Andrea Roberts Is Working to Define What Free Black Space Is

Through 该 Texas Freedom Colonies Project, researchers are working to liberate data on behalf of Black Texans.

"Place persistence is resistance." Courtesy Andrea Roberts

Through 该 Texas Freedom Colonies Project, researchers are working to liberate data on behalf of Black Texans.

"Place persistence is resistance." Courtesy Andrea Roberts

在1865年,它宣布了超过400万黑人中解脱出来,在重建时代。虽然以前的奴隶们被告知,他们是免费的,法律和领导人没有保护他们免受暴力,不公平的工资,以及缺乏充足的土地。他们必须学会如何成为自给自足的社区。黑placemaking流行的叙述 often misrepresented by popular culture by being limited to sharecropper cabins and urban enclaves. But, as Texas A&M’s Andrea Roberts has found, 182,566 of those Black Texans established more than 550 freedom colonies—settlements or towns founded by independent Black Texans—between 1865 and 1930. Most of those settlements and towns were concentrated in the east and central parts of 该 state and, until recently, those places have been overlooked 通过 urban planners.

Roberts is an assistant professor in landscape architecture and urban planning at Texas A&M and the founder of the Texas Freedom Colonies project, which publishes interactive information on planning, heritage, preservation, and ecological threats in freedom colonies. She also leads a team that hosts ethnographic and archival research workshops with the descendants of people who lived in 该 colonies. 该 Texas Freedom Colonies Project 在线地图集 allows families to explore locations of freedom colonies as well as submit historical recordings, photos, and oral histories.

该项目自2014年开始,罗伯茨和她的团队已经绘制了350米自由的殖民地,并正在积极合作,验证和多图200通过从后代,墓地和教堂收集的信息。罗伯茨与该项目的目标是利用得克萨斯州非裔美国人的遗产和文化在城市,以及对谁可能,否则从来不知道他们的历史的家族创造了当代规划一个开放的数据库。

观察者 spoke to Roberts about archival research, reclaiming Black Texans’ history, and present day planning.

Texas 观察者: How did you start your work on 该 Texas Freedom Colonies Project?

Andrea Roberts: I learned about this book called Freedom Colonies由詹姆斯写康拉德和萨德sitton于2005年,比被尽可能快,因为他们可以,或者他们爷爷工作告诉奴隶,每个人都追着向城市的故事不同。这就是这个故事,我们得到告诉奴役之后发生了什么。很多人在得克萨斯州并没有发布有关非裔美国人创建的社区和具有经济和社会政治这些社区基础设施,这些故事。我得到了集中与理解[我们]容量是地方决策者痴迷:你怎么能开出自由不自由出去的?

你是黑人,你是不是100%的公民。所以人们是如何开拓出一个完整而独立的安全空间?我想知道为什么它是所有我们知道的,我们从这些经验中获得的不是在我的城市在做工作的情况下被利用。如何去想非裔美国人经典的想法是他们的思维住在附近,他们的思维在城市地区投票块。最黑的人真的不适合那样的身份。我们在农村地区多个同时家庭和国籍。我得到了我的博士来自德克萨斯大学奥斯汀分校社区和区域规划的大学。我集中在美国海外非洲人遗产,以及你如何利用社区发展历史的保存。

How do we get the rest of that data so that we can have a full picture of 该 footprint of African American history in Texas?

Our map in the platform we’re slowly building is intended to be a space for urban planners and developers, so that they will have no excuse anymore to say ‘I didn’t know’ [about the histories of 该se areas]. We are going to become a clearing house for all of that data.

How personal is this project for you?

哦,它已经深入个人。在方法论上,它被称为反身,你带上你的完全的自我。并把这一理念客观性的,你没有把生活经历的整体财富冲击你,因此你影响的空间他们,这只是一个谬论。

I have so many relatives and, you know, ancestors from freedom colonies in Washington County, Austin County, Fort Bend County, Harris County, Brazoria County, that entire region. I have relatives who’ve been there since before they built the 郊区 该re.

So when we go back there, we’re not running from the city. We’re just going back where we came from. It’s frustrating that it took forever for me to figure that out. I learned that because we’re not taught to value 该se places as real places or communities.

How relevant is archival research right now? Why is it crucial to learn 该se oral histories?

持有不但亲属关系,而且土地所有权,并在您的核心故事从何而来,在地方条件和这些地方的名字的记忆的人,他们在人们的记忆中超过他们将要在一本书在库中。所以如果你甚至不能得到的人,当他们死去,你甚至不能跟人covid。我的意思是,人总是留给我们所以它总是迫切的,但是当它可以发生在任何人,这是非常紧迫的。

And so it’s really important that we have an archive of our past, and get it from people who are endangered because 该y’re so susceptible to dying of disease.

We’re seeing uprisings happening in response to the murder of George Floyd and o该r injustices faced 通过 Black Americans. I’m curious what this moment means when it comes to not only preserving history in Texas during this moment but also fighting for that history to be taken seriously?

Place persistence is resistance. 该re’s a certain element of persistence in place that is a form of activism. It’s the right to remain and it’s the right to 该 city.

该se are very classic ideas in geography and urban planning, but it’s really come to the fore right now that people unfortunately don’t know what claims they have to place. If they feel they have no claim, they just see space as a terrain on which to battle but 该re’s no investment in it.

所以人们不知道他们充分的继承,因为他们不知道他们的历史。如果你知道你的历史,你会不同的角度思考本德堡县。不是“这是一个郊区,这就是所有的黑人去休斯顿住在外面,因为他们不想在这个城市。”相反,你会想,“哦,等一下,有在这里的几个种植园。这是在同一时间,这是奴役人民的最高浓度,现在是全国黑购房的最集中的一个空间“。

Part of the importance of the archive is central to these struggles over terrain and territory and state. When you get to 该 郊区 或边缘城市或远郊农村地区,围绕什么,档案和历史是整个想法的是通常很白,很嵌入白色settlerism。我试图找到办法,使证据为基础的,有凝聚力的争论很多的方式,你会作出一个集体诉讼的说法。

If we don’t have this kind of bottom-up definition of what a free Black space is—one that emerges out of our stories—then we’re going to continue to be divisive and not be able to manifest and work toge该r.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Correction: Between 1865 and 1930, 182,566 Black Texans established free settlements. 该 观察者 originally stated that number was over a million. We regret 该 error.

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dalyah琼斯 is a staff writer for Texas 观察者 covering environment. She’s a former general assignment reporter and All Things Considered producer for Austin’s NPR Station, KUT 90.5, where she focused on rural and suburban stories outside of 该 Capital’s urban core.


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