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African Americans

Object Type: Folder
In Folder: AF Subjects


Interior view of the Negro War Recreation Council Building, located at 702-14 East Avenue (now I-35) in the former city market building, showing a group of African Americans, including 3 women and 3 soldiers in uniform.


Exterior view of the Headquarters for the Sub-Bus station and Negro War Recreation Council. A car is parked in front.


Group portrait taken at Rosewood Park in 1930 that was featured in the City Manager Report published that year. Prior to the creation of Rosewood Park, African Americans founded Emancipation Park, a nearby parcel purchased in 1905 by the Negro Park Association, for use in civic events such as the annual Juneteenth celebration. But in 1938 Emancipation Park had been seized by the City for the site of Rosewood Courts, a federally funded public housing project, and Rosewood became one of the only green spaces available to Black Austinites. Over the next few decades Rosewood Park became the go-to recreational spot. By the end of the 1930s the park included a swimming pool, stone entry columns, a bandstand, and a sports field flanked by stone retaining walls - some of which was built by the Civil Works Administration. In 1944 a recreation center was constructed in the southwest corner of the park, and in the 1950s the pool was enlarged and a bathhouse and concession stand were constructed. Two decades later, a federal grant was used to expand the recreation center and in 1973 the Henry Green Madison Cabin (dating to the 1860s) was relocated from 11th Street to Rosewood Park. Each of these important spaces within Rosewood Park contributed to its recent designation as a Lone Star Legacy Park in February of 2019 by the Texas Recreation & Parks Society, and has a special place in the history of the park, and Austin as a whole.


Six Square promotional video describing the organization and history of East Austin black cultural district. Starting with the history of the segregationist policy enacted in Austin's 1928 master plan to force African Americans to live in a designated six square mile zone in east Austin, this video explains the mission of the Six Square African American cultural heritage district.


Formal portrait of an unidentified man. He wears a jacket, vest, and cravat, and he has a mustache. The background is neutral. Cabinet card format.


Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves created by the W.P.A. As part of the New Deal National Writers Project in 1937, journalist Alfred Menn interviewed formerly enslaved persons and transcribed their narratives, which produced a volume of over 300 pages. The narratives recount the lives of people, some very old at the time of their interviews, many of whom had toiled in the fields and worked as craftsmen or domestic servants.

The 1928 Austin city plan (also known as the 1928 Austin master plan) was commissioned in 1927 by the Austin City Council. It was developed by consulting firm Koch & Fowler, which presented the final proposal early the next year. The major recommendations of this city plan related to Austin's street plan, its zoning code, and the development of major industries and civic features, but it is most remembered for institutionalizing housing segregation by designating East Austin as the city's "negro district". Koch & Fowler submitted their finished proposal to City Council in January 1928, in a document titled "A City Plan for Austin, Texas". The 80-page report included a large section on the development of the city's street plan, another on the design and placement of municipal parks and other urban green spaces, and a number of shorter sections on other public amenities such as public schools, cemeteries, fire stations, and a proposed civic center. Other sections discuss the development of the city's railroad and streetcar networks, the desirability of a municipal airport, the establishment of a new municipal zoning code and rules for land subdivision, and the city's integration into the development of the surrounding region. Creation of the Negro District on the land targeted in the 1928 Master Plan was enforced by the city’s land use regulation. The legalized segregation of African Americans by the 1928 Master Plan evolved into the effective and real segregation of African Americans and Latinx people in East Austin. The "pull" incentives recommended in the city plan were complemented by "push" incentives when the city avoided extending the sewer system or paved roads into the existing freedmen communities elsewhere in Austin, and real estate "redlining" also pushed African Americans east of the central city. By 1932 almost all of the city's black residents had relocated to East Austin, and the other black communities across the city had largely disappeared. This pattern of racial housing segregation persists in Austin to the present day.

Photos documenting the first ambulance service in Austin, Texas

Media documenting the original L.C. Anderson High School which thrived as the pre on Austin’s East Side. In 1971 the school was ordered closed by a federal judge as part of desegregation.

Photographs from the Austin Files collection documenting The Austin Braves, a Minor League Baseball team in the East Division of the Texas League and were affiliated with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves. Known as the Austin Senators from 1956 to 1964, they played at Disch Field. In 1965, they became the Austin Braves,

Photographs of baptisms within the African American Baptist church community from the Austin Files collection

Photographs documenting Blackshear Elementary School from the Austin Files collection

Photographs documenting the Booker T. Washington housing project from the Austin Files collection

The work of studio photographer Chapman from the Austin Files collection.

Media documenting the Civil Rights era of the 1960s in Austin, Texas from the Austin Files collection

Photographs of Clarksville from the Austin Files collection. Clarksville is just northeast of the intersection of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and West Tenth Street in west Austin, Travis County. The land, containing streams and steep hills, had previously been part of a plantation owned by Governor Elisha M. Pease. It is said that Pease gave the land to people he formerly had enslaved with the vain hope that they would remain near his mansion and be available for further service. Clarksville was founded in 1871 by Charles Clark, a freedman who changed his name from Charles Griffin after emancipation. Clark bought two acres of land from Confederate general Nathan G. Shelley and built a house on what is now West Tenth Street. He subdivided his land among other freedmen to start a community outside of Austin. Despite its isolation Clarksville came within the jurisdiction of Austin early in its history. Early Clarksville has been described by its older residents as a wilderness broken by an occasional dirt road and train tracks laid by the International-Great Northern Railroad in the 1870s. The Sweet Home Baptist Church served as the community meeting center. The church was organized in the home of Mary Smith on the Haskell homestead sometime before 1882, when the congregation purchased land on which to build a church. Rev. Jacob Fontaine served as the first minister. Elias Mayes, a black state legislator from Grimes and Brazos counties in the Sixteenth and Twenty-first legislatures, lived in Clarksville as early as 1875. He built a home on land purchased from Charles Clark in 1884. Many Clarksville residents worked in the cotton industry or farmed; others held jobs in surrounding communities. Leroy Robertson owned and operated a community store. In 1896 a school at Clarksville had an enrollment of forty-seven. In 1917 a new one-room schoolhouse was built and named Clarksville Colored School. It offered six grades. Early in the twentieth century developers began to realize the land value of Clarksville, which lay near growing downtown Austin. Austin city policy aimed to concentrate the local black population in the east, and pressured black communities in west Austin, such as Clarksville and Wheatsville, to move. In 1918 the Austin school board closed the Clarksville school. Clarksville residents were later forced to use city services in east Austin or none at all. The 1928 master plan of the city of Austin recommended "that all the facilities and conveniences be provided the Negroes in this district, as an incentive to draw the Negro population to this area." Most Clarksville residents endured the lack of services, however, and refused to move. The community did experience two small emigrations to California, the first during World War I and the second in 1943. Clarksville maintained its school, which enrolled sixty-nine students in 1924, sixty-six in 1934, and seventy in 1940. Sometime in the 1960s the school building was moved to O. Henry Junior High School. The Sweet Home Baptist Church was rebuilt for a third time in 1935. Until 1930 Clarksville residents used kerosene lamps, and the community remained surrounded by woods. In later years Clarksville began to feel the pressure of Austin's expanding White community, which filled the surrounding area with spacious, middle-class homes. In 1968 Clarksville residents unsuccessfully protested a state and local plan to build a highway along the Missouri Pacific Railroad, which extended along the western boundary of Clarksville. The completed MoPac Expressway cut through the community, causing twenty-six families to be relocated. Twenty-three families left of their own accord. The number of homes in Clarksville decreased from 162 in 1970 to less than 100 in 1976. Residents of Clarksville began requesting Austin city funds for the improvement and preservation of their community in 1964, but dirt streets crossed the area until 1975, and a creek carrying sewage periodically flooded homes. In 1975 the Texas Historical Commission designated a two-block-wide strip of Clarksville as a historic district, and the city paved the streets with asphalt. In 1976 the Austin City Council approved the use of $100,000 from a federal housing and community-development grant to pave streets permanently, improve drainage, and expand the playground in Clarksville. Another $100,000 was designated for housing rehabilitation. The same year Clarksville residents and supporters defeated a plan to build a thoroughfare through the community connecting Interstate Highway 35 and the MoPac Expressway. The Clarksville Neighborhood Center, the third community center in Clarksville's history, opened in 1976 to provide information and referrals to community members. The center, remodeled from an old home with volunteer labor, also served as a base for community-improvement projects. Land values in Clarksville rose with the municipal improvements, and in 1977 a development company began buying lots and building houses that attracted a young, predominantly middle-class White population to the community. Rent costs subsequently increased for the older residents. The Clarksville Community Development Corporation, formed in 1978, worked to establish community services and low-cost housing in the area to retain its black population and promote the return of former residents.

Clarksville Elementary School from the Austin Files collection

Photos of Wilhelmina Delco from the Austin Files Biography collection

Photographs documenting Wilhelmina Delco from the Austin Files Biography collection

Photographs documenting East Austin Elementary School from the Austin Files collection

Part of the Samuel Huston campus, The Eliza Dee Industrial Home for girls opened in 1904 across the street from the campus. In addition to teaching domestic skills and developing Christian character, it housed fourteen (probably as many as 20-25) girls.

Photos documenting the June 19, 1900 Emancipation Day celebration in Austin, Texas

Photographs documenting enslaved persons from the Austin Files collection

Photos of Israel Jacob Fontaine and family from the Austin Files Biography collection

Photos documenting African Americans in Austin and Travis County from the Austin Files collection

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