Black History Month is always a wonderful opportunity to revisit the little-discussed African-American contributions to Denton County, and a past fraught with triumphs, betrayal, terror, and defiant resilience. Denton city councilperson Keely Briggs is inviting the public to a lecture from members of the Denton County Community Remembrance Project on Sunday February 16 at 2:00pm at the Denton Public Library North Branch. In this talk, attendees will learn about some of Denton’s hidden African-American history that is being recovered for future generations, as well as the group’s ongoing mission to build a coalition to tell these stories. Voice of Denton asked for a sneak preview, so readers might explore more on their own.
Recovering the often hidden history of Denton’s African-American communities has been a long difficult task. With the impressive dissertation work by Michelle Powers Glaze, which you can overview at Mike Cochran’s impressive website on Denton History, the Quakertown Story brought into sharp relief the forced relocation of a thriving African-American community amidst the tumultuous 1920s. Following the end of the Civil War, an exodus of freedmen trickled into Denton County seeking new opportunities, like the county’s only “Free Colored School,” growing numerous Black communities. The contentious 1920 vote to evict Quakertown residents, occurring just two years after the United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated a 1918 Confederate Monument on the downtown Courthouse lawn and mere months ahead of 1921’s violent Tulsa Race Massacre, was a watershed moment of injustice amidst an era of the Ku Klux Klan in Texas and racist violence across the country. These painful episodes were often omitted or intentionally forgotten from Denton history, as were other segregated communities in Denton County, until recent work by dedicated historians to recover these almost-forgotten stories. Some of these stories and their historical context can be lingered upon during a visit to our Quakertown House at the Denton County Historic Park, which I highly recommend.
Black History Month also provides opportunity to celebrate local heroes and heroism that stretch from the past into the present. Denton’s own Willie Hudspeth, president of the Denton County NAACP, has been a tireless force in reconciling local racial history and in championing preservation of the St. John’s Cemetery in Pilot Point. Former Denton City Councilwoman Linnie McAdams was one of the founding members of the Denton Christian Women’s Interracial Fellowship, which played a key role in desegregating Denton schools before she went on to fight for Denton’s neglected African-American communities. Today, these two local icons have united behind an ambitious collaboration with The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Birmingham, AL.
It began on a 2018 roadtrip to visit The Legacy Museum in order to learn more about a national lynching memorial that included two unknown 1922 victims from Denton County. The Equal Justice Initiative’s “Community Remembrance Project” is part of the EJI’s campaign to recognize victims of lynching and racial terror by erecting historic markers and creating local community coalitions that will engage in public education and outreach. Ultimately, the goal is to create a conversation around truth and racial reconciliation that will bring home Denton County’s Lynching Memorial. The Denton County Community Remembrance Project [DCCRP] continues to pursue its mission for historic education and memorialization, having in December 2020 held a Soil Collection Ceremony at the Pilot Point lynching site to commemorate the lives lost and scarred from racist terror all across our county. It was a powerfully moving event that proves profound transformation is possible.
But the process is the point for the DCCRP, because in building community coalitions under this shared cause, we are actively creating the conditions and connections necessary for sustained healing and continuing local collaborations. Every month should be Black history month! Please do attend our D2 Conversation on Sunday February 16, join our Facebook group for news and updates, write a letter of support from your group or organization, then consider volunteering with our 2020 outreach efforts that will build a lasting legacy for our communities and future generations to come.