Preserving the real places and the real stories of Texas.

Real Places 2019: From Emancipation To Excavation

Stories From Archeological Investigations At Ransom Williams Farmstead

Breakout 5B

Day/Time: Friday, January 18, 9:30–10:45 a.m.
Location: Capitol View Terrace N, 3rd Floor
Speakers: Doug Boyd, Prewitt and Associates, Inc.; Maria Franklin, University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Anthropology; and Deborah Gray, Curriculum Specialist

Texas history is full of legends, from its early European colonists to the struggle for independence and beyond. This session will highlight one exceptional story of freedom. Ransom Williams was a slave freed during Emancipation. Archeological excavations and oral histories sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation brought to life the stories of struggle and success from the Williams family in Austin after the Civil War. Participants will learn how complex archeological findings can be translated to impactful storytelling; experience the project’s robust and interactive educational curriculum and learn how to apply that in their own work; and hear from descendant communities who helped paint a vivid picture of community life for African Americans in rural Travis County and Austin during the early 20th century.


Douglas K. Boyd is a vice president at Austin-based Prewitt and Associates, Inc., a cultural resources services firm where he has also served as project archeologist or principal investigator since 1987. He has a master’s degree in Anthropology from Texas A&M University and a bachelor’s degree in General Studies-Archeology from West Texas State University. Boyd also serves as the Texas Archeological Society’s representative on the Antiquities Advisory Board to the Texas Historical Commission and on the advisory board to the Texas Preservation Trust Fund.


Maria Franklin is an associate professor of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a historical archeologist who has conducted research in both Virginia and Texas. Following on the heels of her oral history and community outreach efforts with the Ransom and Sarah Williams Farmstead Project, Franklin and her students have been working at Antioch Colony, a freedmen's site in Hays County.

ABOUT Deborah Gray

Deborah Gray has more than 11 years of experience as an educator with the Garland Independent School District. During her tenure there, she developed the Pre-Advanced Placement curriculum for Texas History at the district’s Austin Academy for Excellence magnet school. With a master’s degree in Humanities and bachelor’s degree in History, she was able to see the enormous educational potential in teaching 7th grade students how to piece together historical data, evaluate artifacts, and interpret oral history—thereby telling Ransom Williams’ story. Recently retired, Gray looks forward to continuing her historical studies as a lifelong graduate student, as well as pursuing her interest in her family’s genealogical history.