Wheatville School Students, [1912,1913], photograph, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.
Drawn from original research, the maps below recreate the historic black settlement of Wheatville from 1880-1940. Founded in 1867 by James Wheat, the community of free people formed at the end of the Civil War on the far outskirts of Austin. Residents, like Wheat, grew and harvested crops, kept livestock, and made their homes in this area just northwest of what is today The University of Texas’s campus. At the height of this black settlement, the community had two churches and a school (see image on the right). Black residents likely worked across the city in various sectors of Austin’s racialized workforce.
Given the proximity of this community to UT, founded in 1883, it is also probable that some Wheatville residents found employment in the creation and servicing of this flagship institution. As the maps suggest, black residents started leaving the area in the aftermath of the City’s 1928 Master Plan that forced black people to relocate to Austin’s east side—located on the eastern side of what is now the interstate highway. By 1940, many residents had relocated to other parts of the city, specifically the east side. Due to governmental policy keeping personal census data private for 72 years, census demographics for Wheatville from 1950 will be available in 2022.
These interactive maps provide residential data of Wheatville’s black inhabitants. Black people were not the only residents of this area. Non-black folks owned property and lived there too. Census and deed records show that property and commerce defined some of the relations between residents within and across race. Little is known about the more social aspects of their relations. The maps seek to offer greater detail about this historic community as an effort to recall black life in Austin from its historical silence.
For greater depth on this historical community and silence, please visit here.
Instructions for using the interactive maps
- Open the layers tool in the upper left corner (“Details”) to explore the [census] data.
- Click the Contents of Map icon to select maps by decade. (eg. 1880, 1890, etc.).
- Click the Legend icon to identify households coded by census categories of race (Blue=”Negro”; Orange=”Mulatto”; Red=”White”; Green=”Mexican”).
- Hover and click dot to identify the address and household information.
- All dots are concentrated in Wheatville, located slightly northwest of the UT campus.
Maps researched and created by Isaac Womack, Amy Shreeve with support from Julia Bordelon.