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Another exodus? Black descendants of Denton's Quakertown face tough choices and an uncertain future

Rev. Reginald Logan stands in a road pointing to a house.
Yfat Yossifor
The Rev. Reginald Logan points out to a house where his parents lived in southeast Denton.

About one hundred years ago, Black families started to build neighborhoods in a sparsely populated portion of southeast Denton. These families were distraught descendants of former slaves forced to leave a freedmen's community in central Denton known as Quakertown by white city officials.

The former residents of Quakertown formed a new community known as Solomon Hill and also moved into other parts of Southeast Denton. Now these neighborhoods are under threat as well.

But this time, gentrification is more of a threat. And young Black people are increasingly moving out of their old neighborhoods and not returning.

A Black legacy

The Rev. Reginald Logan is 75. He's lived in Southeast Denton most of his life and is an active member of the Southeast Denton Neighborhood Association.

When he was a kid in the 1960s, he said that Fred Moore Park — a vast 10- acre field with a gazebo, practice fields/courts, a bridge, and much more — was an integral part of the community.

“When I came home from school, I'd walk from the school and walk right here through the park and then go right to my house, which is right across the street,” Logan said.

Logan says the park has always been a popular sport for people of all ages. And when he was growing up, everyone who used the park looked like him.

“This field — only people ever used this softball field during that period of time were Black people,” Logan said.

A walking tour of historic Black neighborhoods in southeast Denton with The Rev. Reginald Logan

That’s changed. A growing number of residents in Southeast Denton are white or Hispanic. And as the area becomes more diverse, Logan wants to help preserve Southeast Denton’s Black legacy.

 “Urban renewal has impacted us some, but we're not going to allow destroy our neighborhood that we have now,” Logan said, “Those days are over.”

A forced exodus

And those were dark days, when residents of Quakertown — a once-thriving community — were forced to leave in the 1920s.

That was after the president of the “Texas Industrial Institute and College for the Education of White Girls of the State of Texas in the Arts and Sciences” had petitioned for a bond election to purchase the property from the Black residents and turn it into a park.

The college had been founded in the early 1900s, a few decades after Quakertown was established. (Today this college is known as Texas Woman’s University.)   

The petition received enough signatures and the city council voted to move forward with it. Over the course of the next two years, white city leaders forced these African Americans out of their freedman town by offering undervalued prices for their homes or simply moving their houses out of the area.

What happened to Quakertown was part of a pattern. Across the nation, the Ku Klux Klan was resurgent and Black communities were under siege.

In 1921, an affluent black neighborhood in Tulsa, Okla., known as Greenwood was mostly burned to the ground. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, died. A town in Florida called Rosewood was destroyed in 1923 and many residents were killed.

Chelsea Stalling has conducted research into white supremacist efforts in North Texas. She says Quakertown was a prime example of a community that was ravaged after it had built its own generational wealth.

“It really was a very insular community that took care of itself and took care of its own,” said Stallings, who is working on a doctoral degree in American history at Texas Christian University. “A lot of families had animals and gardens. They had access to their own food. ”

Today, there is little remaining of Quakertown. But Southeast Denton is still home to historic Black neighborhoods and Black churches.

City officials started to commemorate Quakertown late last year. But residents of Southeast Denton say their story — the story of continuing generations of Black families who lived through the days of Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement and to the present — also is worth sharing and preserving.

After Quakertown ceased to be, the first Black neighborhood established in Southeast Denton was Solomon Hill. That’s where 95-year-old Alma Clark has lived her whole life.

She says Denton’s Black history has been woven into landscape. Fred Moore Park was named after a noted Black school principal and community leader. And there are streets in Southeast Denton named after historical Black residents.

"So, we feel that we actually own this part,” Clark said. “We know what our people encountered to make this neighborhood… the hardship and how they were treated.”

Clark believes that years from now, southeast Denton will be “unrecognizable.” But she hopes newcomers will honor the contributions of those who built the neighborhood. She wants to leave a legacy “for our children and grandchildren.”

“This is Denton history. I'm saying those that come afterwards do not destroy our history — improve it,” Clark said.

She wants future generations to know how Black residents helped make Denton the city that it is, that "they are walking in the footsteps of wonderful Black people.”

Changing demographics

District 1 Council Member Vicki Byrd represents Southeast Denton. She has lived in Denton for 40 years.  

“Oh, my goodness. The perseverance of the southeast community is just so admirable,” Byrd said.

But Byrd says a lot of young people have left Southeast Denton in recent generations — often to start new lives in the suburbs.

“Then what happens is instead of…African American people coming back to our homes and back to our communities to fix up our parents’ houses…someone with some money that doesn't look like us will come in and fix it up. But then, it doesn't belong to the community. It belongs to that person.”

Byrd says that’s happening in many other communities.

“That’s what we're facing in our own African American communities,” Byrd said, “This one is the same.”

Urban growth is fueling some of the changes in Southeast Denton. And that makes the area attractive to developers and real estate investors.

“Talks of gentrification are really starting to come up because city growth is limited, limited to the southeast Denton area,” Stallings said. “And it's going to raise property taxes at some point and drive out homeowners who have been there for a long time, who've been there for generations.”

Logan is trying to build a diverse coalition of longtime residents and new neighbors — one that he hopes is strong enough to have a say in how things change.

“We all want to be together, making decisions together because it something is going to affect all of our people here in southeast Denton.” Logan said.

The Southeast Denton Neighborhood Association meets once a month to discuss neighborhood issues and strategize for the future. To protect residents, the association wants developers to sign community benefits agreements.

Logan says change brings opportunity, He just hopes that everyone benefits — and that the area’s Black history is not erased in the process. He wants to make sure neighborhood voices are heard and the community isn’t harmed by gentrification.

“We don't want to go out and have to march and put signs up and picket signs and mark on your development,” Logan said “We can. But we'd rather not do that.”

Got a tip? Email Mya Nicholson at

Mya Nicholson reports for KERA's government accountability team. She studies broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas.

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Mya Nicholson reports for KERA News as an intern assigned to KERA's government accountability team. She studies broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas.