Richard Brock: A True Pioneer
Towering over the western corner of Emancipation Park is a monument of Richard Brock. His legacy is often under-told. Yet his impact on the Houston community stretches beyond his 12-foot pillar.
Brock, a former slave, was one of the four founders of Emancipation Park. He worked alongside Jack Yates, Richard Allen, and David Elias Dibble to establish the park in 1872. It became a historic space to celebrate freedom every year on Juneteenth. While each of the founders had a remarkable story, their legacy respectively stands alone.
Brock was born enslaved in Kentucky and was brought to Texas around 1847. He gained his freedom before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It is unknown how he became a free man. But what is certain is that he was very accomplished. A true pioneer, Brock started a successful blacksmith business in Houston when it was nearly impossible for Blacks to have economic independence. He spent his lifetime ensuring those around him could also enjoy their freedom. He founded several ground-breaking spaces for the Black community: Oakwood cemetery, St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church, and a masonic lodge. Houston’s Emancipation Park is one of his many contributions.
During Brock’s time, there were not many spaces for the advancement of the formerly enslaved, especially regarding education. Texas refused to fund Black schools, so institutional funding had to come from taxes on Black-owned properties. Brock, a strategic landowner, donated some of his property for what became the first Black school in Houston. Today, the same land that housed the elementary school is a park named in his honor.
His contribution to his community runs deep. He was charitable with his wealth and not only poured into the generation through funds but also as a political leader. In 1870, the Texas governor appointed him as Houston’s first Black alderman to represent the fourth ward.
Brock died in 1906, but his impact continues to play a memorable role in the Houston community.
When visitors come to Emancipation Park, they can appreciate an artistic expression of Brock’s biography in his monument. His mosaic pillar towers over Elgin and Hutchins Street. It is engraved with an insight into who he was as a person.
Although Brock’s story is often under-told, his legacy deserves recognition because he was indeed a remarkable man.