Andrea Roberts



The University of Texas at Austin, Ph.D. in Community and Regional Planning; University of Pennsylvania, M.A. in Government Administration; Vassar College, B.A. in Political Science and Women's Studies


Dr. Andrea Roberts is a planning historian, theorist, public humanities scholar, place preservationist and educator.
She is also the founder of The Texas Freedom Colonies Project, a research & social justice initiative documenting placemaking history and grassroots preservation practices in the African Diaspora.  Roberts trains future planners and preservationists to move marginalized communities’ histories, ontologies of place, methods, and agendas from the edge to the center of practice and policymaking.  Her “place preservation” framework creates applied research solutions which address access, visibility, and systemic and structural barriers to inclusion within preservation planning through engaged research.

As a scholar activist, she brings more than a decade of experience in community and economic development to her scholarship. Her public scholarship and research identify planning and historic preservation practices that sustain cultural resilience, with a specific focus on Black efficacy in these practices, grassroots planning history, and contemporary place preservation practices with settlements founded by formerly enslaved Africans in the Americas. Transdisciplinary in nature, Roberts works with critical theories of development, planning, human geography, gender and diaspora studies to help bridge grassroots and formal planning in the service of historic African American communities. Her engaged research raises awareness of the entrenched racial biases impeding documentation, recognition, and preservation of historic Black settlements’ cultural assets.

Roberts’s current work centers the unrecorded histories of endangered historic black settlements and towns in Texas called freedom colonies, founded in 1866-1930, where descendants of community founders engage in heritage conservation by keeping folklife, sacred rituals, and other cultural expressions of Black liberation. Through participatory action and engaged ethnographic research methodologies that embrace a variety of knowledge forms, including oral histories, her research richly maps these settlements and is presented as The Texas Freedom Colonies Project™. Roberts’s long-standing partnerships with descendants of the freedom colonies, resulting in the co-creation of knowledge, lay the foundation of this work as she expands this research to other regions of the U.S., and to the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville community.

Roberts is also Director of the School’s Center for Cultural Landscapes, an interdisciplinary center that produces research on and creates new models of innovative cultural landscape stewardship and critical perspectives on placemaking.

Prior to joining UVA in 2022, Roberts was an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and an Associate Director of the Center for Housing & Urban Development at Texas A&M University. She has held numerous named appointments including:  2020-21 Visiting Scholar at Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition; 2020 Whiting Public Engagement Fellow; 2016-17 Emerging Scholar Fellow in Race and Gender in the Built Environment of the American City at the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture, among others.  She is the 2019 recipient of a National Trust African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Grant, and the Vernacular Architecture Forum recently awarded her a 2020 Bishir Prize for her article on black homestead preservation. Her Texas Freedom Colony Atlas & Study received the 2019 Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Honorable Mention Award.  She has also served on Monument Lab's National Monument Audit Advisory Board.

She is the author of numerous peer-reviewed articles on African American placemaking history and practice, digital humanities, black feminist planning history, intersectionality, and preservation policy.  Roberts is currently writing a book about Black historic preservation practice to be published by the University of Texas Press.


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