||The first African Americans to live in Oak Cliff were slaves, brought here by settlers such as William H. Hord in 1845 to work the land. The neighborhood that grew here became known as the Tenth Street District, an important African American enclave within the historically white community of Oak Cliff. It was not until after the Civil War that the Freedman’s Town began to grow and thrive. Records differ as to when and how quickly African Americans settled here, but by 1900, Oak Cliff contained more than 500 African American residents, almost a sixth of the town’s population. Segregation forced the development of a separate commercial district. The community thrived, and even gave rise to famous entertainers like the noted blues artist, T-Bone Walker, and 1960 Olympic gold medal decathlete Rafer Johnson.
Though the community continued to maintain a strong African American heritage, the construction of IH-35 east in 1955 and integration in the 1960s resulted in the demolition of around 175 original structures and influenced residents to seek opportunities elsewhere. Residential buildings date to as early as 1910 and are relatively unchanged. Oak Cliff Cemetery, established in 1846 by settler William Beaty, is within the heart of the district near the 1928 N. W. Harllee School. Other significant buildings include the 1889 Sunshine Elizabeth Chapel CME (demolished 1999) and the 1886 Greater El Bethel Baptist Church. The degree to which these historic buildings remain standing and in good repair marks the Tenth Street Area as one of the more well-preserved African American communities of this time period remaining in the Dallas Metropolitan Area. Oak Cliff’s Tenth Street Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 in recognition of its cultural significance and architectural value.