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Amber Anderson: Smithville African American Oral History Project

Tree Carving, Vernon Richards Riverbend Park

Tree Carving, Vernon Richards Riverbend Park in Smithville, Texas. Courtesy Amber Anderson

Smithville, Texas is a rural historically Black town near the Colorado River in Bastrop County. Outside of Austin, the area around Smithville has started to change due to gentrification.

As newcomers move to the area and as community elders pass on, it is important to Archival Seedling Amber Anderson and to the Smithville community to document, preserve, and share their stories of rural life in Texas. The goal of Anderson's Seedlings project is to help current residents and local researchers remember and consider what life has been like for African Americans in Smithville and how it is changing. 

Anderson's extended family is from Smithville and she is connected through her family to other town residents. She is building a digital archival collection of interviews with 20-30 Smithville elders as well as images related to their stories. She plans to share her collection through a public Omeka database and a website. She will also make copies of her collected materials available through the Bastrop County Historical Society for the purpose of preservation.

Listen to Amber Anderson's interviewee, Bruce Anderson, reflect on racial dynamics during the Jim Crow era in the country town of Smithville, Texas.

Listen to Amber Anderson's interviewee, Mae Morrow, reflect on her memories of the racism she faced while growing up in Smithville, Texas and the legacy of historic racism today.

Bruce Anderson Clip: Details and Audio Transcription

Mae Morrow Clip: Details and Audio Transcription

Listen to Amber Anderson talk about why collecting oral histories has been important to preserving the history of Smithville, Texas. 

"I wanted to preserve the history of the African American community of San Antonio, Texas. Specifically, I wanted to address race relations in the area. As elders pass away, and their children leave the countryside, it is important to document those stories before they are lost...I think [the interviews] capture some unique aspects of what life was like in rural areas that are not widely discussed." 

- Amber Anderson