By: James Ford
A little over a year ago, Dr. Thomas F. Freeman passed after teaching at Texas Southern University for over 70 years. He was only two weeks away from his hundred and first birthday. Freeman, the debate coach at Texas Southern University, mentored and taught a number of well known political and social justice figures to include Martin Luther King, Jr., Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Congressman Mickey Leland, and Texas Representative Senfronia Thompson. Watching the funeral services for Dr. Freeman was both informative and inspiring as several people approached the lectern and quietly praised his contributions to humanity while others fostered suggestions that his name should be etched in granite or a statue built to celebrate him.
Only a week would pass, and this writer submitted a narrative to the Harris County Historical Commission for a historical marker for Dr. Freeman. That narrative was approved at the county level and was submitted to the Texas Historical Commission. Texas approved the marker narrative and it will be engraved within the year and erected on the campus of Texas Southern University. What more could be done to commemorate this human being who, like Sisyphus rolled a boulder up the mountain? Unlike Sisyphus, whose boulder rolled back down the mountain repeatedly, students, who Dr. Freeman mentored, have put a shoulder to Freeman’s philanthropic boulder and continued pushing it to the top.
Why not name a street for Dr. Freeman? A street named after Freeman, not a statue, would surely commemorate the work and life-long contributions of a man who contributed so much to the causes of humanity. Where would the street be located or what street would be renamed? The street to rename has been right there the whole time when the thought initially came to mind. Cleburne Street, the main address of Texas Southern University, a Historically Black College and University who has been training, teaching, mentoring and pushing African American students up that same mountain as Freeman, should be renamed.
Cleburne Street is named for Major General Patrick Cleburne. Patrick Cleburne was a Confederate Soldier, who fought to continue, “the institution of negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States.” The quote is taken directly from the Confederate States Constitution of 1861. Cleburne Street should be changed to a street name that more appropriately reflects the pride, struggles, and contributions of all Americans. Dr. Thomas F. Freeman is a symbol of that pride, struggle, and contribution—he pushed the boulder of progress up the mountain and those he mentored have rushed behind him to continue the efforts of making America the greatest nation for all Americans.
This writer has moved forward with a campaign to change the name of Cleburne Street to Dr. Thomas F. Freeman Ave. Letters have been sent to the residents/owners of property on Cleburne for signature, which is required by the City of Houston. Of those residents, 75% must sign and agree to the name change. You can help. Call a friend who is a resident/owner of property on Cleburne and encourage them to sign and send back the letters. This is an “each one must reach one” effort to move the racist nod of Cleburne Street toward a more appropriate scream for America to be what its Declaration suggests—that all men are created equal. James H. Ford Jr.