In this issue: Freedom Colony Feature, Free Cemetery Mapping Drawing, New National Network, Black History Month Events, and More!

Freedom Colony Feature

The Atlas houses our database of settlements. This database includes public entries that we often feature in each newsletter. This month, we are featuring Freestone County. Help us find and tell the stories of these Freestone settlements: Woodson’s Chapel, Titus Farm, Thomasville, Tabernacle, Pinetop, Patterson Prairie, Myrtle Grove, Mount Livingston, Lynneville, Lookout, Lepan, Landsville, Lake Creek, Keechi, Jones Academy, Frazier, Davis Chapel, Coutchman, Brown’s Creek, Board Bottom, Beulah, and Bethlehem. Use the Black Settlement Study Survey tab to share your stories, memories, photos, and historical information!

Featured Settlement: Rocky Mount Community

Rocky Mount community is located in Freestone County, about 20 miles southeast of the county seat of Fairfield. Marsha Vania, an Atlas contributor, provided information about the origin of the name, land acquisition, churches, and the discrepancies in the public record of the Rocky Mount community. Here is an excerpt from that entry:

The “community” of Rocky Mount was truly founded when newly freed families—including those of Mose Henry, James Daniels, and George Cannon—obtained tracts of land in this area via the Homestead Act of 1875. Stroud cemetery continued to be used by these families after freedom came, but today it is overgrown and difficult to access. Many family members have moved away, but one was laid to rest there as recently as 2015. Unfortunately, local historians have confused Stroud cemetery with Rocky Mount cemetery, which was opened much later. The origin of this confusion may be the History of Freestone County, Vol 2 (Freestone County Historical Commission, 1989), which included Stroud but not Rocky Mount, and provided a list of names of people buried in both cemeteries.

Rocky Mt Baptist Church

The sole remaining public building in the Rocky Mount community is Rocky Mount Baptist Church, located at 621F County Road 300, Oakwood, TX 75855. Per a sign on the outside of the church, it was established by Randle Ringer in 1908. Although they lived in the vicinity since at least 1880 per census records, Randle’s parents purchased/ mortgaged 50 acres in 1891, rather than homesteading.

The Rocky Mount Cemetery is located next to the church and was established about the same time, though the first burial there is dated 1905 per the headstone. There are at least 169 people resting here: 107 have a headstone, 9 have markers, 43 are known there via their death certificate and 10 via their obituary. Most residents of the cemetery are family members, with 58 different surnames appearing. The three largest family groups are the Carters (31), Abrams (27), and Ringers (25). At least 10 people there were born in bondage but died in freedom, and two of them lived to be 100 years old. There are at least 10 veterans resting here (3-WWI, 5-WWII, 1-Korea, 1-Vietnam). The cemetery is active and well maintained by family and members of the church. Records of all known burials are being maintained on, and the cemetery has its own Facebook page.

Unfortunately, this organization must have folded because in 1949, after Randle’s death, his son, Willie sold this same ½ acre of land to the Allied Lodge #239 of the Free & Accepted Masons for the sum of $30 (Book 205, p 231). It is not known how long the lodge operated here, but the building was abandoned for years and was pushed down sometime in the early 2000s. Some of the families who founded Rocky Mount still own heirs land in the area, though many do not. The local community of Oakwood is a shadow of its former self, there are fewer opportunities for employment, and this rural, sparsely populated area has become highly coveted by those engaging in large scale cattle ranching and chicken farming.

Learn more about Rocky Mount by going to the Atlas 2.1 tab and searching for Rocky Mount. Please share your stories of these communities! Email us at after you upload your story via the Atlas survey, and we will review it and possibly feature your contribution in our next newsletter!

Grant Opportunity

The National Fund for Sacred Spaces fund is now open for grant applications. The fund provides training, planning grants, and capital grants from $50,000 to $250,000 for congregations of all faiths. Letters of Intent will be accepted from any eligible congregation and are due no later than February 24, 2023 at 11:59PM EST. To determine eligibility, please visit their website at

Drawing for Free Cemetery Survey!

Cemeteries and churches are the most persistent features in freedom colony landscapes. Environmental factors like flooding or infrastructure projects put cemeteries at risk. However, mapping them can be expensive. That is why we are pleased to support this free giveaway!

Fred McCray, Dixie Community and Geri Rowe, Shankleville Community at their freedom colonies’ cemeteries (2021)

Our website also provides information curated for cemetery stewards, volunteers, and stakeholders (under Cemetery Preservation Resources). Learn more about the importance of cemeteries to freedom colonies by checking out the Saving Freedom Colonies Guide as well as the Texas African American Cemetery Registry.

Adopt a County Volunteers Keep the Project Alive!

During this transitional period, TxFCP volunteers in the Adopt-a-County Program have sustained our research by continuing to document freedom colonies and their communities’ stories. The program’s goal is to add all missing freedom colony stories and locations to the Atlas through descendant- and public-sourced data. In recognition of their service, this newsletter showcases some of our wonderful volunteers and their invaluable work below. Gloria Smith is a freedom colony descendant and staunch advocate for her community, Dabney Hill. Greg Meyer is an active volunteer working in Fort Bend and Uvalde County who conducts census data analysis and regularly uploads information to the Atlas. Read more below!

Gloria Smith

I Am Texas: Gloria Lawsha Smith

She advocates for recognition of freedom colonies because these communities “existed, and if we don’t do something about it, [they’re] going to disappear.” We encourage our readers to support the Dabney Hill Black History Month celebration where Gloria and the descendant community will unveil the Texas Historical Marker memorializing the settlement’s founding. The celebration will take place on Sunday, February 12, 2023 1:00 p.m. at the Snook Community Center, 10245 Farm to Market 2155 Loop, Snook, TX 77878.

Two of Dabney Hill’s surviving landmarks: the Dabney Hill Missionary Baptist church (left) and the Ethiopian Star Lodge Hall (right)

Greg Meyer

TxFCP News

Conference News

In October of 2022, Dr. Roberts gave a virtual presentation during a roundtable, “Recovering Community Stories through Digital Methods,” at the Society for American City and Regional Planning History Conference (SACRPH). The roundtable included Julian Chambliss of Michigan State University, Catherine Clark of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Kristy H. A. Kang of Nanyang Technological University. Meredith Drake Reitan of University of Southern California moderated the event.

At the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference (ACSP) in Toronto, Dr. Roberts made a presentation on teaching Black settlement history in the panel, “Black Planning—Centering Black Knowledge and Experiences in Planning Education.” Session organizers were Dr. Magdalena Ugarte—Toronto Metropolitan University and Abigail Moriah of the Black Planning Project. The organizers also lead a new international research project in Canada that Dr. Roberts recently joined. Learn about that project here.

TxFC Project First Virtual Site in the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network

The Superintendent of the National Reconstruction has approved the TxFCP’s entry into the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network! The TxFCP has become its first non-physical entry. Being admitted into this network will add the TxFCP to the network list (Discover the Reconstruction Era National Historic Network) and educational materials.

By extension, every settlement on the Atlas which our researchers verify as having historical significance encompassing people and events associated with the Reconstruction Era (defined by NPS as 1861-1900) becomes part of this network! Once verified, these communities on the Atlas become member sites! Thank you to Scott Teodorski, Superintendent of the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park, and Park Historian, Nathan Betcher for inviting the TxFCP to the network! Make sure your settlement’s story is in the Atlas. Add it here.

The TxFC Project Atlas: A Resource for K-12 Education

We at the TxFCP support diversifying K-12 education to encompass ALL American history. We salute Andrea Werth for advancing this mission. Werth, a teacher at KIPP Austin College Prep in Austin, had her class create an amazing Black History Month bulletin board project where they researched freedom colonies in Austin and created informational posters. She wrote us that “My students were impacted greatly when they learned St. John’s is only a few blocks from our campus” and shared the above images (with permission) of her students with their work. Keep up the great work! Have you used our materials to educate the public or students? Let us know so we can feature you in future newsletters.

Volunteer Opportunities

Interested in volunteering with us? Here are ways you can help:

  • Add freedom colonies to the Atlas!

  • Ambassador: Get the word out about The Texas Freedom Colonies Project!

  • Research Expert: Be a point of contact for other volunteers with research questions!

  • County Research Guide: Compile a guide a county’s research resources!

  • Social Media Creator: Engage our audience! Are you Facebook/Instagram savvy?

  • Materials Distributor: Help send TxFCP materials!

  • Photographer: Take photographs of freedom colony churches, school, and other landmarks and add them to the Atlas!

Know that we are still in our delayed transition period—expect communication response times of 3-5 days.

Volunteer Resources on Our Website

We have recently updated our Oral History Resource list with an Oral History Workshop Manual. From Travis County Historical Commission, this manual is a helpful primer and reference when conducting oral history interviews. The manual was created by Terri Myers and Maria Prieve of Preservation Central and is sponsored by Travis County Historical Commission-CLG and Texas Historical Commission History Stewards.

We have Community Resources and Research resources on our website.

Our Community Resources page contains

Our Research page includes

Freedom Colony News

St. John Harvest Festival

Images, from left to right, of the St. John Regular Baptist Church memorial wall listing pioneer families, St. John Regular Baptist Church buildings, and the church’s memorial wall listing the memorial wall committee and charitable contributors

On October 22, the St. John community invited other members of the community to attend their celebratory relocation of the historic St. John Colony Texas Historical marker. After the ceremony, the community watched an impromptu-style show, had lunch, viewed the St. John documentary, and participated in an ancestral genealogy workshop provided by the St. John 19th Body Historical Committee. The Lockhart Post-Register wrote a brief report on the event. Please visit the St. John community website for additional information on this event.

Macedonia School Receives Grant

The Alexander Farm Temporarily Wins against Encroaching Development

As of mid-December, descendants of one of Travis County’s earliest Black “race horse men” have been granted an emergency temporary restraining order (TRO) and injunction against a California-based developer in Travis County District Court. The TRO granted by the court stops AMTEX Multi-Housing, LLC, from razing and destroying portions of The Alexander Farm’s private thruway that straddles the antebellum Black family farm and cemetery.

Images, from left to right, of Daniel Alexander’s grave, the Alexander family home, and of daily operations at The Alexander Farm

The Alexander Farm is historically notable as one of the few remaining Black-owned farms in the country, and even more significant because it has been owned and operated by the same family for 175 years and seven generations. The farm was founded in 1847 by then-enslaved, nationally renowned horse breeder and trainer, Daniel Alexander. To learn more about The Alexander Farm, please visit their website. The case of The Alexander Farm highlights just how important it is for descendant communities to be aware of resources available to them to protect their land. At TxFCP, we have Black Land Resources on our website.

Freedom Colony Tamina Negotiates with Shenandoah for Water & Sewer Services

The city of Shenandoah and the Old Tamina Water Supply Corporation reached an agreement for the city to provide water and sewage service to residents of the Tamina community. The agreement was finalized Dec. 5, according to Shenandoah City Administrator Kathie Reyer. Montgomery County will need to finalize the agreement for it to become official, she said.

To learn more about Tamina’s environmental and infrastructure issues, read these texts

  1. “What is environmental racism for? Place-based harm and relational development,” article by Louise Seamster and Danielle Purifoy

  2. “Creative extraction: Black towns in white space,” article by Danielle M Purifoy and Louise Seamster

  3. “Texas Time: Racial Violence, Place Making, and Remembering as Resistance in Montgomery County,” book chapter in Civil Rights in Black and Brown by Jasmin C. Howard

35 Historic Black Churches Receive $4 Million Investment

To honor and protect the legacy of historic Black churches and their communities, the National Trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund has invested $4 million in grants to 35 historic Black churches across the United States that represent the institution’s impact on American society. Of particular note are the two Texas churches that received this grant: Reedy Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Mount Zion United Methodist Church.

As the first and oldest AME church in Texas, Reedy Chapel was one of the first places where General Order No. 3 was read, declaring the emancipation of enslaved persons in the state and the inception of Juneteenth. The church will use the grant to restore its masonry, stucco, and stained-glass windows, improving its climate resilience and helping continue its traditions of gathering and celebrating.

A significant part of its community over multiple generations, Mount Zion UMC reflects the legacy of Belton’s African American community. The City of Belton will use the grant to restore the church as much as possible to its original 1893 condition and support the local economy by making the site an interpretive destination.

Upcoming Events

Real Places 2023

The Texas Historical Commission’s Real Places 2023 conference will take place both virtually and in person, in Austin, February 1–3. The packed schedule features about 45 workshops and sessions, 100 expert speakers from across Texas and the U.S., five keynote sessions, and several fun networking events. Discounts are available for students and organizations registering multiple people at the same time. Learn more and sign up at Stop by our table on the 2nd and 3rd to chat with us!

Images, from Real Places 2022: left, the TxFCP workshop attendees and right, Valentina presenting an activity

Dr. Roberts Part of Tuft’s Lecture Series

RootsTech 2023

The Black Houston(s) Symposium: Research, Policy, and Activism — Past and Future

Aya Symposium

Get excited and mark your calendar for June 8, 2023—the date of this year’s Aya Symposium! The symposium will be held at the University of North Texas, Dallas and focus on how to leverage technology to tell your settlement’s stories to funders, the public, and other descendants. The Aya Symposium is the only state-wide conference on freedom colonies, making it a wonderful opportunity for planners, preservationists, and descendants to meet, learn, connect, and organize! For more information about this year’s symposium as well as to register, please visit If interested in presenting, making a donation, or co-sponsoring the event, please contact for more information.

General News and Announcements

Passing of Thomasena Stokes-Marshall

Please support these BHM events. Tell them that you learned about their event in this newsletter!

The Black Poetry Slam and Book Fair hosted by Free.K

Houston, TX: Join us on January 31 at Rudyard’s for a poetry slam! Get your tickets here!

Woodson Black Fest

Grand Opening – Yanga Rediscovered: The First Liberator of the Americas

McKinney Black History Month LECTURE SERIES—Dr. Opal Lee

McKinney, TX: On February 2, 2022 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee Dr. Opal Lee, “The Grandmother of Juneteenth,” will give a lecture at the McKinney Performing Arts Center. Register for this event here.

McKinney Black History Month Art Show & Exhibit Tickets

Check 1, 2…JAZZ

Black History Month Social Ride

Solar Saturday Block Party! Black History Month Kick Off

San Antonio Black History Bus Tour—Eastside

Greater Frisco Jack & Jill of America, Inc. Black History Celebration

Cocktails & Connections with ALP Law Firm

Artful Moments: Black History Month

Pioneering Excellence Awards and Black History Month Program

Dallas, TX: On February 16, join Pioneering Excellence for a collaborative and impactful Black History Month experience. Register for the event here.

Garland NAACP 22nd Annual Winter Ball

If It Ain’t Black Owned, Go Home Pop-Up Shop

Back to Our Roots Step Show

Desoto, TX: On February 18, come out to Desoto’s own Diligent Execution Steppers first Black History Month step show at DeSoto High School Auditorium! Get tickets for the performance here.

Texas African American Museum Second Annual Black History Month Gala

Tyler, TX: On February 18, join the Texas African American Museum Second Annual Black History Month Gala at Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler with guest Mr. Billy O’Quinn. Register for the event here.

Moving Beyond Slavery Identity, Culture and Global African History

Meet the Author at The Gathering Nook

The Woodlands, TX: On February 18, visit The Gathering Nook to meet Lyncia Recetta, author of The Confident Woman. This event is free to the public, although the book (and event) are recommended for young adults and up. Reserve a spot for this event here.

Black Excellence Art Exhibition

Black History Month Kid’s Day at the Carver

Black History Houston @ Avenida Plaza (BLCK Market Marketplace)

Houston, TX: Celebrate Black History with the #1 Marketplace. The Market will be held on February 11, 18, & 25. Learn more about the event here.

Small Business Hub Black History Event

10th Annual Harlem Renaissance Gala Extravaganza

Frisco, TX: On February 25, attend the 10th Annual Harlem Renaissance Gala at Frisco Hall. Tickets on sale at

The 4th Annual San Antonio African American Book Festival

San Antonio, TX: On February 25, join the Carver Library for the 4th Annual San Antonio African-American Book Festival. Reserve your spot here.

From Africa to The White House /The Storm is Here

Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) BHM Events

The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Team News

As part of this season’s newsletter, we would like to highlight some of the work of our former and current team members.

The TxFCP Transition from TAMU to UVA!

We are still in the middle of our transition for the majority of the TxFCP team. We look forward to welcoming new team members in Virginia soon! Find our previous FAQ here. Dr. Roberts is now a part of the UVA School of Architecture, Co-Director of the Center for Cultural Landscapes, and affiliated with The Equity Center—a UVA democracy initiative for the redress of inequality through community-engaged scholarship.

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