On this last day of Black History Month, the descendants of Texas City slaves turned landowners, are blasting the city and its first black mayor for illegally demolishing an irreplaceable piece of Black heritage. “I was starting to cry. I was choking back tears,” says Charlesa Gary, president of the African American Historical Preservation Committee in Texas City. She was watching their historical school auditorium of the first black school being torn down, days before the scheduled court hearing to protect it.
Vera Bell Gary is the proud 97-year-old granddaughter of Texas City slaves from the mid 1800’s. She’s furious with Mayor Dedrick Johnson. “I felt like crying I almost cursed that man out.”
Vera says Mayor Johnson, straight up, asked her to give away her grandfather’s land. How could he dare to take away her family’s heritage? “Four men were brave enough to save their money. They were getting paid then after they were free. They saved their money to invest in this 230 acres.”
The Bell family wouldn’t give up the property. They planned to renovate the auditorium into a community center and the city knew that. But the city demolished their building right out from under them. “So much history was lost that day,” says Charlesa Gary. Precious history. Gone forever.
Attorney Ralph Manginello represents the preservation committee in a lawsuit against the city. “The city of Texas city and the mayor decided to just violate their rights and take their property without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves,” says Manginello.
Dolcefino Consulting has been investigating Texas City’s frenzied building demolitions for years. The city faces other lawsuits for violating property owners’ rights to due process and bullying them to scoop up their land for pennies on the dollar. More than 100 properties have already been demolished.
In November 2020, Dedrick Johnson himself made history, becoming the city’s first black mayor. Now Johnson is accused abusing his power to trample the rights of Texas City’s first black families.
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