One of the only remaining intact Freedman’s Towns in the entire country, the Tenth Street Historic District in Oak Cliff’s importance to the community that still has roots there — as well as to the city — is something historians and preservationists feel they can’t stress enough.
The folk and period homes within the district were built in the late 19th and 20th centuries, with the city of Dallas tabulating 257 homes, four commercial buildings, three institutional buildings, and one cemetery within its boundaries.
“Just as Colonial Williamsburg tells the story of American Independence by immersing the visitor in and interpreting the built heritage of the era, so might a restored Tenth Street Freedman’s Town — on the very doorstep of one of the top public high schools in the nation — bring the story of African American Independence to life,” says the website Tenth Street Life. “Historic Tenth Street may well be the last, best chance in the nation to let the land the freedmen bought and paid for and the homes, businesses, and institutions they built on it with their own hands speak for themselves.”
It is believed that the first residents of the freedman’s town were slaves freed after the Civil War ended, many former slaves of Dallas cotton farmer William Brown Miller. A church was built in 1880, and a school opened six years later. More people arrived when T.L. Marsalis platted the neighborhood four years after that.
Restoring the district is the nation’s (and Dallas’) best and last opportunity to potentially create a history lesson that is immersive and riveting, telling the stories and dreams of the generations of Black families in Dallas as they gained their freedom, even through the dangerous and violent Reconstruction era, and beyond during the Jim Crow era, living to establish businesses that are still here today, acquiring land of their own, and building property ownership and wealth. (more…)