Founded at the end of WWII on a barren piece of prairie located near Houston’s commercial port, the neighborhood of Pleasantville was designed to be a thriving community of Black homeowners in an era when racist policies of segregation and redlining undermined Black aspirations across the country.
What emerged was a hub for Houston’s Black professional class, dedicated to civic engagement and anchored in community pride. As the neighborhood flourished in its first decades, the land around it developed into a patchwork of toxic industries and heavy infrastructure, from chemical storage facilities to two of the city’s main highways. By the mid-1970s, Pleasantville had been turned into a classic industrial sacrifice zone, exemplifying how race, rather than income, education or even political clout, is often the defining factor in determining which neighborhoods, and which residents, will be on the front lines of industrial pollution.
Project Pleasantville is a collaboration between Pleasantville community members Ms. Bridgette Murray (founder of ACTS) and Mr. Cleophus Sharp (ACTS volunteer), and a team of researchers, students, and archivists at Rice University, originally led by Dr. Zoë Wool and Dr. Lacy Johnson. In addition to the timeline exhibit here, the project also includes a growing collection of oral histories and archival materials housed at the Woodson Research Archives at Rice University, updates to the neighborhood’s Wikipedia page, a poster series, and a range of student research projects.
Project Pleasantville founders: Bridgette Murray, Cleophus Sharp, Zoë Wool, Lacy M. Johnson.Read More