North Texas Daily

Lecture corrects misunderstandings about Denton’s lost community

Lecture corrects misunderstandings about Denton’s lost community

February 14
16:44 2014

Tim Cato // Web Editor

In 1920, the middle-class, black community of Quakertown was thriving in Denton. Two years later, it was gone – and in the years to come, forgotten.

But starting in the 1980s, historians worked to restore the knowledge of the community that once stood right where Quakertown Park is now located. Perhaps the most recent is Chelsea Stallings, a history graduate student writing her master’s thesis on the topic.

In conjunction with her work at the Denton County Office of History and Culture, Stallings spoke for 44 minutes on Thursday at the Courthouse on the Square to an audience of about 25, as a part of Black History Month.

With quick but clear delivery, Stallings’ lecture focused on the history of Quakertown and also corrected two key misconceptions about the historical site – one of them being the misunderstanding that the community was poor.

“Anything we think of as middle class today – home ownership, car ownership, nice clothes, social activist and community involvement – they had all that,” she said. “A lot of that is really left out of the story. Everything that I’ve read makes them want to sound like a poor, black community.”

The other common fallacy is about the racial climate that forced the move. Although residents in Denton did vote to turn the community into a park, there was also some involvement from the Ku Klux Klan.

“I took a class as an undergraduate, and that was the first time I realized that racism was still around,” she said. “A lot of people today haven’t had that same mentality. [They] haven’t quite had that ‘come to Jesus’ moment with a racist past.”

Quakertown began as early as 1875 with a group of freed slaves coming together as neighbors. Over the next decades, the community found prominence and success much quicker than most black communities of the time, Stallings said.

But in the late 1910s, Dentonites wanted Quakertown gone for a number of reasons, including its proximity to a white all-women’s college that would eventually become Texas Women’s University.

“Quakertown was considered the one dark spot in an otherwise gleaming town,” Stallings said.

Town members already wanted a park built, and placing it where Quakertown was located accomplished both goals. But most of the African Americans owned their homes and many refused to sell.

However, heavy activity from the Ku Klux Klan in 1921 and 1922 forced the homeowners’ hands, often for half of the market value. The black community relocated well south of Denton and it wasn’t until 2006 that the park was renamed in honor of Quakertown. Last year, it received a Texas Historical Marker.

Denton resident and Quakertown descendent Tori Williams attended the lecture hoping to learn more about the stories her family has passed down.

“I only know the bad things – the beatings, the dragging people around and stuff,” Williams said. “It’s very important. I want my grandchildren to be able to come here and learn this.”

UNT communications professor Shaun Treat didn’t have direct connections to the town, but was enamored with the historical narrative nonetheless.

“It’s very fascinating to find out about this almost forgotten history,” he said. “I dare say there’s a lot of people who lived here their whole lives and didn’t know anything about it.”

The Denton County Office of History and Culture regularly holds lectures. For administration specialist Sherrin Hubert, even she benefits because she is originally from Massachusetts.

“It brings knowledge,” she said. “Some people learn from it, some people actually have family members involved in it.”

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