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Arts & Culture

7 Houston Landmarks Earn United Nations Historical Designation

Emancipation Park, the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, and others have been named UNESCO Slave Route Project sites.

Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in downtown Houston was founded in 1866 by freed slaves.
Jen Rice/Houston Public Media
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in downtown Houston was founded in 1866 by freed slaves.


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The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO is honoring some of Houston's historic African American sites as part of their Slave Route Project, an international registry of locations associated with the transatlantic slave trade.

The list of designated sites includes Emancipation Park in the Third Ward, the African American Library at the Gregory School in Freedmen's Town, the Rutherford B. H. Yates Museum, the Middle Passage Port of Galveston, Olivewood Cemetery and downtown's Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the sites at the church, which was founded in 1866 by freed slaves.

"These locations are considered a registry of historically significant cultural sites that were part of the global transatlantic slave trade, the greatest forced human migration in history," Turner said. "The Slave Route Project highlights the importance of preserving history and telling the painful truth about the dark past of slavery and how it has affected and impacted the world."

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the sites.
Jen Rice/Houston Public Media
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the sites.

He said the designation connects Houston to national and world history.

"UNESCO and the city of Houston will embrace the opportunity to engage and encourage the public to visit the sites of memory and gain a deeper understanding of our history and our future," Turner said.

Raymon Manning, chairman of the board of the Emancipation Park Conservancy, called the designation a thrilling accomplishment.

"This is an exciting time for Houston," Manning said. "We're taking our place in the cultural tourism world."

Eileen Lawal with the Houston Freedmen's Town Conservancy and the Freedmen's Town Preservation Committee thanked Vanderbilt History Professor Jane Landers for helping the city receive the designation.

"We applaud and thank all the scholars, students, historians, community volunteers, committees and advocates who have donated their time and support for many, many hours to complete the successful and demanding UNESCO application process."

Community activists, alongside Turner, have been working for years to create a cultural district in Freedmen's Town, particularly after a contractor mistakenly removed roughly 200 of the area’s historic bricks while working on a drainage project.