Friday, February 27, 2015

Negros Take Notice: Remembering Quakertown

Quakertown was a vibrant African-American community settled in 1875 by freed slaves in Denton, Texas. This neighborhood of approximately 60 families had it's own stores, churches, a doctor and by 1913 had constructed its own school (that was burnt to the ground the day before classes were to begin and rebuilt in 1915). By all accounts Quakertown was a vibrant community. Except...

Except that the local white townsfolk didn't want a vibrant black community in their midst. Nor did they want a black community abutting the College of Industrial Arts (CIA), a finishing school for young women that was in the process of becoming the Texas Woman's University. The prsident of the school, Dr. F.M. Bradley said in a speech to the Rotary Club in 1920 that Denton, "could rid the college of the menace of the negro quarters in close proximity to the college and thereby remove the danger that is always present...”

Bradley's speech set in motion the end to Quakertown. A motion was put forward in 1920 to purchase Quakertown and convert it into a park. In 1921 a $75,000 bond was used to buy off the black families and raze Quakertown. Every building was razed, except one. That one belonged to the only white person in Quakertown.

Two-thirds of the families in Quakertown moved out of the state of Texas. Those who stayed behind were warned not to buy property anywhere nearby. One such warning — Negros take Notice — was reported in the Dallas Morning News in the summer of 1922. We post it here as a reminder of that time and of the efforts that destroyed a community.

Negros Take Notice

Negros take notice —
No building,
no moving north of the R.R.
or east of CIA
or south of Jase Walker’s.
Those already there
will be given time
to sell there [sic] property
and move.

There was no evidence of Quakertown's existence by 1923. There were no black families remaining in Denton to keep its history alive. Quakertown had become Civic Center Park.

It would take close to a century for Denton to recognize the efforts of freed black slaves who established their own self-sufficient community. In 2007, Civic Center Park was renamed Quakertown Park. A small victory — yes — though there is no signage explaining the significance of the name nor a historical marker remembering these Texas pioneers.

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