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Freedmen's Town was a 'black oasis' for freed slaves following the Emancipation Proclamation

Nestled in what is now Houston's Fourth Ward and Midtown was a thriving black community known as Freedmen's Town.

HOUSTON — It's a big piece of Houston's history – hidden in plain sight.

Nestled in the area we now know as Fourth Ward and Midtown was a thriving black community known as Freedmen's Town.

"After the Emancipation of 1863, and then of course, what our Juneteenth celebration is about people in Texas finding out in 1865, that they were actually freed. They had to go somewhere and so they were left to kind of fend for themselves," Holly Charles said.

So on marshy no man’s land, they built a community to live freely.

"The first time I walked along these, these bricks, I was very emotional. This is where my people decided that they would survive," Charles said.

Those historic bricks are what this black oasis is known for.

"These are eight pound bricks that were double-baked and the significance of these bricks is that it has that beautiful red color of the clay that was here," Charles said. "And so these men laid the bricks with their bare hands and the fact that they are still here today is a testament to their strength, a testament to their craftsmanship and their skill."

Charles says it's success came despite the odds stacked against them, something she highlighted in a powerful play she produced about the community back in 2017.

"They built homes together they had their own hospitals, they had their own music, they have their own way of life right here in Houston, Texas," she said.

Today, dew remnants of the town still stand.

Of the more than 560 buildings, less than 10 remain, but now there's an active push to preserve what's left.

"It gives me a great satisfaction because you know you look at the house and like my wife says last they just tear it down, you know, and yet when you really start seeing what you can do and how it can be restored it really gives you a sense of satisfaction and that you've been able to help preserve something that's a historical significance to the city."

A significance that they're hoping more will learn about.


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