White racism brought down a black community. Will there be repairs?
This is the story of a lesser-known incident of violence that befell black communities.
In the 1880s, former slaves established a thriving community in Denton, Texas called Quakertown. In 1921, the city tore it down—apparently to protect white female students at the nearby College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman’s University) from rape by black Quakertown men. Two of the co-authors of this article, Mrs. Alma Clark, 94, and Mrs. Betty Kimble, 90, live in Denton and are documentarians and storytellers of Quakertown history.
Quakertown – a thriving community established after Juneteenth
The knowledge of black women
Historians have long documented than people who have endured racial and gender discrimination have an accurate insight into white supremacy. New texas law limiting teaching about race comes from an old impulse to “correct” and erase those living memories of racial violence. Ms. Clark and Ms. Kimble generously shared their archival collections with a co-author of this article, Danielle Phillips-Cunningham, through interviews and gatherings as part of Quakertown Storiesa project led by TWU faculty and funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities.
Collaboration was key to writing this story. In addition to Mrs. Kimble’s and Mrs. Clark’s textual and photographic sources, their careful preservation of the Quakertown stories of their loved ones (including Mrs. Clark’s late husband, Reverend Willie Clark and Mrs. Kimble’s grandmother, Kitty Clark, and great-uncle Jack Cook) are fundamental. tell what happened in Quakertown.
“The Negro School is Burning”
In the early 1900s, Quakertown was a bustling community of over 305 people and several black-owned businesses. Most of his families had moved to Quakertown to enroll their children in Frederick Douglass Colored School. In 1913 the the local newspaper reports that the school was “mysteriously” burned down before school hours. Ms Clark recalls that the Quakertown community “suspected it was the Klansmen because they were so prevalent at that time.” No one has been arrested.
Determined to keep the school going after the fire, the teachers gave lessons to St. James AME Church of Quakertown and Lodge of Tabor #218 until the community rebuilt the school (renamed Fred Moore School in 1949) in a different location.
Things got worse. In 1920, Frances M. Bralley, president of the College of Industrial Arts, asked the city to remove “the threat of black neighborhoods near the college,in hopes of increasing college enrollment and gaining college accreditation. In 1917 he promoted the deadly myth that students risked being raped by black men when he hosted a campus screening of “Birth of a Nationthe white supremacist propaganda film that portrays black men as dangerous to white women.
Messages like these emboldened locals, who threatened to murder Reverend Willie Clark’s cousin after accusing him of suing one of the students. The cousin fled Quakertown by jumping on a moving train and did not return to Denton until 40 years later.
In an effort to bring the Beautiful City Movement in Denton, the Denton Federation of Women’s Clubs urged the construction of a racially segregated park in place of Quakertown. In the South, the movement destroyed black communities under the guise of creating “orderly” and “aesthetically pleasing” cities with parks, Confederate Statues, and ornate buildings. In 1921, the majority of townspeople voted in favor of a bond that ordered Quakertown residents to give up or sell their properties.
Ms. Kimble insists that educators tell students the truth about Quakertown’s history. As she said, “The main thing is to let them know what the blacks had before they kicked them out… He [Quakertown] was a thriving community. It’s not there anymore because of TWU (formerly College of Industrial Arts), and they didn’t want white girls walking through Quakertown with black men there. I think they should know all of this.
The people of Quakertown did not go away without a fight. Ms Kimble recalls one resident, Mary Ellen Taylor, “sat on her porch in her rocking chair as they moved around [her] lodge. She was not going to abandon her home. She was a fiery and stern woman. Ms Kimble’s ‘Aunt Dicie’ refused to move to southeast Denton, buying a spacious house just a few blocks from the park. Will Hill, outspoken and fearless, sued the city. Edwin Moten, Denton’s first black doctor, called a town meeting to stop the bond from taking effect. Others planned to leave the United States altogether and join Marcus Garvey Back to the Africa movement.
Refusing to leave the town they helped build, some people relocated to southeast Denton and protected themselves from continued KKK harassment with weapons and by remaining as close-knit as they were in Quakertown.
The memories of Ms. Clark and Ms. Kimble of Quakertown inspired a dialogue about restorative justice. In April, the Quakertown Stories team hosted a town hall that brought together Quakertown descendants, the mayor, city council members, and TWU trustees, faculty, and students to discuss ways forward for justice. restorative.
Participants came up with several ideas: creating college scholarships for descendants, integrating Quakertown history into school curricula, and disproportionately reducing utility rates in southeast Denton. TWU announced plans to build a Quakertown memorial. Dianne Randolph, founder of TWU’s Black Alumni Association and memorial committee member, said “the mission will allow the voices of the suppressed to be heard, remembered, and allow us to learn future lessons about telling a story.” inclusive, rather than a ‘selective’ one.
While no consensus was reached on reparations, Ms. Kimble reminds us that ordinary people have the power to tackle white supremacy today. She said, “Come out and talk!” Don’t be afraid whenever you feel justice needs to be served. Voting is the main thing, and learn everything you can that led to all of this.
Editor’s note: Although it is generally Post-style to refer to people by their surname only after first use, Ms. Clark and Ms. Kimble explained that they prefer Ms. in front of their last name because employers called them by their first name during the Jim Crow era to communicate that they were subordinate. We honor their request, given the history of racism they have suffered.
Danielle Phillips Cunningham (@Phillips3D) is an Associate Professor and Program Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Texas Women’s University.
Alma Clark was raised in Lampasas, Texas by a family that stressed the importance of education and was the first black student to attend the city’s high school.
Betty Kimble is from Denton, TX and takes great pride in helping her community while serving in several leadership positions in the city and the church.