LOCALIZE IT: Descendants fight to maintain historic Black communities across the US

0
49
Sallie Ann Robinson, of Daufuskie Island, S.C., drives her automobile across the island Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Daufuskie Island, S.C. “There were at one point over a thousand people living on this island,” Robinson said. Long dirt roads were once occupied by a bustling community that had its own bartering system and a lucrative oyster industry. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

EDITORS/NEWS DIRECTORS:

Historic black towns and communities have dwindled from their once thriving existence in the United States. Historic towns were founded by formerly enslaved people and often had their own churches, schools, and stores. Researchers estimate fewer than 30 historic Black towns are left, compared to more than 1,200 at the peak about a century ago. Efforts to preserve what’s left encounter complicated challenges. A decrease in the number of these communities are due in part to amended local ordinances, uneven tax rates, home devaluations, and political fights that leave communities vulnerable to gentrification.

___

READ AP’S STORY:

Descendants fight to maintain historic Black communities. Keeping their legacy alive is complicated

___

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE INCORPORATED TOWNS THAT REMAIN?

Researchers estimate fewer than 30 remain across the United States, including the following:

ALABAMA

Hobson City

Tuskegee

— — —

ARKANSAS

Elaine

— — —

ARIZONA

Randolph

— — —

FLORIDA

Eatonville

— — —

ILLINOIS

Brooklyn

Robbins

— — —

KANSAS

Nicodemus

— — —

LOUISIANA

Grambling

— — —

MARYLAND

Highland Beach

— — —

MISSOURI

Kinloch

— — —

MISSISSIPPI

Mound Bayou

— — —

NORTH CAROLINA

Princeville

— — —

NEW JERSEY

Lawnside

— — —

OKLAHOMA

Clearview

Langston

Tatums

Tullahassee

— — —

WISCONSIN

Lake Ivanhoe

___

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE OTHER 1,200 SETTLEMENTS AND TOWNS?

Many former historic Black towns still exist, but they have been absorbed by bigger municipalities. For example, Independence Heights, Texas was a self-governing town from 1915 until 1929 when it was annexed by Houston. Many descendants remain in the community to this day.

There are also thousands of Black historic neighborhoods such as Hogg Hummock on Sapelo Island, or the Gullah community of Daufuskie Island that were never formally incorporated but still thrived under local or state governances. The existence of these neighborhoods are being threatened as well.

___

CONSIDER THESE RESOURCES

To unearth current and former historic Black communities in your area, start with any local or state African American research centers. You may be referred to a cultural society or a community leader familiar with the neighborhood. You may find that local college Africana/African American studies scholars have a plethora of knowledge on the subject as well.

Once you’ve connected with any cultural society or community leader, continue to ask if they have contacts with descendants of these enclaves. There are many descendants facing the same plight who are willing to share their history and story.

___

CONSIDER THESE QUESTIONS AND REPORTING THREADS

— If you’ve identified a current or former historic Black community near you, ask historians, librarians and community leaders what happened to the community and what is happening now. Are there efforts to revitalize or preserve the community? If yes, are the descendants of the community being included in and/or leading those efforts? If not, who is?

— If a community still exists, are there shops, festivals, or historic sites that are new or continue to remain a draw for people visiting?

— Are there efforts around educating and marking the history of the community if none exist? If not, ask community leaders, historians and local elected officials if that has been considered.

— More broadly, if you live in or near a current or former historic Black community (including current or former historic Black neighborhoods that weren’t necessarily incorporated), think about how you might build connections and sources related to this community going forward and identify future stories.

___

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Below are the links to resources that may help you pinpoint historic Black neighborhoods in your area:

Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance

1803 Fund

___

READ ADDITIONAL AP COVERAGE

Georgia county seeking to dismiss lawsuit by slave descendants over rezoning of their island homes

Developers have Black families fighting to maintain property and history

___

BC-US–Black-Historic-Communities-Localize It

Jan 10, 2024 8:56 AM – 630 words

SHARON JOHNSON Associated Press

Eds: UPDATES: With AP Photos.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here