Freedom Train Sculpture Honors African-Americans

Art Exhibit Several Years in the Making

An art exhibit honoring the role of blacks in Fort Worth's railway heritage went up over the weekend.

The sculpture at the Texas & Pacific Station in Fort Worth has been several years in the making.

It is a poignant reminder of the not-so-distant past when there were separate ticket windows and waiting rooms for whites and black.

"It wasn't all that long ago, and it's still embedded in our minds," said Brenda Sanders Wise, the executive director of the Tarrant County Black History and Genealogical Society.

Some things haven't changed in the last 80 years at the T&P, such as the art deco in the grand lobby, the logos on the door handles and how even some of the clocks stand still. But time has moved on.

The Freedom Train display in the station concourse takes people through the rise of blacks on the railways and in society, from laying tracks to working in the dining cars to becoming regular passengers.

"Even though segregation was in place, we had a role to play," Sanders Wise said. "We played it well, but here's the benefit -- it's being recognized right now."

While the exhibit highlights some of the darker days in U.S. history, organizers say they are proud to say that Fort Worth hasn't forgotten.

"It's important to remember -- even that part of our history that we don't want to remember, the era of segregation," said Martha Peters, vice president of public art for the Arts Council of Fort Worth & Tarrant County.

In addition to looking back on harder times, the work also commemorates Garfield Thompson, a Fort Worth state representative in the '80s and '90s who first worked in a railways dining car.

The halls of the concourse aren't as busy as they once were; just TRE runs trains these days. But the hope is that those who see the work will member how far we've all come.

"We can't forget; we won't forget," Sanders Wise said. "This is a reminder. Everyone in Fort Worth should be proud of this piece."

The sculpture is a collaboration of several groups and agencies, including the genealogical society, the arts council, the city of Fort Worth, The T and the T&P Lofts.

For more on the project, you can visit Fort Worth Public Art's website.

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