt on the grassy Juneteenth field behind St. John Regular Baptist Church, where Juneteenth has been celebrated for 150 years. The celebration is coordinated by the nonprofit organization St. John Juneteenth Body; Marshall Hill is its president.”

SFA’s Dr. George Avery leads project to discover Nacogdoches County freedom colony artifacts

Stephen F. Austin State University

“Tucked between Melrose and Chireno along Highway 21 sits Sand Hill, a community established as a freedom colony — those in which African Americans settled after they were freed. To date, there are about 500 freedom colonies recorded in Texas. According to Avery, researchers of that era often neglected or overlooked freedom colonies, leading to a lack of historical resources cataloging their rich cultures.

Anyone who thinks they may have familial ties to a Texas freedom colony and is interested in an archeological project in the community can contact Avery at”

Make Your Voice Heard

National Park Service seeks public input on the Rosenwald Schools Special Resource Study

The National Park Service (NPS) is seeking public input on a special resource study on sites associated with the life and legacy of American businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. None of the proposed sites are in Texas.

To view the project newsletter or share your input with the study team during the comment period from July 1-31, please go to:

The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Team (2017 – Present)

Founder and Director, Andrea Roberts, PhD
Assistant Director (2021-22, TAMU Staff), Natalie Franz

Student Researchers

Valentina Aduen
Jennifer Blanks
Hannah Bowling
Joshua Brown
Christian Heinemann
Audrey Herring
Van Anh Pham
Sarah Vegerano


Muhammed Biazar
Tyrene Calvesbert
Maria Campos
Josue Sierra Garcia
Kendall Girault
Sophia Godfrey
Grace Kelly
Samina Limkhedawala
Ashok Meyyappan
Chelsea Parada
Eren Rudd
Taylor Siskind
John Yeary
Myresha Waters
Citlaly Varela
Shanielle Veazie

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