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Juneteenth led to “freedom colonies” like Quakertown in Texas

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This story is the first of two parts.

In June 2021, President Biden and Vice President Harris declared June 19 a federal holiday. As many readers know by now, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 declaring the end of slavery, slaveholders and others in the Confederate state of Texas refused to obey. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth – that the announcement reached many people in Texas. For some slaves, emancipation did not come until the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865, when slaveholders in Texas were forced to comply with the proclamation.

Generations of black Texans have fought since 1866 for the nation to learn and recognize the delayed emancipation of enslaved black people in the state. The women’s oral histories help increase American awareness of the resilience and ongoing struggles of black Texans after emancipation that have never been recorded in history textbooks.

Ms. Alma Clark (94) and Ms. Betty Kimble (90), two of the co-authors of this article along with women’s and gender studies scholar Danielle Phillips-Cunningham, tell and analyze this story in Denton, Texas. The two led the documentation of Quakertown, a thriving community that once enslaved people who settled in Denton after June 19. The community lasted until the College of Industrial Arts (renamed Texas Woman’s University in 1957) and a local white women’s club were instrumental in getting the city to pass a 1921 bond to build a city park that would demolish and replace Quakertown.

Quakertown – a thriving community established after Juneteenth

Mrs. Alma Clark and her husband Rev. Willie Clark in Denton, Texas in the 1980s. His parents moved to Quakertown in 1905 when he was 5 to enroll him in Frederick Douglass Colored School. At the age of 21, Denton ordered his family and other families out of Quakertown. (Mrs. Alma Clark Collection)

Centering Women’s Memories

We got to know each other through interviews, rallies, and a town hall as part of Quakertown Stories, an initiative led by the faculty of Texas Woman’s University (TWU) and funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities to integrate Quakertown history in TWU Curriculum. Memories of Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Kimble are central to our telling of Quakertown history because in general, research finds, women anchor and archive community histories.

Mrs. Clark preserved the stories her husband, Reverend Willie Clark, told her about life in Quakertown before he died aged 90 in 1991. Mrs. Kimble preserved memories of her grandmother and of his great-uncle, who also lived in Quakertown. Quakerville. Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Kimble have extensive experience in community organizing and leadership and have carefully preserved rare photographs, notes, newspaper clippings and family conversations on key facts in history in their memories and homes. of Quakertown. They generously shared stories, photographs and vegetables carefully grown in their gardens.

The Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery. Here’s what he did.

Something they could call their own

When Ms. Clark describes Quakertown, she proudly says, “It was like a city within a city. Isn’t that something? A proud group of people – knowing that with all their skills, talents and knowledge, they could build it freely and get other people to support each other… It was something they could call their own.

Quakertown began in 1875, when 27 formerly enslaved black families who, after emancipation, had originally settled in Dallas, moved two miles south of downtown Denton in search of better living conditions. Originally called Freedman Town, it was one of what urban planning professor Andrea Roberts calls the “freedom colonies”, which once enslaved people settled after emancipation. In 1878, residents of Freedman Town established the Frederick Douglass Colored School. Black families migrated to Denton from all over Texas and the country to enroll their children in school. They also purchased land near the school and renamed the community Quakertown after the Quakers, a religious group that had advocated for the abolition of slavery.

In the early 1900s, Quakertown consisted of 295 buildings and about 305 people. Residents have established several businesses and organizations, including a doctor’s office, funeral home, grocery store, midwifery service, preschool, pharmacy, tailor and shoe store, candy store, playground, wood, a meat market, a day care center, three barber shops, three churches, three cafes, and a place where people watched movies and performed plays and songs from the Harlem Renaissance era. Members of the community were socially and politically active, founding fraternal lodges, women’s organizations, and a trade league.

Many Quakertown women owned property, which was rare for formerly enslaved black women in the South. Mrs. Clark’s mother-in-law, Maude Woods (Clark) Hembry, owned a home where Mrs. Clark and her husband later raised their three children. Ms Kimble’s grandmother, Kitty Clark, moved with her family from Bolivar, Texas to Quakertown because “all the black people were there”. She bought a spacious home on the immediate outskirts of the community because by the time she arrived, Quakertown proper had no land left on which to build more homes. She and her husband Glasco raised their sons Homer Clark (Ms Kimble’s father) and Andrew Clark while she worked occasionally as a laundress. As historian and Black History Month founder Carter G. Woodson has noted, black laundresses were respected entrepreneurs in the black community who preferred to do laundry in their homes rather than work inside houses of whites after slavery.

Having a doctor in a virtually independent black community was also a source of pride. Edwin Moten, a Texas native and graduate of Shaw University and Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, started his own medical practice in Quakertown. He cared for his patients by combining his formal medical training with African medical knowledge. White doctors often sought out his knowledge of natural treatments. In Ms. Kimble’s words, Angelina Burr was a “stern and pragmatic” owner and midwife, a respected expert in women’s health care and a community businesswoman. She also delivered to poor white women in Denton who could not afford medical services. Quakertown residents have kept their businesses and community together for nearly 40 years.

The white press has a history of endangering black lives, dating back a century

In 1921, Frances M. Bralley, president of the College of Industrial Arts, the Denton Federation of Women’s Clubs, and other city leaders lobbied and voted for a bond that approved city funding for a city park instead of Quakerville. Their reasoning was that white female college students were at risk of being raped by black Quakertown men as they walked from the college campus through Quakertown on their way to downtown Denton. The bond – issued by daily organized harassment and violence – removed physical traces of the vibrant community named Quakertown, but some people who remained in Denton refused to sell their homes to the city. Reverend Clark’s family and other families moved the physical structure of their homes to the southeastern part of Denton with mules and logs and lived in those same homes for several generations. The memoirs and archives of Ms. Clark and Ms. Kimble teach us that Juneteenth is about both possibility and the ongoing struggle for black freedom.

Part 2: White racism brought down a black community. Will there be repairs?

Editor’s note: Although it is generally Post-style to refer to people by their surname only after first use, Ms. Clark and Ms. Kimble explained that they prefer Ms. in front of their last name because employers called them by their first name during the Jim Crow era to communicate that they were subordinate. We honor their request, given the history of racism they have suffered.

Danielle Phillips Cunningham (@Phillips3D) is an associate professor and director of the women’s and gender studies program at Texas Women’s University.

Alma Clark was raised in Lampasas, Texas, by a family that insisted on the importance of education, and was the first black student to enter the city’s high school.

Betty Kimble is from Denton, TX and takes great pride in helping her community while serving in several leadership positions in the city and the church.

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Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.