June 19, 1865 Union Soldiers declared the Civil War over after finally reaching the shores of Galveston Island. The recently freed slaves from plantations located along the Brazos, founds themselves settling in Houston. The city was able to provide families employment and a much needed sense of community. In the Fourth Ward of Houston many Freedmen came together and established their community known as Freedmen’s Town. The community raised swamp land, built brick roads, built their business and their homes.
With the help of eminent domain laws in Texas, many black families lost their homes with no help from the courts. In the 1940’s developers erected an all white housing complex and raised up a brick wall to separate the San Felipe Courts (now called Allen Parkway Village) from the residing families living in Freedmen’s Town. It was not until 1964 when black families were allowed to occupy the A.P.V. In 1998 construction began on the infrastructure, over 400 remains were discovered by crews. The construction continued and the current resting place of the remains is unknown however, some speculate they were buried in a white cemetery.
In 1984 Freedmen’s Town was declared a National Historic District that encompassed over 530 structures despite that, the city had other plans. Since 1984, over 500 structures have been destroyed due to property development. Freedmen’s Town has witnessed many atrocities over the decades and many residents believe they are continuing to occur. After much debate the City Council of Houston has passed an ordinance that calls for the repair of the historic brick streets. Residents and the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition are calling for the city to change their plans of disturbing the bricks and to mend the streets by tunneling under the sidewalks. If they city revamps the streets the culturally significant patterns laid by the Freedmen would be completely destroyed. After Freedmen’s Town was established, the former enslaved people petitioned the city in 1907 for proper paved roads. It was not until 1913 when the request was granted and then in 1914 the first installment was laid at the cost of $125 per house and $250 for any corner lots.
In late October, the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition called for a Press Conference. Many residents, pastors, and students showed up to participate in the conference and voice their opinions. A supporter of the Coalition, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, was a featured speaker of the meeting. Despite the Congresswoman’s support, one resident, Gladys House, did not believe the Congresswoman’s actions were sincere and she protested her speech. It is unknown whether the city will change their plans, but with the support of the community and the Preservation Coalition quite possibly could get the city to change their mind.