UT-Austin Center for American Architecture and Design presents Sites of Black Agency at the Margins of the 40 Acres
We only know their given names, but Mack, Adam, and Ned gave shape to Austin. They were among the enslaved Blacks who, in 1839, cleared the land and erected the first buildings to realize Edwin Waller’s plan for the capital city of the Republic of Texas.
Black members of the building trades continued to shape the city after Emancipation. Their presence in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries can be glimpsed in construction photographs of landmarks including the Capitol and the buildings of the The University of Texas at Austin. Many lived with their families in the Black communities that once were scattered around central Austin, including the fringes of the campus.
Among these were Wheatville in West Campus and Horst’s Pasture, located in the vicinity of the football practice field. The university’s appetite for additional land, and its impact on real estate values contributed to their dissolution.
Professors Dudley and Gordon will briefly sketch this history and then in a conversation moderated by Professor Emeritus Cleary discuss how it speaks to Black agency.