On January 18th community volunteers joined the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition in observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a day of service. They take the day to acknowledge Dr. King and honor his life in a way that matters to the community. By bringing together community members of all ages to clean up and restore the historic bricks of Freedmen’s Town, they preserve the heritage which was built into them.
In Houston’s Fourth Ward lies a monument of great historical significance. Not protruding from the ground, but paved into it. In 1865 newly freed former slaves poured into Houston and paved the brick streets of a community which placed a cultural stamp on the city. This community, fittingly called Freedmen’s Town, became extremely rich in African American culture. It housed everything from historic Black churches to prominent educational institutions to even notorious night clubs, and everything stood along those same brick roads.
Overtime, downtown expansion began to threaten the community through the replacement and even demolition of various cultural institutions. When the City of Houston attempted to remove the bricks in 2014, Dr. Dorris Ellis organized the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition and ensured the historical streets remained intact. Since starting the coalition seven years ago, Dr. Ellis’ determination hasn’t faltered. She stated that “We’re honoring the streets that the freedmen built and showing that the area is still alive”.
Another member of the Freedmen’s Town Preservation Coalition, Lue Williams, was overflowing with enthusiasm toward the event. She came out on Monday to pick up trash and even hoped to get some early voting registration done. Although she didn’t get to register anyone, she was “inspired by the presence of the younger generation and thankful for their dedication to the cause.” Community members from all ages gathered to commemorate Dr. King with a day of service. Babies in strollers, teens, and even Eighty-year old community members all came out for the same reason- to celebrate in a way that matters.
Written by: Brooke Janey Houston Sun