Thanks to a collaboration between the Edwards Association and the Gonzales County Historical Society, Gonzales is moving forward with a major effort toward mapping local freedom colonies and preserving local sites and histories.
The effort is part of the Texas Freedom Colonies Project, an evolving, social justice initiative dedicated to documenting settlement names and locations, African American planning history, community origin stories, cultural practices, and grassroots preservation and planning activities.
Last week, Dr. Andrea R. Roberts from Texas A & M University was in Gonzales to detail past efforts to locate and document Freedom Colonies in Texas. In addition, Dr. Roberts discussed efforts currently under way with the project, and plans and goals that need to be implemented in order to make sure all of the local colonies are identified, documented and preserved.
“We are trailblazers,” Roberts told the 30 plus people who attended the seminar at the Providence Baptist Church on Church St. and St. Andrews. “We need to get our kinkeepers, cultural workers, community workers and all of our young people together to work towards identifying the colony locations, get the histories and oral histories written down, and preserve and protect what we find and uncover.”
“I invited Dr. Roberts to speak to us,” said Glenda Gordon of the Historic Society. “She was aware of our initial effort to proceed with having the Edwards School be part of a National Historic Site, so she was very happy to come talk to our group. We had over 10 people from the Edwards Association and church there, as well as groups from San Marcos, Victoria, Corpus Christi and Caldwell County to name a few.”
During Dr. Roberts’ presentation, she told the group that so far the project has: Built a growing database of 557-plus Texas Freedom Colonies; mapped new settlements in East Texas; documented descendant’s origin stories, contemporary preservation practices, and cultural landscapes; detected strategies descendants use to prevent land loss and build intergenerational wealth; documented traditions used to transfer cultural and social memories to youth; and future planning necessities.
As a result of last week’s discussion and training, it is hoped that Gonzales will help map settlement locations and locate and record Freedom Colony stories.
Along with David Tucy, the director of the Edwards Association and the new Gonzales County Veterans Affairs officer, the plan for Gonzales is to keep up its efforts to get the National Register Application approved, identify families who have home places and stories and get them added to the database, and inventory the county cemeteries and clean up the African American headstones for posterity.
“Dr. Roberts spent the night in Gonzales and wants to come back,” said Gordon. “She says the spirit of Gonzales is everywhere; people know and respect their history here and this town has a great sense of place.
“It’s a great start!”