SMU student documenting hidden history of Oak Cliff Freedmen’s Town

Science and technology have come together with storytelling and history to document a once-bustling Freedmen's Town in Oak Cliff.

The Oak Cliff Freedmen's Town has both local and national historic designation, and an SMU researcher using geographic information systems (GIS) mapping to document the Freedmen’s Town's hidden history.

The Tenth Street Historic District was the epicenter of what was Oak Cliff Freedman's Town which was established in 1867.

An SMU PhD archeology student specializing in GIS partnered with a group trying to preserve the history there by using technology to kind of show what life was like there, helping to imagine what could be again.

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SMU PhD student Katie Cross sees what was in what is: the Tenth Street Historical District Freedmen’s Town.

"Going down here to the store to get candy and cookies. I just think of how wonderful and vibrant Tenth Street was and still is," she said.

A community bounded by Eighth Street to the north, Clarendon on the south, I-35 to the west and Oak Cliff Cemetery to the east.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and others have been cleaning the neglected part of the resting place where Blacks were buried, uncovering graves that are part of the hidden history there.

Larry Johnson with the Tenth Street Taskforce and Residential Association and his son were working Monday.

"Just us being able to come in here, expose some of the graves, identify some of the families who probably didn’t know that their loved ones were here and linking chains in heritage, it’s really important," he said.

Tameshia Rudd-Ridge and Jourdan Brunson are co-founders of kinkofa, a tech company that provides resources for Black families to document, share and preserve their stories.

"For Tenth Street Historic District Freedmen’s Town, we are piecing back the story of what was here so that we can move Dallas forward," Rudd-Ridge said. "Because we can't move Dallas forward without looking back at our past."

Cross partnered with kinkofa to develop maps that show the neighborhood’s transformation over the last 100 years.

"The 50s was a great time here. There were up to 40 businesses down here. Along Tenth Street was the business district," Cross said. "In front of us is a two-story commercial building that's the only one left today."

"One of our other efforts is to uncover and discover as many descendants of this community as possible," Bruson said. "So that we can again kind of fill out the story and connect people who didn't know of their association to Tenth Street and its rich history."

"I think that this is really an opportunity to do something really great in Dallas that's good for all of us," Cross said.

Kinkofa is trying to connect with folks who grew up there. They want your oral history and your pictures to tell the story that is still being written.