The Anderson Bonner Endowment Namesake will be Honored with a Dallas Tour
The name Anderson Bonner used to mean something – something “magic” — in Dallas.
Bonner was born enslaved around 1839 and came to Dallas from Alabama as the property of a family of white settlers. He grew into a physically small man who could not read or write his name.
But after slavery ended, Bonner amassed about 2,000 acres in Far North Dallas — likely the largest real estate holdings of any black person in the Dallas area, historians say.
On some of the land, Bonner grew produce. But he leased much of it to African-American sharecroppers who farmed the land and paid him rent. With that money, he bought more land.
“He may not have looked the part but was a brilliant businessman whose name at the time was magic,” said George Keaton Jr., founder, and director of Remembering Black Dallas.
Keaton next month will lead a tour of Bonner’s former holdings as part of his group’s African-American Heritage Tour of North Dallas. Keaton said his goal for the tour is to bring well-deserved but elusive recognition for a black Dallas pioneer whose achievements aren’t well known today.
What is now North Central Expressway divides Bonner’s original properties, which roughly ran from Forest Lane north to Interstate 635. Medical City Dallas Hospital sits on part of the original property, which also included White Rock Creek and what is now the expansive Anderson Bonner Park nearby.
Anderson Bonner School — the first school for black children in North Dallas — was once in the area but closed in 1955 when Hamilton Park School opened.
Bonner had 10 children, and some descendants still live on part of his former North Dallas land. One great-grandson, Walter Bonner, resides in Hamilton Park. Another great-grandson, Harold Bonner, who lives near Houston, has spoken in public schools in recent years. Harold Bonner uses his accomplished ancestor to inspire youths that they can achieve against the odds.
Bonner descendants also work diligently to preserve Bonner’s legacy. They established the Anderson Bonner Endowment scholarship that helps Richardson public school students attend Prairie View A&M University.
Some historical records give different dates for Bonner’s birth and death, but most documents and the U. S. Census state he died around 1920 at about age 82. He is buried at White Rock Garden of Memories Cemetery in Addison, originally named White Rock Colored Union Cemetery.
Keaton’s historical preservation group is seeking historical markers for some Bonner landmarks.
Keaton’s tour of Bonner’s former land is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. October 20, 2018. The public will board a charter bus in the parking lot at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, 2922 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Activities include a lunch break and stops at farmland, a museum, early Freedman communities and cemeteries where former enslaved Africans are buried. Speakers and actors will help explain different sites.
Author: Norma Adams-Wade, Special Contributor – dallasnews.com
For application details of the Anderson Bonner Scholarship visit Richardson ISD‘s scholarship page.