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An outdoor photo of homes being rehabilitated in the historic district Larry Johnson III (Tre) removes debris from a historic home that he and his father Larry Johnson Jr. are restoring in Tenth Street Historic District.
Larry Johnson III (Tre) removes debris from a historic home that he and his father Larry Johnson Jr. are restoring in Tenth Street Historic District, Dallas, Texas. Photo by Tyana Danae of Script16 Studios. Used with permission.

Catching up with Community Collections Grant Recipients: If Tenth Street Could Talk with Tameshia Rudd-Ridge and Jourdan Brunson

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The following is an excerpt of an interview with Tameshia Rudd-Ridge and Jourdan Brunson of the Dallas, Texas Community Collections Grant project, If Tenth Street Could Talk, as part of the Library’s Of the People blog series featuring awardees of the American Folklife Center’s Community Collections Grant program. 

Jourdan Brunson and Tameshia Rudd-Ridge photographed up close at a table in an archive doing research
Jourdan Brunson and Tameshia Rudd-Ridge, founders of kinkofa, researching at Dallas Municipal Archives for the ‘If Tenth Street Could Talk’ project. Photo by Tyana Danae of Script16 Studios. Used with permission.

Leading the If Tenth Street Could Talk project are Tameshia Rudd-Ridge and Jourdan Brunson of kinkofa, together with Dr. Deborah Hopes of Remembering Black Dallas, and in collaboration with Dallas Tenth Street Historic District residents, as well as a team of researchers and documentarians. The project follows descendants and residents as they work tirelessly to preserve the historic freedom colony’s history and fight to have a voice in shaping the future of the community.

Congratulations on your Community Collections Grant! The project is grounded in Dallas’ Tenth Street Historic District, and seeks to bridge the past and the present, shining needed light on present-day community engagements with the neighborhood’s history – and their efforts in safeguarding their history and living heritage. So, let’s first start with the significance of the Tenth Street Historic District and the project’s main aims.

Nestled just a short distance from downtown Dallas is Tenth Street Historic District – a historically significant yet often overlooked community. Founded in the late 1880s, Tenth Street is one of over 1,200 Freedom Colonies that emerged across the country after Emancipation. These settlements, borne out of necessity, provided safe and supportive environments for African American families to establish their roots and rebuild their lives in the face of a society that sought to suppress their progress and human rights.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, discriminatory laws heavily privileged white landowners, rendering property ownership nearly impossible for African Americans. These challenges led to the formation of Freedom Colonies which played a crucial role in fostering a sense of autonomy, belonging, dignity, and security for newly emancipated people.

Tenth Street quickly flourished into a vibrant community, bustling with a diverse array of businesses, activities, skilled professionals, and tradespeople. Among them were artists, domestics, Pullman Porters, educators, doctors, hair stylists, midwives, religious leaders, carpenters, musicians, and more. During its prime, this vibrant neighborhood boasted an array of amenities including: schools, churches, clinics, cafes, grocery stores, a funeral home, a soda pop factory, an ice cream shop, a domino parlor, and even a movie theater.

Today, vacant lots outnumber occupied homes — it appears as a place that’s been forgotten. But for the folks who grew up in Tenth Street, it is all but gone. Their memories transport audiences back in time to see the community for the oasis it used to be and what it can be in the future.

Click on over to the Library’s Of the People blog to read more about the If Tenth Street Could Talk project!

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