Freetown - between University Avenue and the Evangeline Thruway – is a cultural jewel.
This area’s historic value can be traced back to the 1800s. When the Civil War ended, this neighborhood became a safe haven for newly freed slaves. Here, they could navigate their new freedom, and work as craftsmen.
During the Reconstruction Era, community leaders started running for local office. Some members of this community formed The True Friends, a society that would, later on, fight the KKK and The Riders of the White Camelia.
Some of the impacts of True Friends can still be seen today on the streets of Freetown.
“The town started out as an integrated neighborhood had blacks and whites there from the very beginning,” said Dr. Ray Brassieur, who spent years researching Freetown. “And it still is like that today. And that in it alone is exceptional.”
His team got Freetown to be recognized as a historic district.
He believes knowing our history is crucial to understanding our today.
“If we were to understand that history, we wouldn't be starting again on questions like voter’s rights than we have now before us,” he said.
Now a prominent figure in Lafayette and Freetown, attorney Glenn Armentor has deep roots in the area.
“When I was a little boy, I played in the Freetown community, most of my friends were little African American children,” said Armentor. “And so, I grew up in this community and all of my friends were here and I decided that I'd want to come back one day.”
He now owns what used to be Good Hope Hall. The building is an emblematic element of this neighborhood. Armentor says Louis Armstrong played at the hall more than 20 times.
“Good Hope Hall, the building that we purchased for our law practice in the middle of Freetown, is the seed of culture and history for the African American community,” he said. "It is where the African American culture began and developed and became history and became famous in the Lafayette community.”
Segregation laws in the past and the people’s desire to listen to irresistible jazz made this building an iconic piece of architecture and culture. Armentor says a band of Black jazz musicians would show up to play, and everyone wanted to dance.
“And the white people showed up to listen because it was world-class jazz, but because of segregation, they'd stay outside,” he said. “So, the white people were outside the black people were inside is probably the only place that that happened and it happened every weekend.”
Armentor plans to build a space called Freetown Hall – a park with a statue commemorating the history of Freetown. He has been working on this for decades and hopes to finish it in the next few years.
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