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The African American Experience: A Legacy of Emancipated Labor at Flower Hill

Kim Jennings


Howard, Jenny & "Maxwell": Three Emancipated Workers at Flower Hill

Howard, Jenny & "Maxwell": Three Emancipated Workers at Flower Hill

(Left to right) Willis Maxwell, called "Maxwell," poses for the camera, circa 1915. Jenny Moore, poses for camera circa 1915. No known photographs of Howard White exist. Images Courtesy of the Flower Hill Foundation

"All Austinites" is the newest campaign by the Flower Hill Foundation to highlight the history of the historic Flower Hill site and its connection to all Austinites.

For the first time, the Flower Hill Foundation takes a concerted look at the history of African American Emancipated workers who worked at Flower Hill from roughly 1890 to 1930. Howard White, Jenny Moore, and Willis Maxwell, "Maxwell" as he was called, form the basis of this week's iteration of "All Austinites." Your support is critical in helping us tell undertold stories and ensuring the museum better reflects the histories of Austinites from all backgrounds, helping fund new programs in 2023 exploring the history of African Americans at Flower Hill. Stay tuned later this week for special program announcements. We appreciate your support.

Howard White, Jenny Moore and Willis Maxwell were three African American Emancipated workers who labored at Flower Hill; Howard around 1893, and Jenny and Maxwell between roughly 1900 and 1930. The three tended the original Flower Hill homestead, a working farm supplied by their paid labor. Howard, a cook for the family, brought meals to the table. Around 1900, Maxwell began his work tending to the animals from cows to guinea fowl, as well as the sizable garden and orchard on the once-five-acre plot. Like Howard, he also served as a cook, later dying of a heart attack in the kitchen while making dinner in 1928. Jenny performed housekeeping tasks in addition to serving as caretaker for the young Jane Smoot.   

All formerly enslaved individuals, the three lived for at least a time in the neighboring Freedmen's Colony of Clarksville, a community of Emancipated African Americans. Jenny saved part of her earnings from Flower Hill to build a small subdivision of houses for herself and her four children. In addition to her savings, she also foraged for animal bones for their source of phosphorus, later selling them as fertilizer, further supplementing her goal to provide for her family. Married twice, both of her husbands suffered untimely deaths, one being hit by a train. 

Maxwell and two cows in the driveway at Flower Hill, date unknown. Image Courtesy of the Flower Hill Foundation

While more research needs to be conducted to create formal histories of Emancipated workers, including those of Howard, Jenny, and Maxwell, together the presence and persistence of these individuals and their labor create a richer history of Flower Hill. The work of a more nuanced placement of Flower Hill in the context of Austin and Texas history continues. Later this week we will unveil how Howard, Jenny, and Maxwell will help Flower Hill explore broader narratives of Emancipation and possibility as we announce next year's programming and ways to engage with the museum.   


Daniel Ronan 

Executive Director

Jenny Moore caring for the young Jane Smoot, circa 1919. Image Courtesy of the Flower Hill Foundation

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