Located in Houston's Fourth Ward, the original Freedman's Town settlement was founded soon after the emancipation of enslaved blacks on June 19, 1865, at the end of the Civil War in Texas. Positioned west of downtown and directly south of Buffalo Bayou, the community gradually expanded to the south and west during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Freedman's Town quickly became the economic and cultural center of Houston's African American population, growing throughout the 1880s and 1890s. The neighborhood stretched from Buffalo Bayou south to Sutton Street, and west from Milam and Travis streets to Taft Street. A streetcar line was built west along what is now W. Dallas Street, and another line ran along Andrews to present Wilson Street, and north to Robin Street. Portions of the district, which included farmland, remained sparsely settled for several decades. The neighborhood changed as residents built many small wood-frame cottages, as well as a number of larger T-plan and L-plan houses. Commercial structures included several corner grocery stores and restaurants, as well as apartment buildings and boardinghouses.
Historic churches such as Antioch Missionary Baptist, Good Hope Missionary Baptist, Shiloh Missionary Baptist, St. James United Methodist and Bethel Baptist played important roles in the community. Clergymen from the churches were among the most prominent early leaders in Freedman's Town and included the Revs. Jack Yates, Ned P. Pullum and Jeremiah Smith. Cultural institutions included a high school, hospital and Carnegie Library. City growth and urban renewal later in the 20th century changed the boundaries and the character of Freedman's Town.