Black Texas Family Fights State’s Efforts To Seize Their Historic Farmland

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A Black family in Texas is fighting once again to keep farmland they’ve owned for generations amid plans to expand U.S. Highway 183, the Houston Chronicle reports.

The descendants of Daniel Alexander, a slave who obtained 73.3 acres of land from his owners in 1847, are concerned that part of their property near the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport will soon be taken by transportation officials to expand the highway and relieve congestion south of Austin.

“We are a 175-year-old presence. That is our home,” said Rosalind Alexander-Kasparik, a fifth-generation Alexander descendant born and raised on the land, per The Chronicle. “Our lives, blood, dreams, and aspirations are here. These acres first acquired by (our) great-great-grandfather and his mother are our identity and legacy as well as everything around us.”

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) initially seized a portion of the family’s farm in 1968 to construct Route 183.

Now, as the department looks to expand the number of lanes from four to 12, an additional 400 feet of the family’s property could be taken away, potentially destroying historic homes and the unmarked graves of their relatives.

TxDOT first informed the family of its intention to expand the number of US 183 lanes in November 2019.

Since then, the family has continued to speak out to defend their historic land.

According to Alexander-Kasparik, TxDOT promised to consider other alternatives for the expansion, such as using FM 973, but their land is still up for grabs.

“It’s unacceptable,” Alexander-Kasparik said of the possible seizure.

Diann Hodges, the Southwest Texas communications director for TxDOT, said a feasibility study for the widening of the highway was put on hold for a while but has just recently restarted.

Outreach to the public and in-depth research is scheduled to begin later this year.

According to The Chronicle, Daniel Alexander, who lived from 1810 to 1883, taught African Americans in the region how to ride horses for work and competitions.

Alexander-Kasparik said her ancestor’s training helped others escape slavery on horses.

“That’s among one of the incredible findings about my great-great-grandfather,” Alexander-Kasparik told The Chronicle. “Every facet seems to show the ancestor’s perseverance; it is important to the community, city of Austin, state of Texas, and the nation.”

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