Bricks & Brotherhood: The Struggle to Save, Respect Black History in Freedmen’s Town

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by Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues

HOUSTON- Nothing is more important than saving Black history and the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition means business when it comes to telling the city and officials about saving the remaining elements of the Black settlement.

There is one thing about history, once it is gone, it is difficult to replace,” said Preservations, Black Historian and Activist Gladys House. “ That is why we have and continue evermore to preserve historic Freedman’s Town/Fourth Ward.”

Her organization, the Community Development Corporation of Freedmen’s Town and the coalition are holding two public awareness events surrounding the preservation of bricks placed in the first established community by former slaves in Houston.

The Yates Printing Museum and many other grass root organizations representing the historic Freedman’s Town/Fourth in Houston, are proclaiming Sunday as Preservation Sunday by asking all churches in Houston and surrounding areas to participate by signing petitions to preserve historic brick streets.

On Preservation Monday, there will be a meeting with the Freedmen’s Town Town Hall Meeting from 7-9 pm at Mt. Horeb Missionary Baptist Church at 118 West Gray.

The push is for the public to learn more about preservation to benefit the city by making history a priority.

Settled on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou, in 1865, Black Freedmen descended upon Houston from plantations throughout Texas to make a community for themselves as freedmen and women.

Being tired of walking and slopping around in Houston swamp’s mud and after appealing to the city for support for street improvements in which they did not get.

Leaders of Freedmen’s Town worked and galvanized the residents to pay for their bricks on their own and to make their own improvements with bricks made at the Pullman Brick Company, a black owned business.

For nearly 20 years, several local Freedmen’s Town organizations have worked to preserve Freedmen’s Town.

House and the coalition are calling into accountability the failures of government officials to take preserving Black history as serious as plans for development for the community.

It is unfortunate that the very government receiving our tax dollars has always been our most staunch opponent on preserving our heritage, our history,” she said. “All elected officials must be held accountable from State Senator John Whitmire and Rep. Garnet Coleman to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Local politicians must be also accountable to state and federal legislatures to ensure compliance when meeting our needs.”

House said both Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Historical Commission have “blood on their hands” too when it comes to the Freedmen’s Town story.

Both organizations and elected officials will discuss alternatives to provide excellence infrastructure in the neighborhood while still preserving the historic bricks.

This movement is overdue for Houston and it is time for all churches, preservationists, historians, and others to join as one and lend full support to preserve the historic brick streets of Andrews and Wilson in historic Freedmen’s Town,” said Dr. Herrington, president of the board of directors of Yates Printing Museum.

All churches are being asked to present a petition this Sunday for signing by their congregations in support of preserving the historic streets and oppose the City’s plan to destroy them through restoration, which was recently voted upon by City Council.

Removal of bricks from Andrews and Wilson streets is not preservation,” said Catherine Roberts, founder of Yates Museum.

The plan to dig up the bricks is based on tunneling to allow for utility inlay. However, micro-tunneling under the sidewalks would be best, and not disturb historic streets says the groups. Dr. Herrington said in the meeting that it is the city of Houston that introduced tunneling several years ago to avoid going in through the streets, so to suddenly change its policy questions the real agenda of the elected city officials toward this historic community.

To support this effort or for more information contact House at

Community Development Corporation of Freedmen’s Town or go to the website at www.cdcfthouston.org.

The address is 3621 Hurley Street, Houston, Texas 77093 or call 713-742-6995; Fax 713-955-5832 . Other links include:

Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition

(Facebook link) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Freedmens-Town-Preservation-Coalition/652453128106307

Freedmen’s Town (Twitter) @freedsmentown

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