The Texas Freedom Colonies Project ™ is an educational project preserving the heritage of Texas’ African American towns, settlements and the planners/preservationists that made them possible. Andrea Roberts is a preservation and planning scholar who founded this project.

What are Texas 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. Formerly enslaved Black Texans aggressively pursued land ownership after the Civil War in Texas. Clusters of agrarian, land-owning settlements or “Freedom Colonies” emerged from secluded areas. At one time, as many as 557+ settlements existed in Texas alone. Currently, there is an inability to find many of them on maps or in current census records, but they live on through memory, church anniversaries, oral histories and family reunions.

What is the Texas Freedom Colonies Project™?

The Texas Freedom Colonies Project’s™ purpose is to document place names, stories and contemporary challenges to retaining these places. Such places include Freedmen’s Towns, Black settlements, or urban enclaves.

There are no comprehensive studies of threats to freedom, colony survival, documentation of Black Texans’ approaches to placemaking and problem solving, or an official atlas of settlements. The program is a research and social justice project dedicated to filling that gap. The program 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 program will coordinate mapping projects, settlement assessments, develop evidence-based interventions, host conferences and provide technical assistance to descendants and planning agencies. The program is affiliated with Texas A&M University’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Center for Heritage Conservation and Institute for Sustainable Communities.

Texas Freedom Colonies Project™ Mission

Founded by Andrea Roberts, Ph.D., in 2014, the program’s current mission is to:

  • Build growing interactive digital humanities site with a database and map of 557+ 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 commemorative events and traditions sustaining descendants’ connections to communities  
  • Publish scholarship, white papers, and reports to shape statewide planning, recovery and preservation policy
  • Co-plan and engage in participatory action research with communities to help them reach their preservation and revitalization goals

Program Lead

View profile

Andrea R. Roberts

Assistant Professor, Urban Planning

979.458.7802 Email Andrea R. Roberts

Project website

Texas Freedom Colonies Project™ Atlas and Study

Texas Freedom Colonies Project™ Digital Humanities Projects

Recent Publications

2019, Macadoo, A., Zunino, H., Sagner-Tapia, J. & Matarrita-Cascante, D. (2019). Los Migrantes por Estilo de Vida del Valle de Malacahuello desde una Perspectiva Postcolonial, La Araucania Chile. Diálogo Andino. Revista de Historia, Geografía y Cultura Andina. In press.

2018, Manzano, H., Outley, C., Gonzalez, J. & Matarrita-Cascante, D. (2018). The Influence of Self Efficacy Beliefs in the Academic Performance of Latino/a Students: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences. 40(2): 176-209.

2018, Choi, M., Van Zandt, S. & Matarrita-Cascante, D. (2018). Can Community Land Trusts Slow Gentrification? Journal of Public Affairs 40(3): 394-411.

2017, Matarrita-Cascante, D., Zunino, H. & Sagner-Tapia, J. (2017). Amenity/Lifestyle Migration in the Chilean Andes: Understanding the Views of “The Other” and its Effects on Integrated Community Development. Sustainability 9(9): 1619.

2014, Hughes, Michael, Jill Kiecolt, Verna M. Keith, and David H. Demo. “Racial Identity and Well-being among African Americans.” Social Psychological Quarterly 78:1:25-48. 2014 

2013, Newman, G. (2013) “A Conceptual Model for Measuring Neglect in Historic Districts.” Journal of Preservation, Education, and Research, 6: 41-58. ISSN: 1946-5904

2013, Campagnol, G. “Company Towns of Sugar.” In Fontana, Giovanni Luigi (ed.). Company Towns in the World. Origins, Evolution and Rehabilitation (16th – 20th centuries). University of Padua, Italy, (Forthcoming in 2013)

2013, Hughes, Michael, Jill Kiecolt, and Verna M. Keith. “How Racial Identity Moderates the Impact of Financial Stress on Mental Health among African Americans.” Society and Mental Health 4:1:38-54. 2013

2011, Campagnol, G. “Industrial Archaeology and Brazilian Industrial Heritage.” Preservation Education & Research 4 (2011): 1-18. (ISSN 1946-5904)

2010, Byon Miller, Sunshine Rote, Verna M. Keith, “Poverty, Education, Racial Discrimination and Depressive Symptoms among African Americans: Testing Exposure and Vulnerability Hypotheses.” Society and Mental Health 3:2:133-150. 2010 

2010, Christie-Mizell, Andre, Aya Kimura, and Verna M. Keith. “African Americans and Physical Health: The Consequences of Self-Esteem and Happiness. Journal of Black Studies 40:1189-1211. 

2010, Li, Wei, Christopher A. Airriess, Angela Chia-Chen, and Verna M. Keith. “Katrina and Migration: Evacuation and Return by African Americans and Vietnamese Americans.” The Professional Geographer 62:1:103-118.

2010, Verna M. Keith and Diane R. Brown, “African American Women and Mental Well-Being: The Triangulation of Race, Gender, and Socioeconomic Status.” Pp. 291-305 in Teresa L. Scheid and Tony N. Brown, (Eds.), Handbook for the Study of Mental Health, New York: Cambridge University Press. 

2010, Wei Li, Christopher A. Airriess, Karen Leong, Angela Chia-Chen Chen, and Verna Keith. “Vietnamese Americans in New Orleans East: From Vietnamese Villiage to Asian Quarter? Pp. 109-129 in Jason D. Rivera and DeMond S. Miller (Eds.), How Ethnically Marginalized Americans Cope with Catastrophic Disasters: Studies in Suffering and Resiliency.” New York: Edwin Mellen

2008, Campagnol, G. “Usinas de açúcar: Formação e transformação de seu espaço [Sugar company towns: Origins and transformation],” Arqueologia Industrial (Journal of the Portuguese Association for Industrial Heritage), Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal, v. IV (1-2 2008): 73-96. 

2004, Campagnol, G. Assentamentos agroindustries: O espaço da habitação em usinas de açúcar [Industrial and agricultural settlements: Housing in sugar company towns]. São Carlos, Brazil: RiMa; FAPESP, 2004. (ISBN: 85-7656-027-1)

Verna M. Keith, Karen Lincoln, Robert J. Taylor, and James S. Jackson. “Discriminatory Experiences and Depressive Symptoms among African American Women: Do Skin Tone and Mastery Matter? Sex Roles 62:48-59. 

Verna M. Keith, “Stress, Discrimination, and Coping in Late Life. Pp. 65-84 in Keith E. Whitfield and Tamara Baker, (Eds.), Handbook of Minority Aging, New York: Springer.