The Ground on Which I Stand: Tamina, A Freedmen’s Town
Tamina is one of the few remaining emancipation communities in the United States, thought to be the oldest freedmen’s town in Texas. Some of the few freed slaves who had the funds to buy their own land created this community in 1871, building their own churches schools, businesses, tilling their land, and working in the flourishing lumber industry. Their stories tell of a deep-rooted kinship with one another, with their values resting on family and community. Regardless of the challenges these people have faced, their faith, gratitude, and humor always thread their tales.
The portrait, “Johnny” (the image of the man in the plaid coat) is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery through January 2017.
The Ground on Which I Stand
A Freedmen’s Town
Tamina, Texas, is one of the few remaining emancipation communities in the United States, perhaps the oldest freedmen’s town in Texas. Traveling from as far away as the Carolinas and Georgia, freed slaves found work more than one hundred and forty years ago in the lumber industry of Montgomery County. They created the community, Tamina, in 1871, building their own churches and schools and buying their own land to farm.
I interviewed and photographed represent different aspects of this community—young and old, black cowboys, ministers, those who have created non-profits to help their neighbors, folks whose families have lived in Tamina for seven generations, and those who are first-generation Tamina citizens.
Their stories tell of a deep-rooted kinship with one another, with their values resting on family and community. No matter what happens, these neighbors are there to care for one another. When someoneis ill, the community comes together to help in any way they can. Over and over again, people recount opening their doors to anyone who knocks and might be hungry. Without question, an extra place is set, and they all share a meal around the kitchen table. Regardless of the challenges these people have faced, their faith, gratitude, and humor always thread their tales.
This body of work was initially exhibited at Rice University during Houston’s 2014 International FotoFest and a book of the entire collection of images and oral histories is being published by Texas A&M Press. Harris County schools and Conroe Independent School District are now including the story of Tamina in their social studies program Kindergarten through twelfth grade.