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The Cedar Branch church still serves as the core of the community, which was founded by freed slaves in the 1860s. (Photos by J. Griffis Smith)

Before I met Cedric Fletcher, the man who would become my husband, I had never heard of the East Texas town of Grapeland. Our courtship led me there for the Peanut Festival every October. The sweet Pennington Farms watermelons that make the summer heat bearable brought me back. And in the decade or so of visiting, I’ve learned of hidden historical treasures in the rich, red land surrounding the town, especially the Freedom Colonies.

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