In this issue: Freedom Colony Connection, Oral History Training and Resources, Transition News, and more!

Freedom Colony Connection

Dixie Community (Jasper County) and St. John Colony (Caldwell County)

This month we are featuring a freedom colony connection! Earlier in August, Fred McCray of Dixie Community in Jasper County hosted, Virginia Stewart Miller, a descendant and community advocate from St. John Colony in Caldwell County. Miller is a member of St. John 19th Body, which advocates for the history and preservation of St. John Colony, as well as organizes the annual Juneteenth celebration. You can read more about St. John Colony in our May Newsletter.

McCray is the Treasurer for the Community & Family Historical Preservation Association, Inc. (CFHPA). The CFHPA preserves the historic Dixie Baptist Church, the Rowe High School Memorial, and a school and gymnasium that now serves as a community center, as well as other sites in the local Jasper community important to the history of African-Americans.

St. John Colony descendant Virginia Stewart Miller visiting Dixie Community.

Miller is a member of Corinth Missionary Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, a church that was founded by a St. John descendant. Corinth’s current pastor also happens to be a descendent of Dixie Community!

As Virginia Stewart Miller said “Our churches are the cornerstones of our colonies and remains one of the connectors of our people.” These descendants exemplify what it means to “Adopt” their counties and serve as peer mentors who share their experiences and best practices.

Dixie Community is home to one of the oldest “slave-built” African American churches in Texas and west of the Mississippi. Reverend Richard, “Uncle Dick” Seale established Dixie Missionary Baptist Church in 1853 while still enslaved (see Atlas entry for more of the story)! CFHPA successfully applied for historical markers for several sites in their freedom colony. Dixie Community features prominently in Dr. Roberts’s forthcoming book.

Connect with this growing community of practice – become an Adopt-A-County volunteer! Our volunteers are researching, making connections with other freedom colony descendants, and sharing preservation practices across freedom colonies. Learn more and sign up here.

Historic photo of Dixie Baptist Church established in 1853, courtesy of Vanessa Hadnot Moore

TxFCP News

Oral History Training Video and Resources Available

Want to learn more about conducting oral histories? We have the training video and resources for you! The recorded training, which took place in Brenham, Texas, features ethical and effective approaches to conducting oral history interviews with descendants of freedom colonies. Oral history interviews are essential to understanding the history and lifeways of freedom colonies. Often, they share information about places not available in public records. Help preserve your own family story and the history of freedom colonies. The voices of our elders are unfortunately a finite resource. As Natearah Austin puts it – “The people we need are you, and the time is now!”

Oral Traditions Workshop - Oral History Training

Our Oral History Resources webpage has a sample consent form, a list of recording and scanning apps, and additional information referenced in the recording. Many thanks to the African American Content Committee of the Brenham Heritage Museum and the Washington County community members who hosted the training and are featured in this video.

Thanks to team member Audrey Herring for her great video editing work!

TxFCP at Heirs Property Summit in Washington, D.C.

TxFCP team member and land retention specialist Valentina Aduen was part of the first Enviva Heirs Property Fund Summit in Washington, D.C. to brainstorm policy solutions and share knowledge on pressing heirs property issues. Heirs property, which is family owned land that is jointly owned by descendants of a deceased person in the absence of a will or estate plan, is a big issue for freedom colony descendant communities. Summit attendees met with different stakeholders invested in this important conversation, where everyone’s voice was represented, including that of Texas freedom colony descendants! It was an amazing two days of collaboration, with participants learning from each other and finding new solutions to address involuntary land loss.

To learn more about heirs property issues and find resources for Black land loss prevention, visit our Black Land Resources website here.

The TxFCP Transition

A major component of the transition of HQ from Texas A&M University to the University of Virginia is happening in August and early September. Here’s a timeline for the transition:

Find our previous frequently asked questions here.

A reminder: contact information like our email, phone number, website, social media, etc. remains the same. The only change – our mailing address! If you want to send something to The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, our new address is:

The Texas Freedom Colonies Project
c/o Dr. Andrea Roberts
School of Architecture
University of Virginia
110 Bayly Dr.
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Dr. Roberts will be part of the UVA School of Architecture; Center for Cultural Landscapes and The Equity Center, a UVA democracy initiative center for the redress of inequality through community-engaged scholarship.

During the transition, the TxFCP Newsletter is going quarterly! Expect a Fall 2022 and Winter 2023 newsletter as the transition continues. Have something to share in our newsletter? Email us!

Transition for the TxFCP Team

This month also marks a transition for most of the Texas Freedom Colonies Project team as they cycle off of staff roles. We want to acknowledge and sincerely thank all of our team members, current and former. See the bottom of this newsletter for a full list of all the talented and dedicated team members we’ve had over the years! We look forward to welcoming new team members in Virginia soon!

Thanks also to Texas A&M University, particularly the College of Architecture, that has supported The Texas Freedom Colonies Project as we’ve expanded and grown. Thanks to our many partnerships across TAMU, PVAMU, and the TAMU System, the project has grown in its reach and impact. Our collaborations with Texas institutions and partners will continue through ongoing grant-funded projects and student researchers working in the field on dissertation and masters research.

Members of The TxFCP Team at the Bullock Museum, October 2021, from left: Natalie Franz, Van Anh Pham, Valentina Aduen, Dr. Andrea Roberts, and Jennifer Blanks.

A Note from the Outgoing Assistant Director

It has been such an honor to get to know many of you and a privilege to work with you on The Texas Freedom Colonies Project! In my time on the team, we’ve made great strides in communication and engagement – moving our newsletter from quarterly to monthly, moving our website to a new platform, and introducing a new phone number, to name a few! I’ve so enjoyed working on events and special projects as well as operations. I’ll be starting a new position soon with Texas Target Communities, and will be staying engaged with the project as an Adopt-A-County volunteer! – Natalie Franz

Natalie (in yellow hat) with Ron Seibler (right), Gloria Smith (left) and students at Dabney Hill, March 2022.

Volunteers, We Need You!

If you are an Adopt-A-County volunteer, you’ve already heard the call to action – we need your help during the transition to extend the reach of the project and assist freedom colony descendants, advocates, and researchers! Email us for more information about how you can help!

  • Ambassador: Get the word out about The Texas Freedom Colonies Project!
  • Research Expert: Be a point of contact for other volunteers with research questions!
  • Oral History Interviewer: Do you know people in your community who you can interview about freedom colonies?
  • County Research Guide: Compile a guide to the research resources specific to your county!
  • Social Media Creator: Engage our audience! Are you Facebook/Instagram saavy?
  • Materials Distributor: Help send TxFCP materials!
  • Photographer: Take photographs of freedom colony churches, school, and other landmarks and add them to the Atlas!

Preservation Grants

Preserving Black Churches Grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Letters of Intent Due September 2

Grants from Preserving Black Churches are intended to preserve historic Black houses of worship (with either active or non-active congregations) and advance ongoing preservation activities. With grants ranging from $50,000 to $200,000, the funding will strengthen the capacity for historic congregations, preservation organizations, and community groups to better steward, manage, and use their historic structures. Learn more here.

Upcoming Events

Varner-Hogg Plantation Descendant Community

Saturday, August 20 at 11 am – West Columbia, Brazoria County

Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic Site in West Columbia is hosting a Day of Remembrance on August 20. “A Day Of Remembrance is our site’s way of acknowledging and sharing the history of those who were Enslaved during the Patton Family Era. Please join us on this day as we gather together to acknowledge and remember them.” The event will include a remembrance ceremony at 11 am and an oral history and scanning event at 2:15 pm. Members of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project team will be in attendance.

The event is part of the Descendants Project, whose goal is “to foster stronger connections with descendant communities throughout the region and to work with those communities to use items in the newly created collection in educational programs and interpretive spaces at Varner-Hogg Plantation and Levi Jordan Plantation State Historic Sites.”

Varner-Hogg is one of the plantations of Brazoria County whose descendant communities provide perspective on settlement patterns post-Emancipation. Brazoria County freedom colonies that have been located are Anchor, Cedar Grove, Chenango, Freeport East End Community, Green Hill, Jerusalem, Linnville, and Mims. Freedom colonies where we have some information but need more are Laytonia, Old Ocean, and St. Paul.

Do you know more about the Brazoria County Freedom Colonies? Share your story with us!

Recent Event Videos Available

ReGeneration Roundtable – Monuments Lab

Which stories belong in public? Through the theme of Reimagine, the panel explores creating spaces and means for healing through an intentional commitment to remember. The video of this event from August 2, was the third in a series of Re:Generation Roundtables with artists, educators, storytellers, and organizers. Panelist: Mercedes Dorame, Tomiko Meeks, Andrea Roberts, Shaun Slifer, & Host Matt Jordan-Miller Kenyatta.

ReGeneration Roundtable Reimagine

Black Cowboys: A Conversation on Restored Legacies at the Witte Museum

Deborah Omowale Jarmon, CEO/Director of San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum (SAAACAM) was 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 in conjunction with the Black Cowboys exhibit at the Witte Museum.

Black Cowboys: A Conversation on Restored Legacies ~ 3/28/22, Witte Museum

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
Muhammed Biazar
Jennifer Blanks
Hannah Bowling
Joshua Brown
Christian Heinemann
Audrey Herring
Grace Kelly
Van Anh Pham
Sarah Vegerano
Myresha Waters


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

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