NACOGDOCHES, Texas –– Stephen F. Austin State University’s Dr. George Avery, staff archeologist and cultural heritage coordinator, will present “Archeology of Two Freedom Colonies in Deep East Texas” during the East Texas Archeological Society meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 in the Ferguson Building, Room G78, on the SFA campus. 

Meetings are open to the public. The society has met five times a year — primarily on the SFA campus — since 2009. 

Avery’s presentation will chronicle his ongoing work identifying freedom colonies — those in which African Americans settled after they were freed following the Civil War. Avery, along with volunteer archeological stewards from the Texas Historical Commission, began to unearth the history of two of these often-neglected gems: the Sand Hill Community in Nacogdoches County and Shankleville in Newton County. 

The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, started in 2014 by Dr. Andrea Roberts of Texas A&M University, has identified over 700 freedom colonies in Texas. 

“This project emphasizes the point that Shankleville and Sand Hill are indeed freedom colonies that developed independently from 1870 to 1920,” Avery said. “Even though many of the features that initially made up the specific freedom colonies are no longer surviving, such as the schools, stores, homesteads, and masonic lodges, we might still have archeological projects that will allow a remembering of the various features.

“Of course, we also want to shed light on the features that do survive, such as the churches and cemeteries, by having people from those respective communities come to the sites and tell their stories. The people may also look at found archeological artifacts and offer their personal interpretations.”

To do this, Avery and volunteer stewards excavated the land with metal detectors and dug 50-by-50-centimeter shovel test units. The areas tested at the Shankleville Community included an 1870s homestead, a store and a 1920s homestead. At the Sand Hill Community, a school was tested. A sample of the artifacts from these excavations will be presented during the meeting.

Avery’s work is supported by a grant from the Summerlee Foundation in Dallas, SFA students, members of the East Texas Archeological Society and the Deep East Texas Archeological Society, along with volunteers. 

The purpose of the meetings is to bring together those with an active interest or curiosity in archeology and the history of East Texas and to promote public awareness of local archeology. Past meetings have included discussions on updates from the Caddo Mounds and Mission Dolores State Historic Sites, as well as results from archeological surveys, among many other topics. 

For more information, contact Avery at