Historic Preservation

  • Dr. Andrea Roberts is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Associate Director of the Center for Housing & Urban Development at Texas A&M University.

Andrea Roberts: The Freedom Colony Repertoire: Promising Approaches to Bridging and Bonding Social Capital between Urban and Rural Black Meccas

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 6:00pm
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African Americans’ memories of the Great Migration and urban displacement surface in popular culture as a desire to return to rural homeplaces while retaining access to opportunity in urban meccas. The author identifies real examples of this “limbo imaginary” while engaged in an ethnographic study of rural freedom colonies (settlements Black Texans founded 1865-1930). Results indicate that, for African Americans, embodying urban-rural liminality is an existential space of opportunity and ingenuity. Urban baby boomers in the study call rural black meccas (freedom colonies) home and hold dual senses of belonging and commitments to place preservation. These baby boomers performed liminality during homecoming celebrations where they commemorated ancestors and reconnected descendants’ ties to settlements severed during the Great Migration. She asserts that scholars and practitioners should help communities identify liminal spaces and performative practices that bridge and bond urban-rural social capital thereby catalyzing community preservation. These practices comprise what she calls a freedom colony planning repertoire.

Dr. Andrea Roberts is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Associate Director of the Center for Housing & Urban Development at Texas A &M University. She is the founder of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, a research initiative documenting forgotten Black geographies’, placemaking history, grassroots preservation practices, and contemporary planning challenges on an interactive Atlas. She engages methods associated with the urban humanities, counternarrative development, critical race and black feminist theory, and action research to address systemic planning inequities. Her work is published in the Journal of Planning History, Journal of the American Planning Association, Buildings and Landscapes, and the Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage.

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