Imbedded Narratives in a Contested Cultural Landscape; Black and White in Nacogdoches, Texas, 1836-Present

Authors: Jeffery Roth*, Stephen F. Austin State University
Topics: Ethnicity and Race, Cultural Geography, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Cultural geography, Black geographies, historical preservation, applied research methods
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:40 PM
Room: Studio 6, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper emphasizes the social construction of spatial reality and the consequences of systematic eradication of a people from public memory by a dominant elite class. Few places in the United States match Nacogdoches, Texas for the intensity of heritage landscape development which overlooks the Black experience while emphasizing a Texan myth of White heroes who championed freedom. In numerous places like Nacogdoches, published literature focuses attention on victimization and contextualizes the process within varieties of antiracist, colonial, or other social theory. These contributions fall short in providing a description of Black geography before 1865 and contribute to social invisibility in the modern era. By collecting nineteenth and twentieth century documents generated through customary legal practice in every state, an imbedded narrative of White cultural superiority emerged into clear focus in places where Black people lived. A decade of field work and archival research in Nacogdoches transformed existing interpretations of the heritage landscape by integrating Black experiences gleaned from source material common across the Old South. An emphasis on rearranging the spatial narratives of cultural landscapes such as cemeteries, churches, and schools resulted in an activist and interventionist method of addressing “Whiteness” in literature and provides alternatives to a common social construction of hegemonic reality.

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