Historical Archaeology

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 74–88 | Cite as

When is “Gone” Gone? Archaeology, Gentrification, and Competing Narratives about Freedmen’s Town, Houston

  • Carol McDavid


This paper examines the interplay between historic preservation, archaeology, mass media, and competing historical narratives, focusing on one urban community in Texas. After its founding by emancipated African Americans, Freedmen’s Town became the “Mother Ward” for Houston’s growing black professional class. By the late 20th century, due to demographic shifts, a lack of zoning, and weak historic preservation ordinances, it had become one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city (despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places). The remaining historical structures are now being drowned in a gentrification-driven sea of townhomes and lofts. Some new residents embrace the neighborhood’s history, but others use media and politics to reject it actively, as they enact traditional stereotypes about race, poverty, and class. Within this context, those of us involved with the Community Archaeology Research Institute, Inc., have been attempting to do community-based (not “placed”) archaeology and encourage local-history and public-policy communities to avoid “writing off” the neighborhood as “lost.”


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Copyright information

© Society for Historical Archaeology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol McDavid
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, Community Archaeology Research Institute, Inc.Rice UniversityHoustonUSA

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