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Photo by Ben DeSoto

Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues

Houston- The Freedmen’s Town Coalition is petitioning the City of Houston to use preservative rather than restorative methods when revamping historic Andrews and Wilson Streets in Freedman’s Town/Fourth Ward.

To freedom fighters working on the issues, nothing is more important than saving Black history and the group means business when it comes to telling the city and officials about saving the remaining elements of the Black settlement.

The push is for the public to learn more and join preservation efforts and help the community by making its history a priority.

The coalition’s goal is to:

1. Stop the removal of the undisturbed historic bricks and the remaining trolley rails, from all of Andrews Street and part of Wilson Street.

2. Engage a qualified micro-tunneling/trenchless Engineering Design firm to redesign the infrastructure installations for “avoidance of harm to the cultural resources” of the historic streets- NHPAct.

3. Reinstate the Federal 106 Review process for the amended plans and engage the appropriate “Consulting Parties” from the broader community, African Diaspora Archaeologists, Historians, and Anthropologists from the beginning to end of the process.

4. Install all new infrastructures for sani-sewer lines, water, and electric lines  under sidewalk easements instead of under the streets with multiple lines and connections that will fail. Installation combinations of micro-tunneling, and other trenchless methods must be used in order to prevent the removal of bricks and trolley rails as well as to remediate flooding due to the high density new construction within Freedmen’s Town.

5. Use the best preservation practices for repairing the damaged sections of the streets, according to the UNESCO and National Trust’s guidelines for Historic Preservation in this rare National Register Historic District.  Use non-chemical methods to clean asphalt from bricks while in place; such as, Polar Blast; environmentally friendly and efficient.

Settled on the banks of the Buffalo Bayou, in 1865, Black Freedmen descended upon Houston from plantations throughout Texas to make a community for themselves as freedmen and women.

Being tired of walking and slopping around in Houston swamp’s mud and after appealing to the city for support for street improvements in which they did not get.

Leaders of Freedmen’s Town worked and galvanized the residents to pay for their bricks on their own and to make their own improvements with bricks made at the Pullman Brick Company, a black owned business.

For nearly 20 years, several local Freedmen’s Town organizations have worked to preserve Freedmen’s Town.

Preservation leader Gladys House and her supporters contend all elected officials should be held accountable for not protecting Black history including State Senator John Whitmire and State Rep. Garnet Coleman to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

House also said both Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Historical Commission have “blood on their hands” too when it comes to the Freedmen’s Town story.

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