Historic Black Towns Alliance – 5: National Trust Innovation

C. E. Hanna (Calhoun County Training, erected c.1943) School, Hobson City Alabama
C. E. Hanna (Calhoun County Training, erected c.1943) School, Hobson City Alabama

This afternoon the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) announced that the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA) has received a one-time national Innovation Grant in the field of historic preservation. A large number of applications were submitted from organizations in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Louisiana, eastern Massachusetts (broadly defined as the Boston metropolitan area), Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington. The HBTSA proposal was researched and prepared by Everett L. Fly, Ellen P. Hunt, Dr. Carey Latimore, and N.Y. Nathiri.

The HBTSA is composed of five of America’s most historic Black towns:
Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama (settled c.1833; incorporated 1843)
Grambling, Lincoln Parish, Louisiana (settled c.1865; incorporated 1953)
Hobson City, Calhoun County, Alabama (settled c.1865; incorporated 1899)
Eatonville, Orange County, Florida (settled c.1881; incorporated 1887)
Mound Bayou, Bolivar County, Mississippi (settled c.1887; incorporated 1898)

The Innovation Grant will support planning and programmatic costs up to $10,000.

The project meets National Trust interests in the following preservation priorities:
• Building sustainable communities: Demonstrating that historic preservation supports economic, environmental and cultural sustainability in communities.
• Reimagining historic sites: Application of innovative, replicable strategies that create new models for historic site interpretation and stewardship.
• Promoting diversity and place: Broaden the cultural diversity of historic preservation by exposing the depth and scope of American history embodied in historic Black towns and settlements as a collective national resource.

Historic Black Towns Alliance- 4: 115 Years – Hobson City, Alabama

First Hobson City mayor and council c.1901 – photograph courtesy of The New York Public Library: www.nypl.org
First Hobson City mayor and council c.1901 – photograph courtesy of The New York Public Library: www.nypl.org

Mayor Alberta McCrory and the residents of Hobson City, Calhoun County, Alabama will celebrate their 115th Founder’s Day on August 15th and 16th of this week (details at Hobson City Hall: 256-831-4940).   In addition to being the oldest incorporated Black municipality in the state (chartered 1899), it is one of fewer than twenty five incorporated African American towns remaining in the United States.  The town charter was signed by forty nine registered male voters, according to the requirements of the Alabama state constitution at the time.  The adjacent photograph shows Hobson City’s first elected officials, and the 1900 Federal Census provided occupation information: Young Pyles (standing, left; occupation – farm laborer), Peter Doyle (seated, left; occupation-farm laborer), Jesse Cunningham (standing, center; occupation – farmer), Edward Pearce (standing, right; occupation – carpenter), C.C. Snow (seated, right; occupation – laborer), and Mayor Samuel L. Davis (seated, center; occupation – Mayor of Hobson City)….MORE

 

 

 

Historic Black Towns Alliance – 3: Landscape Design

1910 Tuskegee gardening students outside greenhouse – photo courtesy Tuskegee Archives
1910 Tuskegee gardening students outside greenhouse – photo courtesy Tuskegee Archives

Black landscape designers and gardeners have been present in America since the colonial days of this nation.  Wormley Hughes, African American slave, was trained as a “gardener” on Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Virginia plantation for more than thirty years, beginning in 1794.  James F. Brown, escaped Negro slave, was the head “gardener” for the prominent, and classically styled, Mount Gulian estate in Dutchess County, New York from 1829 to 1864.  It is well documented that Mr. Brown often corresponded with the renowned White 19th century landscape designer and gardener, Andrew Jackson Downing.  Once Black Americans were able to own land, gardens became conscious, and integral, components of Black towns and settlements in all regions of the United States. The Tuskegee Institute 1899-1900 catalog listed courses in the Agriculture Division for men and women.  Separate courses were listed for “Horticulture” and “Market Gardening”, while “Floriculture and Landscape Gardening” were combined into a single course.  All were offered in a progressive sequence over two years of study.  The women’s second year, fall term, “Floriculture and Landscape Gardening” course description reads as follows:

Systematic botany, bouquet making, harmony of color, form and size of

flowers, laying out of private and public grounds, road, parks, walks, and

streets; entomology of the flower garden.

These and four other courses provided classroom and field training that addressed topics ranging from proper use of tools to sustainable practices and techniques.

Historic Black Towns Alliance – 2: Architecture , Land, & Cultural Landscape

1912 advertisement courtesy Tuskegee University Archives
1912 advertisement courtesy Tuskegee University Archives

Across the United States the presence of historic architecture is being used too often as the singular measure of the importance of a settlement or town.  Some argue that a limited number, or absence, of styled buildings in a settlement or town indicates that there is not much important value or substance in the civic and cultural life of the community. Some use the current locations of architecture, buildings that follow academic design styles, to define the most important area to preserve in a community.   Without a doubt, architecture is an important source and expression of American culture, but it is not the only authentic asset or legitimate historical reference.

The advertisement for Mound Bayou, Mississippi in the adjacent frame appeared in the 1912 edition of the Negro Yearbook published by Tuskegee Institute in Macon County, Alabama.  It is telling to note the number of land related words, such as real estate, town, and acres, that appear in the copy.  The words town and community are also emphasized.  It is clear that the land and community were Mound Bayou’s most important resources. …MORE

Historic Black Towns & Settlements Alliance-1

Mayor Johnny Ford/Tuskegee, AL
Mayor Johnny Ford/Tuskegee, AL
Mayor Alberta McCrory/Hobson City, AL
Mayor Alberta McCrory/Hobson City, AL
Mayor Bruce Mount/Eatonville, FL
Mayor Bruce Mount/Eatonville, FL
Mayor Darryl Johnson/Mound Bayou, MS
Mayor Darryl Johnson/Mound Bayou, MS
Mayor Ed Jones/Grambling, LA
Mayor Ed Jones/Grambling, LA

Mayors of five of America’s most historic Black towns have formed an alliance to protect and preserve for future generations the heritage, history and cultural traditions of Alliance members such that those who follow will have the ability to assume active stewardship to understand, interpret and appreciate these historic places through the lenses of their inhabitants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuskegee, Macon County, Alabama – settled c.1833; incorporated 1843 - 181 years

Grambling, Lincoln Parish, Louisiana – settled c.1865; incorporated 1953 – 149 years

Hobson City, Calhoun County, Alabama – settled c.1865; incorporated 1899 – 149 yrs

Eatonville, Orange County, Florida – settled 1881; incorporated 1887 - 125 yrs

Mound Bayou, Bolivar County, Mississippi – settled c.1887; incorporated 1898 – 116 years

The mayors have engaged Everett L. Fly to provide a comprehensive scope of planning and historic preservation expertise as their principal consultant and advocate for the precedent setting project….. MORE

Texas Independence & African American Legacy – 1

Grave marker of Samuel McCulloch, Jr., Bexar County, Texas
Grave marker of Samuel McCulloch, Jr., Bexar County, Texas

March 2, 1836 is the date recognized as the Texas declaration of independence from Mexico. Many are not aware that Samuel McCulloch, Jr. (1810-1893), a free Black man, was seriously wounded on October 9, 1835 fighting for Texas independence in Goliad, Goliad County,Texas. Many historians acknowledge him as the first casualty of the Texas Revolution for independence from Mexico.

Mr. McCulloch survived his wounds.  As a veteran of the war he was entitled to a land grant for service.  However, the Republic of Texas constitution, adopted in 1836, prohibited “Africans (and) the descendants of Africans or Indians” from citizenship – civil rights.  McCulloch had the courage to petition the Republic of Texas Congress for his right to own property.  The McCulloch petition was signed into law in 1837 by the President of the Republic of Texas, Sam Houston (1793-1863).  McCulloch was not the first, or only, Black person to chip away at the discriminatory laws prior to, or after, Texas statehood (1845).

McCulloch used the land to farm and raise cattle in south Bexar County, near San Antonio.  He donated land for a church, Medina Baptist.  The congregation evolved to be composed of Tejanos, Blacks and Whites.  He also dedicated land for a school since Texas state laws prohibited the use of public funds for Black school land or buildings.  Sam McCulloch, and other Black Texans, were active, not passive participants in the process of claiming and exercising civil rights for all residents of the state.  The grave of Samuel McCulloch, Jr., some of his relatives, and  a number of his neighbors is extant in south Bexar County, Texas.

Sweet Home, Guadalupe County, Texas – 1

Sweet Home Rosenwald School, Guadalupe County, Texas
Sweet Home Rosenwald School, Guadalupe County, Texas

Working with Trinity University history professor, and History Department Chair, Dr. Carey Latimore, Ph.D., and his students this semester has provided opportunities for field research in the San Antonio and south Texas region. We recently visited the Sweet Home African American settlement less than forty five minutes from downtown San Antonio. Mr. James Ussery, Mrs. Connie Quarles, and Mrs. Betty Young were gracious hosts at the Sweet Home Rosenwald School. Each shared personal memories of days growing up in the community.  Each offered amazing details regarding the school band, softball team, girls gardening class, boys gardening class, mattress making in the girls home

Mr. James Ussery shares oral history with Trinity University students
Mr. James Ussery shares oral history with Trinity University students

economics class, and the produce canning plant.  They described various ways that families and members of the settlement shared resources, skills, knowledge, and practical wisdom to maintain the community. Sustainable practices such as harvesting rain water from the school roof and use of local materials were part of everyday life. All retain vivid recollections of attending the Rosenwald School. They explained that the school served African American families from miles around, and outside the county.  This made it necessary for a number of the male students to find room and board with nearby families and girls to stay in the dormitory across the road.  Mr. Ussery also took time to guide

Dr. Latimore and students take notes at Sweet Home Cemetery
Dr. Latimore and students take notes at Sweet Home Cemetery

the students to the original Sweet Home Cemetery and point out the original church site, initially known as Elm Creek Baptist Church.  The church name was changed to Sweet Home Baptist Church after a storm damaged the first structure and the congregation moved to its present site in 1906.  The initial settlement formed around the Elm Creek Church beginning in 1864, and was one of the charter members of the Guadalupe Baptist District Association which formed in 1873.  At one point the association covered more than a dozen counties, and more than 3,500 square miles.  A number of San Antonio’s African American churches, such as Mt. Zion First Baptist, were active association members.  Though many Sweet Home descendants eventually moved to the city of San Antonio and beyond, significant physical and cultural traces of the community remain.

2014 Black History Month

Mr. Ruford Shepherd in his Eatonville winter garden
Mr. Ruford Shepherd in his Eatonville winter garden

The Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community, Inc. (P.E.C.), guided by N.Y. Nathiri, celebrated and produced the 25th Annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival for the Arts and the Humanities during the last week of January, 2014. One of the unheralded programs was the Eatonville Yards & Gardens Tours highlighting sustainable gardening techniques practiced by current residents, and linked directly to truck gardening courses taught at Tuskegee Institute more than one hundred and ten years ago. Despite uncharacteristically cold weather, Eatonville gardeners displayed impressive products, including turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, cauliflower, and papaya.

 

 

 

 

North Carolina A & T State University landscape architecture Eatonville studio
North Carolina A & T State University landscape architecture Eatonville studio

Professor Perry Howard, FASLA, and his advanced landscape architecture students from North Carolina A & T State University completed their semester long study of sustainable landscape concepts for Eatonville, Florida. A summary video, “Looking Back to Move Forward, The Reawakening of Eatonville”, is now available for viewing. The study covers issues ranging from environmental to human sustainability.

 

 

 

 

“Capote Cross” by Ellen P. Hunt, AIA
“Capote Cross” by Ellen P. Hunt, AIA

Also this month, Ellen Hunt has a special offer on one of her jewelry pieces. The Capote Cross is made from a casting of a nail that came from the Capote Church in Seguin, Texas. The church, built by emancipated African Americans in 1874 is still standing and under renovation. Ellen was intrigued by the rectangular nails, and the thousands of them used to build the church. Who made them? Was it an apprentice in a blacksmith shop in Seguin or did they come from a bigger factory? This sterling silver cross is a reminder of that earlier era and the questions we still have about that period of time in Texas. This cross is available in limited editions. The first one sold out, the second is in production and should be available next week. If you are interested visit HUNTDESIGNJEWELRY.

Eatonville Sustainable Visions – North Carolina A & T State University Landscape Architecture -5

left to right: Christian Anderson, John Dufort, Perry Howard (FASLA), Keana Graham review studio presentation
left to right: Christian Anderson, John Dufort, Perry Howard (FASLA), Keana Graham review studio presentation

Advanced landscape architecture students from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina have spent the fall semester developing a sustainable vision for the physical and cultural resources of Eatonville, Florida. The students, Christian Anderson, John Dufort and Keana Graham, have worked as a team to prepare a broad set of sustainable proposals tailored to the attributes and heritage of the town.

The A & T team studied the entire six hundred and forty acre town proper in order to develop goals for a green infrastructure and economic sustainability. A video overview will soon be available. The student visions are scheduled to

Eatonville Land Use Concept Study
Eatonville Land Use Concept Study

be presented in Eatonville, Florida at the 25th Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and the Humanities on January 31, 2014.

I served as independent studio advisor and participated in periodic reviews over the semester. I met with the students and their professor, Perry Howard, FASLA, at North Carolina A & T State University last week for a review of their final presentation. The day before the studio review I presented an overview of my Black Settlements In America (TM) applied research to the general.  Local coverage was provided by the A & T Aggie Dispatch and Greensboro News & Record newspaper.

Point of Reference – 1

Dr. James F. Veninga, Director Emeritus of Humanities Texas
Dr. James F. Veninga, Director Emeritus of Humanities Texas

I had the great pleasure and honor to participate in the Humanities Texas 40th Anniversary celebration in Austin, Texas this week. In the preceding months I had received a number of requests for a single linked index of products from my projects, including Black Settlements In America, across the United States. Whether a matter of providence or not, Dr. Jim Veninga (Director Emeritus of Humanities Texas) challenged me directly to do this during the Humanities Texas events. So, the following list of links represent the first set of which I am aware:

Another comprehensive update will be posted in 2014 as the next series of projects begin and becomes available. Thanks to Jim, et.al., for the final “                                                                                      push”!

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