THE TEXAS FREEDOM COLONIES PROJECT
Dedicated to preserving the legacy of our first African American placemakers!
What are Freedom Colonies?
From 1865 to 1920, former slaves founded hundreds of Freedom Colonies, or Freedmen's Towns, across Texas. Since then, a variety of factors accelerated Freedom Colony descendants’ dispersal, leaving behind intangible geographies where structures and populations associated with early African American placemaking have nearly disappeared. However, annual celebrations, land stewardship, and oral traditions sustain enduring commitments to these Black settlements’ survival, even as physical manifestations of place dissipate.
Dixie Community Descendants at GW Carver School, Jasper County (2015)
What is the Texas Freedom Colonies Project?
There are no comprehensive studies of threats to TXFC survival, documentation of Black Texans’ approaches to placemaking and problem solving, or an official atlas of settlements. The Texas Freedom Colonies Project is a research and social justice project dedicated to filling that gap. The Project documents how former slaves built whole communities after emancipation and identifies what planners, preservationists, and social justice advocates might learn from our first African American placemakers and their descendants.
In the future, The Project will coordinate mapping projects, settlement assessments, develop evidence-based interventions, host conferences, and provide technical assistance to descendants and planning agencies. The Project is affiliated with Texas A&M University's College of Architecture-Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Center for Heritage Conservation, and Institute for Sustainable Communities.
The Texas Freedom Colonies Project Mission
Founded by Andrea Roberts, Ph.D., as part of her doctoral research in 2014, the Project's current mission is to:
- Build growing interactive digital humanities site with a database and map of 558+ Texas Freedom Colonies.
- Document descendants’ origin stories and contemporary preservation of settlements, churches, schools, and cultural landscapes.
- Detect strategies descendants use to prevent land loss and build intergenerational wealth.
- Document traditions used to transfer cultural and social memory to youth.
- Conduct interviews and record events in which preservation is "performed."
- Publish scholarship, policy briefs, and reports.
- Co-plan and engage in participatory planning research with communities.
Andrea R. Roberts, PhD, Assistant Professor
Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning
College of Architecture| Texas A & M University
Faculty Fellow of the Center for Heritage Conservation
Founder, Texas Freedom Colonies Project