In This Issue: Freedom Colony Feature, Transition to UVA, Preservation Grants, Resources, and More!

Freedom Colony Feature: Chenango, Brazoria County

On the left, an image of the Providence Cemetery marker. On the right, an image of the Chenango sugar mill.

On the left, an image of the Providence Cemetery sign. On the right, an image of the Chenango sugar mill.

Understanding the slave trade, the growth of plantations, and the settlement patterns surrounding these places of bondage is essential to understanding the origins of some freedom colonies. Monroe Edwards of Brazoria County traveled to Cuba in the winter of 1832-33 and purchased 196 of the more than 600,000 African enslaved people who had been brought to Cuba after 1820. Under Mexican rule, the importation of enslaved people in Texas was permitted through 1830. However, intensive illegal importation of enslaved Africans continued and was a significant reason for the Republic of Texas’s fight for independence from Mexico. One of the largest concentrations of smuggled enslaved peoples from Cuba to Texas was at Chenango Plantation in Brazoria County. By 1836, using funds from selling enslaved Africans as a down payment, Monroe Edwards purchased the Chenango Plantation from B. F. Smith. Monroe was one of several “blackbirders,” Brazoria plantation owners and enslavers who engaged in the illegal slave trade. Chenango freedom colony, located seven miles north of Angleton on State Highway 521, emerged from the 1,300-acre cotton sugarcane plantation of the same name. Other plantations of various sizes include Lake Jackson, China Grove, Peach Point, and Waverly.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Chenango had a thriving descendant community; the local Black school had 180 pupils with five teachers. However, the community ceased to appear on the census by the 1950s. Presently, the Providence Cemetery and Providence Missionary Baptist Church are the surviving anchor institutions for the Chenango Community. According to Clyde McQueen’s Black Churches in Texas (2000), Providence Missionary Baptist Church on County Road 34 was founded in 1864. The Reverend Grant Addison organized this congregation on the Chenango plantation (before Emancipation) and relocated it to this site. Walter Romely became the first pastor. In 1978, a new sanctuary was completed. In 1989, on the third Sunday of March, a cornerstone was installed on the remodeled sanctuary under the leadership of Deacon Irvin Franklin. Just north of the original church and settlement is a planned community by the name of Chenango Ranch (homes $490,000+); little evidence of enslaved sugar production remains in the modern landscape.

Cemetery: https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/2150428/providence-cemetery
Church Website: https://pmbcangleton.org/
Church Histories: Clyde McQueen. Black Churches in Texas: A Guide to Historic Congregations. Texas A&M University Press
History of Slavery in Texas: https://www.texasobserver.org/1836-the-slaveholder-republics-birthday/

Please share your memories and place histories of these Brazoria County freedom colonies: St. Paul, Anchor, Lake Jackson, Linnville, and Mims. Thanks to descendants from Allen Hodge Home, Laytonia/Latonia, and Freeport, who’ve shared contributions.

One Atlas contributor provided history and memories of Allen Hodge Home

“Your description of what a Freedom Colony is kind of matches where my grandfather’s house is located. I’m not 100% sure though. He built the house on his property and still owns land nearby. What I’ve been told is the area used to be farmland. I do know he used to own animals on the property at one point. Even though the area is much more populated, older families like ours remain in the neighborhood. We have family that own houses on the adjacent roads near his and the church (True Honor Church) he’s always attended is on the road behind his. It is around 150 years old, but the city proclamation I linked says it moved at one point. Our family’s cemetery is within walking distance of my grandpa’s house. I’m sure before it used to stand on its own but now it is in the middle of a neighborhood. It is maintained, because the last burial I attended there was roughly three years ago. My grandpa would have the most information. He’s over 90. He remembers everything and knows a lot about the entire area.”

TxFCP News

TxFCP Attends ASALH Conference September 29- October 1

This fall, land retention research specialist Valentina Aduen and cemetery preservation research specialist Jennifer Blanks attended the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) conference. There, they presented a TxFCP collaborative research project, “Leveraging Technology for Impact: Narratives of Resistance to White Supremacy, Community Resilience, and Survival.” Valentina shared that this poster was a response to COVID-19 and the racial violence after the death of George Floyd. The poster described how, during the pandemic, the team turned its efforts toward recording and preserving descendant communities’ narratives and counternarratives of online resistance. The virtual poster session was highly trafficked, with conference attendees excited to learn more about these narratives. Valentina posited that much of the excitement over the poster was rooted in the location of the conference—Montgomery, Alabama. Many of the attendees had the opportunity to visit the Legacy Museum and talked about how being situated in a place associated with the history of slavery, racial injustice, and mass incarceration brought new meaning to Black narratives of resistance.

The Team Attends the Varner-Hogg Plantation Event

Valentina and Jennifer also attended the Varner-Hogg Plantation Event back in August. Originally Martin Varner’s property, Columbus Patton purchased 4,428 acres in 1834, including the current location known as the Varner-Hogg Plantation State Historic. Valentina shared how moving the entire experience was, listening to descendants reclaim their history and share their history in a way that vindicated their ancestors as humans without sanitizing the brutal and graphic history of the plantation. In particular, she shared that the remembrance celebration, where attendees and descendants said the names of all those who were enslaved and died on the Patton Plantation, was particularly moving in light of the torrential rain that occurred the entire day. She highly recommended visiting the Patton Plantation as they do a good job emphasizing the lives of those enslaved in their narratives about the place and do incredible archival work to record and preserve Black histories.

The TxFCP Transition from TAMU to UVA!

The transition of HQ from Texas A&M University to the University of Virginia is still underway through the end of the year. 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 is now an associate professor of urban and environmental planning at the UVA School of Architecture and will continue to lead and expand The Texas Freedom Colonies Project. At UVA, she will serve as the co-director of Center for Cultural Landscapes and be affiliated with The Equity Center—a UVA democracy initiative for the redress of inequality through community-engaged scholarship.

The Center for Cultural Landscapes is an interdisciplinary group of academics and designers who are committed to a critical perspective on place—one that gleans key lessons from the past and present in order to imagine how to regenerate places for the future. Their work focuses on increasing awareness of the historical, ecological, and social value of cultural landscapes through innovative scholarly research, site documentation and fieldwork, planning, preservation, management, and design.

The Equity Center tangibly redresses racial and economic inequity in university communities by advancing a transformative approach to the fundamental research mission. This, in turn, leads to reform in institutional values, pedagogy, and operations. Dr. Roberts was awarded a Texas Historical Commission grant with funding made available through the National Park Service, which The Equity Center will administer. The funding will support both interviewing freedom colony residents and descendants about their disaster needs and documenting more settlements. These activities fall under The Equity Center’s “democratization of data” initiative that focuses on community-driven partnership to provide advocates as well as civic-and private-sector leaders with data and metrics, contextualized analysis, interactive maps and data visualizations, and narrative storytelling as a resource in pursuit of equity throughout the region.

Volunteers: We Need You!

If you are an Adopt-A-County volunteer, thank you! However, we still need volunteers to help during the transition to extend the reach of the project and assist freedom colony descendants, advocates, and researchers. Here are possible ways you can still assist us:

  • Become an ambassador—get the word out about The Texas Freedom Colonies Project!
  • Serve as a research expert—be a point of contact for other volunteers with research questions!
  • Become an oral history interviewer—do you know people in your community who you can interview about freedom colonies?
  • Serve as a county research guide—compile a guide to the research resources specific to your county!
  • Work as a social media creator—engage our audience! Are you Facebook/Instagram saavy?
  • Serve as a materials distributor—help send TxFCP materials!
  • Become a photographer—take photographs of freedom colony churches, school, and other landmarks and add them to the Atlas!

If you are interested in volunteering with TxFCP, please complete this form https://forms.gle/hs6e3af3wWPeabQ89

Please note that we are still in our delayed resources period—please expect response times of 3-5 days regarding emails, mail, etc.


Finding Freetowns Event

Dr. Roberts attended a gallery talk and reception at the end of August that was co-lead and organized by Suzanne Morse Moomaw, Chair and Associate Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at UVA. This research project is a collaboration of faculty, staff, and students from across the University of Virginia who have been documenting, researching, and meeting with community members to find freetowns in Albemarle, Buckingham, Fluvanna, and Orange counties. Their central goal is to unearth history lost to development, migration, and memory. Using plantation records, historical maps, tax filings and records, photographs, newspaper archives, oral histories, and other documents held by UVA’s Special Collections and local historical societies, the research team is highlighting the particular and unique stories of how freetowns were built and sustained across time in the most challenging of conditions. Their findings reveal that Central Virginia’s freetowns provide a roadmap for understanding the context and impact of newly formed settlements in the post-Emancipation period and beyond.

Dr. Roberts Gives Patterson Lecture, Participates in Restorative Justice Event at University of Maryland

In September, Dr. Roberts was able to participate in the University of Maryland’s “Restorative Justice in the Built Environment: Interdisciplinary Dialogue Series” as a guest speaker. Her lecture, “Teaching Digital Curation as Place Preservation,” highlighted pedagogical innovations, digital curation as a research method, and lessons from engagement with grassroots African American preservationists and planners.

Additionally, she met with preservation students to talk about preservation practice and theory. This seminar was an informal talk over lunch made available to students in the Historic Preservation & the Museum Scholarship and Material Culture programs.

She also participated in the “Foundations of Restorative Justice in the Built Environment: Telling Stories, Preserving Places” forum with Dr. Tyeshia Redden of Gettysburg College, Dr. Magdalena Novoa of University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Dr. Michelle Magalong of the University of Maryland. The session addressed questions of why and how storytelling, power-sharing and community engagement are vital in processes for preserving stories and places & when and how do they become instruments of restorative justice in the built environment.

TXFC Project Director Featured in Film on Austin Freedom Comunities

At the end of September, Dr. Roberts had the opportunity to be interviewed by Dr. Javier Wallace, a St. John Descendant, as a part of a film project created by filmmaker Funmi Ogunro. Ogunro is currently creating a film on the little-documented Austin Black freedom colonies. Through this film, she hopes to bring light to the resilience of Black people, their resourcefulness in creating strong communities, and their important contribution to the development of the city of Austin, Texas. Both Dr. Wallace and Ogunro flew to Charlottesville, VA, to interview Dr. Roberts in-person. Check out Ogruno’s gofundme to donate to her project and check out her website to learn more about the film!

“Don’t Sell the Land: Community, Housing, and Design Justice” Symposium

A symposium celebrating the 10th anniversary of The University of Texas at Arlington’s David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture was held Oct. 20-22 at UTA’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA). The focus of the symposium was on preserving the cultural landscape of historically Black communities in North Texas. Everett L. Fly, a renowned San Antonio-based landscape architect, was the keynote speaker. The events mark the 10th anniversary of the David Dillon Center for Texas Architecture, which was founded to engage in public conversations about architecture and urbanism in North Texas. We are so thankful to Adopt a County volunteer Gloria Smith who attended this event as a representative of the TxFCP. Ms. Smith met with not only National Humanities Medal winner Everett Fly but also members of Garden of Eden, Mosier Valley, Bear Creek, and Joppa/Joppee descendant communities.

October Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving

On October 22, St. John descendant community held a celebratory relocation of the St. John Colony Texas Historical marker. After this ceremony, the community adjourned to the St. John Colony Pavilion to experience an impromptu style show, have lunch, listen to most recently received proclamations, view the St. John documentary, and participate in an ancestral genealogy workshop provided by the St. John 19th Body Historical Committee. Please visit their website, stjohncolony.org, for more information about this celebration.

Fluvanna County Historical Society Film Showing

At this month’s membership meeting, the Fluvanna Historical Society of Virginia showed the film, Reconstructed. Created by Horace Scruggs, the film contained a series of interviews with descendant communities within schools and churches founded right after the Civil War. The meeting took place at Dunbar, one of the Virginian Rosenwald Schools featured in the film.

On the left, an image of the Rosenwald School, Dunbar; on the right, an image of Dr. Roberts with Horace Scruggs.

Upcoming Events

Real Places 2023

The Texas Historical Commission’s Real Places 2023 conference will take place both virtually and in-person in Austin on February 1–3. Hosted by the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission, Real Places is the premier historic preservation and heritage tourism event in the Lone Star State, where anyone interested in protecting our past can work directly with industry-leading experts to learn practical, actionable solutions they can apply in their community.

The packed schedule features more than 40 workshops and sessions, 90 expert speakers from across Texas and the U.S., five keynote sessions, and several fun networking events. Recordings will be available to all attendees, whether joining online or in person, so you’ll be able to watch the great presentations you missed due to concurrent sessions. Learn more and sign up at realplaces.us.

Tasting Texas: Historic Foodways, Fall Harvest Dinners in Austin

The Neill-Cochran House Museum is hosting a series of dinners with acclaimed local chefs to prepare menus highlighting an important part of Texas food culture. Proceeds from the Fall Harvest Dinners supports the Neill-Cochran House Museum’s Reckoning with the Past, the ongoing project to restore Austin’s last intact slave quarters. The NCHM Slave Quarters is currently under restoration, and the first floor with be open for touring during the Fall Harvest Dinner! Register and learn more here: https://www.nchmuseum.org/nchm-events/tasting-texas-txharvest

Image above is of the Neill-Cochran House Museum (2310 San Gabriel St, Austin, TX 78705)

We would love to feature your upcoming events here! Please send your news and events information to freedomcoloniesproject@gmail.com


Texas Rural African-American Heritage Grant Recipients

The following African-American heritage sites have been selected to receive matching grants to support stabilization, preservation, restoration, or rehabilitation efforts. The Texas Rural African-American Heritage Grants Program has been made possible by a generous $750,000 Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant to Preservation Texas from the National Park Service. Several of these buildings are located within freedom colonies. The TXFC Project is grateful to Preservation Texas for its commitment to protecting freedom colonies and their historic properties.

  • Mount Zion United Methodist Church (1893): Belton, Bell County
  • Wesley Chapel (1916): Corsicana, Navarro County
  • Bethel Baptist Church (c.1919): Tennessee Colony, Anderson County
  • Mount Vernon A.M.E. Church (1921): Palestine, Anderson County
  • Old Masonic Hall (1901): Lufkin, Angelina County
  • Brenham Normal School (Main Building) (c.1900): Brenham, Washington County
  • Concord Rosenwald School (1925): Mt. Enterprise, Rusk County
  • First Independent Baptist Church (1918): Corsicana, Navarro County
  • Jamison Building (1930): Texarkana, Bowie County
  • Palacios Colored School (1939): Palacios, Matagorda County

On the left, an image of Brenham Normal and Industrial School in Washington County; on the right, an image of Bethel Baptist church in Anderson County.

Freedom Colonies in the News

Austin Monitor—”Black dispossession study starts to quantify cost of city’s 1928 master plan”
Research being conducted by UT Austin faculty and Austin local government officials exposes “cumulative dispossession of Black land ownership between 1920 and today” in preliminary study.
News article

Afar—”This Houston Hidden Gem Is Home to Several UNESCO Sites’
Houston’s Freedmen’s Town, located in the city’s Fourth Ward, answers the question of what happened to Black Texans after Juneteenth and is home to seven UNESCO sites.
News article

Courtesy of the Freedmen’s Town Conservancy

Sightlines—”Historic Haskell House now open for regular public hours”
The 1870s house, the only documented residence in former freedom colony Clarksville located in Austin, is now open for regular public hours for visitations.
News article

Courtesy of the Freedmen’s Town Conservancy

Waco Tribune-Herald—”Library windows honor African American leaders in Waco history”
East Waco library installs large-scale window decals in honoring the lives of seven Black Waco pioneers in a small ceremony that included friends, family members, and acquaintances of the honorees.
News article

Jerry Larson, Tribune-Herald


Upcoming Grant Opportunities

There are a number of grants available through the National Trust for Historical Preservation. For example, the America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places grant deadline is coming up soon! This year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation particularly encourages nominations that illuminate the various ways climate change is affecting historic places of all types. This could include sites facing the impacts of a changing climate such as sea level rise, increased flooding and erosion, wildfires, or severe weather events. Letters of Intent (LOIs) will be accepted until November 4, 2022. After reviewing the LOIs, a select number of sites will be invited to submit full nominations in early December. The 2023 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places will be announced in May. If you have any questions, please email 11Most@savingplaces.org. To find frequently asked questions and where to submit your LOI, consult FAQs for 2023 America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

The majority of the National Trust for Historical Preservation grants will be available to apply starting in the spring. Some examples of the funding opportunities offered include the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. These grants are designed to advance ongoing preservation activities for historic places such as sites, museums, and landscapes representing African American cultural heritage. They range from $50,000 to $150,000.

Another example is the Telling the Full History Preservation Fund. These grants will help interpret and preserve historic places of importance to underrepresented communities across the country. They are awarded as either $25,000 or $50,000 to humanities-based organizations.

Look for these and other grants on the National Trust for Historical Preservation webpage.

Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers Program (EJ TCTAC)

EPA is seeking applications from eligible entities to establish and operate Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers (EJ TCTAC). These centers will provide technical assistance, training, and other eligible forms of assistance, resources, and support to program participants. For more information on the grant, like eligible applicants, please go to the EPA website. Find the instructions on how to apply for this grant here or on grants.gov.

Featured Resource: How to Conduct Oral History Interviews

What Interview Questions Should I Ask?

There are two types of oral history interviews—topic interview and life review. We encourage your to conduct topic interviews which are focused on a place, event, organization/institution, occupation, era, art/craft/music, etc. Conduct a topic interview if you’re looking for information on a freedom colony, church, school, or neighborhood. Questions can be drawn from the Black Settlements Study Survey. Write questions that help you:

  • Get the facts
  • Get the stories
  • Get the images and “flavors”
  • Get the beliefs and ideas
  • Connect to the larger history of a place and events
  • Use photos, documents, maps, and other materials with your interview subject as prompts for questions and memories.

Want to learn more about conducting oral histories? We have the training video for you on our YouTube page! 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 committee member Natearah Austin puts it—“The people we need are you, and the time is now!”

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

Resources on the TXFC Project Website

Please access our website for all of the resources below:

What’s Next Letter on medium: https://txfcproject.medium.com/expanding-free-black-space-the-future-of-freedom-colony-scholarship-advocacy-576c497c5255

Atlas link: https://www.thetexasfreedomcoloniesproject.com/atlas

Get involved page (intake forms, survey, link to adopt a county): https://www.thetexasfreedomcoloniesproject.com/get-involved

Cemetery registry page: https://www.thetexasfreedomcoloniesproject.com/cemetery-registry

YouTube Page with our Atlas tutorial videos: https://www.thetexasfreedomcoloniesproject.com/vlog

Freedom colony/freedmen’s settlements definition: https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/freedmens-settlements

Join our mailing list: https://bit.ly/txfcp_newsletter

Transportation Guide, Freedom Colony Research Resources, & Oral History Tips: https://www.thetexasfreedomcoloniesproject.com/resources

Contact Dr. Roberts for event and speaking calendar, or about all activities including consulting (currently on leave): https://andrearobertsphd.com/contact/

General email: freedomcoloniesproject@gmail.com

The TXFC Project Team (2017 – Present)

As part of this season’s newsletter, we’d like to highlight some of our former team members and the amazing work they’re doing after serving with the TxFCP. This newsletter features three interviews with former student researchers: Jennifer Blanks, Valentina Aduen, and Hannah Bowling.

Jennifer Blanks

Jennifer is a current doctoral candidate at Texas A&M University, finishing her dissertation. Thanks to her work at the TxFCP, she has learned what intentional community engagement can look like. Beyond that, however, she has learned how you can co-plan and collaborate with historically marginalized populations to improve and often times rectify the planning process. She anticipates that her dissertation will lay the foundation to continue these kinds of partnerships throughout her career as a scholar and activist.

Valentina Aduen

Valentina is a current doctoral student at Texas A&M University, working on her dissertation. Her work at the TxFCP has taught her the importance of learning a sense of place and placemaking. As a result, everything that she does centers upon this principle. Additionally, she has learned a great deal about heirs property and related land retention issues by engaging with descendants; it has become an important part of her scholarship. She is committed to doing future work in this area by continuing to focus on heirs property in any local context in the future, wherever that might take her.

Hannah Bowling

Hannah Bowling is a current doctoral student at Texas A&M University completing her coursework. The opportunity to work with the TxFCP has completely reoriented her dissertation research, shifting her focus to answering questions about truth, beauty, and being in Black communities. Through working with the TxFCP, she has learned the importance of community partnerships and engaged research methods. She hopes her future work will help descendant communities reclaim their history and the importance of sharing their history without censorship. During this transition period, she will be writing the newsletters, like this one!

Below, you will find a list of The TXFC Project research team and staff alumni

Assistant Director
Natalie Franz (2021-22, TAMU Staff)

Research Alumni
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