For her impassioned work to protect Texas’ endangered, historic African-American communities, Andrea Roberts, Texas A&M assistant professor of urban planning, received a $50,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“Funding awardees shine a light on once-lived stories and black culture, some familiar and some yet untold, that weave together the complex story of American history in the U.S.," said Brent Leggs, director of the trust’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.
This year’s funds, provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were awarded to 22 key people and organizations that help the action fund achieve its mission of protecting, restoring, and interpreting African-American historic sites and uncovering hidden narratives of African Americans and their contribution to the American story.
As the founding head of the Texas Freedom Colonies Project, Roberts seeks to preserve the heritage of the state’s “freedom colonies” — African-American towns and settlements, established by former enslaved people from 1865 – 1920, by documenting the stories and culture of black settlements, Freedman’s Towns and urban enclaves.
Roberts said project findings can help African-Americans reclaim parts of their unrecorded past and take ownership and responsibility for their cultural history, and inform political leaders as they develop future plans that affect the communities.
Aided by faculty and student researchers, Roberts collaborates with descendants of Freedom Colonies to develop the project website, an online digital humanities and advocacy hub.
The site enables communities to store historical and contemporary materials, recordings, photos, and oral histories about settlements’ origins, locations, challenges, and promising preservation practices. The platform will support freedom colony advocates, planners, and cultural resource managers as they support preservation and protection from development.