1928 (“Negro District”), 2013 (Six Square District)


The Six Square District, formerly known as Austin’s African American Cultural Heritage District, is the first designated Black cultural district in Texas, and the only cultural district in the city of Austin. The district encompasses significant historical sites, murals, and attractions that highlight the rich Black culture that has existed in Austin since its inception.


As part of its segregationist 1928 Master Plan, the City of Austin designated a six-square mile area in East Austin—originally called the “Negro District”—where African American citizens and institutions were forced to relocate. Despite the lack of public services, parkland, and investment, the area blossomed as a hub for Black businesses, churches, and schools. Key destinations include Huston-Tillotson University, Downs Field, George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, Oakwood Cemetery, African American Cultural and Heritage Facility, the historic East 11th and East 12th Street African American Music and Commercial Corridors, and several murals and Black-owned small businesses.

In 2013, the Six Square nonprofit organization was formed as a part of the Austin City Council’s African American Quality of Life Initiative. Its mission is to celebrate and preserve the legacy of Central East Austin’s Black community “through cultural arts, education, economic development, and historic preservation.” The organization’s programs include preservation grants, exhibitions, historical tours, festivals, and mural commissions. Combined, the group’s strategic investments have helped preserve historic Black spaces, fostered artistic cultivation, and served as a catalyst for social and economic development within the district. (For a deeper dive into Six Square’s history, consider joining one of the nonprofit’s own walking tours.)

The designation of Six Square as a Black cultural district is a major feat for the City of Austin in that it allows for the legal protection and preservation of the many buildings, sites, and murals that are significant to the city’s African American community. Once exclusively occupied by Austin’s Black community, the Six Square District has become a hotbed for gentrification. Exploring the area today, you will notice cultural landmarks such as the Victory Grill sprinkled in among mid-rises, boutique hotels, and luxury retail. Such markers serve as important reminders of the rich history upon which Austin is built. As the city continues to attract newcomers from all over the country, preserving the history and identity of these communities will ensure that their legacies continue to influence the future of Austin. – Sabrina Ortiz Luna, Assoc. AIA, NOMA

Photo Credits:

Bud Franck, AIA