23 April 2015

Disappearing History ... Post Civil War Black Towns are Dying

I always hate to hear about the loss of history – be it documents, memories, stories, buildings, communities, and more.

This was reaffirmed as I read “Black towns, established by freed slaves after the Civil War, are dying out” in the Washington Post last month.

Sugarland was founded on Oct. 6, 1871, when three freedmen — William Taylor, Patrick Hebron Jr. and John H. Diggs — “purchased land for a church from George W. Dawson, a white former slave owner, for the sum of $25,” Reese says. The founders made a small down payment and continued to pay until the debt was settled. The deed dictated that the land be used for a church, a school and “as a burial site for people of African descent.”

Today, Sugarland is mostly horse country with million-dollar homes that sit on rolling hills. Many of the houses that former slaves built have been torn down. The forest has overtaken lots where freedmen once lived. The winding dirt roads that separated this black community from a white world are now paved.

This article gives fascinating insight into not just Sugarland and into the history of the rise and fall of the so-called Black towns established after the Civil War.

A related article, also published in the Washington Post is All-black towns across America: Life was hard but full of promise.

If you Google Search “Black Towns” or “All-Black Towns” you will find many references to these communities and unfortunately, many of them are to the fact that they are disappearing, such as “One by one, Missouri’s black towns disappear.”

Did your ancestors live in an All-Black Town?  Does it still exist?

Editor’s Note: This past weekend I was in Washington DC and couldn’t believe how far along the construction on the National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Though the physical elements of historical black towns will probably continue to disappear, this museum is part of the effort to help preserve African American History, including all “Black Towns.”

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