Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

Representing the 18th District of TEXAS

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Leads The Effort to Establish the Emancipation National Historical Trail

Apr 3, 2019
Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                        Contact: Robin K. Chand

April 2, 2019                                                                                        202-225-3816

Press Statement

 

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Leads The Effort to Establish the Emancipation National Historical Trail

 

Jackson Lee: “The Freedmen’s Town community has fought to preserve structures, unique construction features, period materials that 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 that were under threat of destruction until the community and preservationist fought to successfully get needed infrastructure improvements, and the re-installation of the period bricks onto the street.   Establishment of the Emancipation National Historical Trail will preserve future generations the rich history of the newly freed slaves who journeyed to Houston in search of economic and political opportunity and greater religious and cultural freedom.”

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary and Homeland Security, released the following statement after committee consideration of H.R. 434, the Emancipation National Historical Trail Act, legislation which will designate a historic trail from Galveston to Freedmen’s Town:

“Today the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands held a hearing on H.R. 434, the Emancipation National Historic Trail Act, a bill to establish the second national public land designation to acknowledge the history of newly freed African Americans.  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 that we study 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 period is more than just a story about the North’s victory and the South’s loss—it is a story about a new freed people emerging from over 400 years of slavery and how they survived into the 21st century when other similarly situated communities did not.  The hearing is the first step in H.R. 434, becoming law. 

“There were dozens of communities comprised of freed slaves throughout the United States—these communities could be found in the North, South, and Mid-western sections of the country. Through economic hardship, natural disasters, and the period of 1919-1921 called the “Burnings,” dozens of communities ceased to exist. Freedmen’s Town has survived where others did not and 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.

“Congresswoman Jackson Lee welcomed the oral testimony of Ms. Eileen Lawal who testified in favor of H.R. 434. Ms. Lawal is the president of Houston Freedmen’s Town Conservancy, whose mission is to protect and preserve the history of Freedmen’s Town for the benefit of future generations.  Being declared free by the Emancipation Proclamation and later by the 13th Amendment did not always translate into freedom of movement. Travel of slaves and newly-freed slaves following Reconstruction came with unique and dangerous challenges. For this reason, the routes used by freed slaves have attracted the interest of international historic preservation Societies.

“Ms. Lawal, in her statement, indicated that “I am delighted to announce that as of March 2019, the following sites listed in the Emancipation National Historic Trail Act have been recognized by UNESCO as a Site of Memory Associated with the UNESCO Slave Route Project. Port of Galveston, Emancipation Park, and Freedmen’s Town: African American Library at the Gregory School, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, and Olivewood Cemetery.

“Congresswoman Jackson Lee was pleased to also welcome Ms. Naomi Mitchell Carrier of Houston Texas, and thank her for providing a written statement for the official record of the hearing. Ms. Mitchell Carrier is noted for her efforts to preserve and share the stories of newly freed slaves who settled in the Freedmen’s Town section of Houston to begin lives as free persons following the end of the Civil War.

“Ms. Mitchell Carrier submitted a written statement for today’s hearing, and wrote, “An Emancipation National Historic Trail has the power to restore some loss of historical and cultural memory for African Americans not only in Texas but the world.  African Americans, particularly black Texans, have the only culture that has not been documented for consumption and of which there is the least inventory left in the world.  Through a systematic process of elimination and miseducation much of what remains of the historical memory of African Americans has been lost and is in need of resurrection and revival, restoration and preservation and this Historic Trail has the power to revitalize memory, and restore dignity to the disenfranchised. This Emancipation Historic Trail has the power to memorialize the memory of the formerly enslaved people with dignity and contribute to a better understanding of the deep seated causes of slavery.”

“Ms. Mitchel Carrier’s insights and extensive field research on the topic of post-Civil War migration of former slaves to the city of Houston and her detailed work with historical records have brought to light important details that are bearing fruit in the level of international interest in Freedmen’s Town.  I look forward to working this bill through the House Committee on Natural Resources and working towards passage of this bill.”

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Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is a Democrat from Texas’s 18th Congressional District. She is a senior member of the House Committees on Judiciary and Homeland Security.