How does one respond to the history of a place that has eagerly consumed its violent pasts at the expense of Black life? This question became particularly relevant in April 2018 when the city of Sugar Land, Texas, unearthed the remains of ninety-five former convict laborers on the grounds of a former sugar plantation turned prison farm. "Eating Dirt, Searching Archives" speculatively plays with a history of Sugar Land that does not rely on the city's industrial legacies. Instead, this essay turns to dirt as the archive of Texas's invisible Black geographies. Dirt is theorized as a means of preserving Black Texas life and memory alongside the difficulty of Sugar Land's violent pasts.
Outside Waco, Texas, a staged train collision from 1896 known as the "Crash at Crush" illuminates how movement and speed formed an organizing principle and perceptual framework for everyday life in the modern New South. After the Civil War, Waco remained unscarred by battles and unphased by Reconstruction. On the promise of starting anew on antebellum terms, white southerners moved to Central Texas in mass migrations that set off a boom in the region's physical and economic development. Looking at directories, city guides, and newspapers, this article traces how white southerners sacralized movement as a racialized privilege that structured their perceptions of their natural, built, and social geographies.
"The strumming of stringed instruments booms out through the PA, elaborate fiddle melodies erupt, followed by the soaring voice of the poet-practitioner, embracing those present, scanning the scene before him . . . drifting, shaping, moving verses that elicit a chorus of gritos."