Brick by Brick

Residents Fighting to Save Historical Freedman's Town

Sandi Mercado
Members of the community.

John Cañamar

“Let us pray…” were the words that were echoed for the salvation of the brick lined streets that run through the heart of Freedmen’s Town.

Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition hosted a prayer session on Sunday October the 19th at the intersection of Andrews and Wilson to prevent the city from removing the brick lined streets to upgrade underground utilities.

The celebrations started at 4 p.m. where over 100 members of the community were able to tour the restored homes. It was followed by a press conference that was directed to the Houston community and city official stressing the importance of the brick lined streets.

Freedmen’s Town, also known as Fourth Ward, is a small neighborhood on the West end of downtown Houston that was founded in 1866 by emancipated slaves. This gem of a community was named a Historical District in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

In 1984 there were 530 historic structures that were standing; today only 30 remain.

In there place are new lofts and condos and trendy little shops which the city has allowed and planned as part of a revival of the area disregarding the history and national acknowledgement of a historic district.

Board of Director and founding member of the Jack Yates Museum, Catherine Roberts, is one of many community members that are highly upset with the actions of the city.

According to Roberts, local policies were created for the purpose of ‘taking of properties’, to demolish structures and with disregard for the Federal and State Laws for the purpose of destroying the National District’s cultural resources and erasing Black history.

“It is archaeologically unsound to upset and remove these bricks,” she said. “Taking them, tampering with them and even breaking and damaging them violates national guidelines and could cause the site to lose its national registry qualifications.”

“Well it really comes down to whether you want to live in a collection of residences, businesses, and roads or if you want to live in a community,” stated Dr. Scotty Moore. “To some people, the roads are simply conduits between home and work, and Houston is simply the place where their jobs are. To me the bricks are a part of the history of this city and its development as a community.”

Moore, a professor of anthropology at Houston Community College, earned his doctorate’s degree at the University of Washington in anthropology in 2010.

Moore goes on to say “Consider this: how many people drive down Dallas St. in what is now called Midtown and see the shops, the condos, etc. and have any idea that they are driving through the first community settled by freed slaves after the Civil War. My guess is that the number is very small.”

Thomas Marshall, a member of the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition said, “The city should not be tearing us down, it should be showing us off.”

Future demonstrations and events will be held until the issue off removing the bricks of Freedmen’s Town has been resolved.

Multiple attempts have been made to get comments from Mayor Parker and her staff. No comments have been given by anyone in connection with the city at this time.