Richard Orton’s photographs displayed in celebration of Black History Month
You are invited to join members of the campus community for the formal opening of The Upshaws of County Line, in celebration of Black History Month. The opening will be from 5-7 PM Thursday, February 9, in the Prothro Room, located on the second floor of the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library.
The opening will feature remarks by the Rev. Milton S. Jordan ’62, about freedom colonies in Williamson County, as well as remarks about the work and County Line by Richard Orton, the photographer who created the works in this exhibit.
In 1988 photographer Richard Orton began what would become a 25 year project documenting life in the African American community of County Line in deep East Texas. Known as a “freedom colony,” County Line came into being when, in the 1880’s, the Upshaw brothers, Guss, Felix, and Jim, brought their families there to create a community of their own.
The familiar narrative about emancipated slaves tells us that they became sharecroppers (another form of slavery) or lived in neighborhoods in towns near whites for whom they worked. A third group, largely ignored in history books until recently, formed their own communities, mostly out of sight of white folks, out in the wilderness. County Line is such a place.
Freedom colonies add a different narrative to the Jim Crow reality experienced by African Americans beginning in the late 19th century. Unlike most blacks, the land-owning inhabitants of County Line and other such places were able to create refuges from a dominant white culture for their families.
The exhibit will be on display for the entire month of February on the second floor of the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library.
This event and exhibit are co-sponsored by Special Collections, EBONY, the Office of Diversity Education, and the Race and Ethnicities Studies Committee.