What happened to the Black students of Whiteford?
That’s what you might ask if you’ve never been there.
In 2015, an earthquake hit the town, killing dozens of Black students and teachers, and many more are still missing.
But it’s the stories of the students that keep coming up: how they survived the disaster and the people they left behind.
Here’s what we know about Black students at Whiteford.
A Black teacher was among the first to return to school.
When a small earthquake struck the town of Whitefield, Texas, the teacher who had been teaching for 12 years went to school, according to CNN.
It was the first time she’d returned to the school in her life.
Her story is a story of resilience.
“When we heard that the earthquake was going to hit Whiteford, Texas and the community of White for the first and only time, I knew that we needed to get out and go,” she told CNN.
“The students that I taught were resilient.
They would come back.
They wouldn’t back out.”
Her father, who was Black, had been a school janitor in the area for more than 30 years, before returning to the community in 2015.
“I didn’t have anything,” she said.
“And he didn’t want to give me anything.”
Her teachers and classmates were also resilient.
“They would come out.
They were all just a bunch of kids.
We were a bunch just kids,” she explained.
There are a lot of Black people working in the agricultural industry.
According to Whiteford Police Chief Steve Miller, Black students make up about 14% of the workforce at Whitefield Agricultural Schools.
Miller said he expects more Black students to return this fall.
Whiteford has a long history of economic growth, especially in rural areas.
Whitefords population grew by more than 6,000 people from 1995 to 2014, and the town’s population is forecast to increase by over 50,000 by 2060, according the United States Census Bureau.
It’s not the only Black-dominated town in Texas, either.
According in the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Black men in Texas made up nearly 40% of all agricultural workers in the United State.
Black men also make up over 20% of construction workers in Texas.
Some of the Black people who returned to Whitefield were working in construction, including the Black brothers who worked in the construction business in Whiteford and in neighboring Falfurrias, Texas.
The brothers were also the first Black people to work at the Whitefield School of Science.
The students were all working with the same crop: cotton.
“If you look at the history of the cotton industry in Texas and Arkansas, the first people to grow cotton were Black farmers.
That’s the first cotton farmers, Black cotton farmers.
And then, as we’ve seen, over the last 100 years, it has become a very white-dominated industry,” Whiteford’s mayor said.
In addition to the crops, there was also a history of violence.
“One of the main reasons that we’re having this economic recovery is because of the people who are going to be coming back,” Whitefells mayor said, adding that they were not a part of the violence that killed so many students in the town in the past.
“We have a history here, and we have to remember it,” he said.
The Black community in Whitefield is a strong one.
In 2016, Whiteford had more Black residents than the next 50 Texas cities combined.
Whitefield’s population has grown by nearly 200,000 since 2010, according Texas State University’s Harris County Population Center.
Black people make up 6.9% of Whitefels population.
White Fells has been on the frontlines of the black economic recovery.
Since 2009, Whitefell has experienced a 70% increase in its population of Black Texans, according U.N. data.
Many of the workers at Whitefills construction plant were Black.
White Ford’s construction workforce is comprised of Black men and women, who make up 10% of its workforce, according state data.
The town has also experienced economic growth.
According the U, Black jobs are up 25% since 2009 in the Black-majority city.
In a way, the students from Whiteford did a good job.
“This town is a beacon to the future,” said Whiteford Mayor David Miller.
“Now we have a real chance to create a brighter future for our students, our teachers, our community.”