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Freedmen's Town, Houston, Texas (1865- )

Freedmen’s Town is a nationally registered historical site. The site was originally a community located in the fourth ward of Houston, Texas that began in 1865 as the destination for former enslaved people from surrounding plantations in Texas and Louisiana after the Civil War.

Freedmen’s Town is located southwest of downtown. After emancipation was proclaimed in Texas on June 19, 1865, former slaves began migrating to Austin, Dallas, Galveston, and other cities but the largest migration was to Houston. Many of these newcomers traveled along San Felipe Road into the city from Brazos River Plantations south and southwest of Houston.  Once there they paved many of the streets in brick. These new residents established a community where they were able to live mostly without the daily onslaught of racism and discrimination.

Freedmen’s Town quickly developed as a cultural center with the establishment of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church (1866) followed by other churches and social and cultural institutions, The community and the larger fourth ward black community that grew around it, was prosperous well into the early 20th Century.  By 1930, Fourth Ward held approximately one third of Houston’s 36,000 African Americans and was famous for its many businesses that included restaurants and jazz night clubs which attracted even white Houstonians to the area.

Despite this apparent social and economic prosperity, black Houstonians and especially Freedmen’s Town residents were limited by a segregated environment which denied access to most city services and formal rules and informal practices that prevented them from gaining better jobs. In 1929, the Houston City Planning Commission proposed a permanent geographical and racial segregation of Houston that limited black residence to the Second, Fourth, and Fifth Wards. While the Houston City Council refused to adopt such a plan (partly because it was illegal), blacks in Freedman’s Town and the Fourth Ward faced restrictive covenants and redlining practices that prevented

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