A&M professor wins grant to preserve historic African American settlements

COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - A Texas A&M professor won a national contest for a grant that will help continue her work to protect Texas's endangered, historic African-American communities.

Andrea Roberts is an assistant professor of urban planning at Texas A&M University and founder of the Texas Free Colonies Project. She has been selected as a recipient of a $50,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Roberts joined First News at Four to discuss her work.

Begun by Roberts in 2014, the Texas Freedom Colonies Project is an effort to preserve the history of African American settlements, particularly those founded right after the Civil War until 1930.

"This was a significant time where African Americans were able to create their own communities, even in the shadow of violence and all types of problems," said Roberts. "They were still able to create these communities throughout Texas."

The grant money will help Roberts continue this search for information on these communities, ones that generally aren't in history books or on maps. She researches a different way.

"Basically listening to people," said Roberts. "We record a lot of oral histories, and I spend a lot of time at homecomings and reunions and different church events--just spending time in these communities."

Roberts calls the stories "endangered," saying that this research is urgent.

"The people who know how these places started, know where the cemeteries are, are leaving us; they're 70, 80, 90 years old," Roberts said. "These are places that were founded in areas that are susceptible to hurricanes because they were in bottomland--land nobody else wanted."

For the full conversation, see the video player above. For more on the Texas Freedom Colonies Project, see the Related Links.