Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Representing the 18th District of TEXAS


Jul 25, 2019
Press Release

For Immediate Release                                                                  Contact: Robin Chand

July 24, 2019                                                                                                   (202) 225–3816

Press Statement

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Commends House Passage of H.R. 434 – the Emancipation National Historic Trail act


Washington, D.C. - Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Senior Member of the House Committees on Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Budget released this statement following passage by the House of Representatives of H.R. 434:


“I applaud passage by the House of Representatives of H.R. 434, the “Emancipation National Historic Trail Act.”  When passed by the Senate and enacted into law, it will result in the second trail in the United States that chronicles the experience of African Americans.  Currently, the National Parks Service currently has only one National Historic Trail which centers on the African American experience.  It is the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, which covers a 54-mile path between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama, and which was named a National Historic Trail in 1966. The Selma to Montgomery Trail tells an important story about a pivotal moment in the nation’s struggle transitioning from a history of segregation towards the Civil Rights Movement.

H.R. 434, the Emancipation National Historical Trail Act, designates as a national historic trail the 51 miles from the historic Osterman Building and Reedy Chapel in Galveston, Texas, along Highway 3 and Interstate 45, north to Freedmen’s Town and Emancipation Park in Houston, Texas.  H.R. 434 requires a study of the post-Civil War history of newly-freed slaves in a major slave-holding state following the largest military campaign waged on domestic soil in the history of the United Sates.


“This trail will be a welcome part of Greater Houston.  The City of Houston is fortunate that much of this early history of former slaves has survived to this day: Freedmen’s Town, Independence Heights, and the Emancipation Park areas, which are treasures in our nation’s history.  Freedmen’s Town survived where other communities did not, and it is the only surviving 19th century community built by former slaves to have a notable number of original structures that have been protected, preserved, or restored. Freedmen’s Town became the center of opportunity for freed slaves throughout the Houston area.  By 1915, over 400 African American-owned businesses existed there.  By 1920 one-third of Houston’s 85,000 people lived in Freedmen’s Town.  Freedmen’s Town is a recognized Historic District.


“Emancipation Park was established in 1872 and is Texas’s oldest public park.  After emancipation, Freedmen’s Town became one of the only sanctuaries for freed persons in Houston, Texas.  Today, Freedmen’s Town hosts an impressive number of post-Civil War surviving structures—which include homes, public buildings, and commercial spaces built by former slaves.  The Freedmen’s Town community has fought to preserve structures, unique construction features, and period materials which are unique in their continued presence as originally installed.  One such struggle was the work to preserve handmade red brick street in Freedmen’s Town where streets would have been destroyed had community leaders and preservationists not fought and succeeded in winning needed infrastructure improvements, and the re-installation of the period bricks onto the street.


“These areas of Houston tell the story of many peoples who are part of our nation’s history, by filling in gaps of the story of the United States that too many Americans do not know or understand because these stories are now being taught as part of American history.  It is important to ensure that the public trust to preserve our nation’s history is also a commitment to preserving all of its history, including that which reflects both its best and worst moments. The history of the United States is more complex and immensely richer than would be apparent if we only consider the history of one group of people.  The tenacity demonstrated and the focus on historical accuracy and the need to save what is a unique aspect of American history for future generations is important.  For this reason, I was proud to be the original co-sponsor of H.R. 434.  I commend its passage in the House of Representatives, and will not relent until it is passed by the Senate and enacted into law.”


Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat representing the 18th Congressional District of Texas, is a senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary, Homeland Security and the Budget.