DALLAS (KDAF) — In honor of Black History Month, we spoke with the gentleman behind The Mount Experience in downtown Dallas. He worked with his multigenerational family to uncover their roots here in Texas.

Many of us learned some of our very first history lessons in a space much like this. That’s why Rodney Hawkins, the creator of The Mount Experience here at AT&T Discovery District, brings us to his great grandma’s house to explain his family’s history and explain his journey to uncovering it.

“My family came to Texas in 1841, as slaves, I started asking questions to my great grandmother. She was 106-years-old, I was actually doing a project with the Southern Methodist University professor. And he challenged me and he said, You need to go interview your great grandmother right now. You do not know how long you will have her. I interviewed her. And three months later, she passed away, I started asking more questions and more questions and more questions. And then at one point, one of my cousins told me they’re like you have all these questions in this great, we don’t have any answers for you. But what we do know is we have an immediate need with a cemetery and it’s deep in the back of the woods off our property, there was all this overgrowth, and we need to get back there and restore it. We still have active burials at the cemetery there. During the pandemic, we went back there, and we had machetes and chainsaws. And it was like going through a forest, which is what we’re surrounded by right now. All of this actual live moss, I wanted to bring this feeling of what it was like to actually go back into the deep of the thick of the woods. We had family from across the country. And our elders were there we had from I think we had like five year old nieces cousins come out at two all the way to 80 plus of our elders who were willing to help and get their hands dirty. I’m a journalist at heart started asking more questions. And I’m like, Who are these people that are here? Like I know the names were how do we all connect, and a historian and a librarian at Stephen F. Austin State University helped us start mapping back, my family member, his name is Richard Curl was sold, in 1841, and it was on the record here in the state of Texas. As soon as he was freed in 1865, Juneteenth, he started buying property. Well, that land that he purchased is what helped us still have the land that we need to do to this day. And it’s been in our family for almost 150 years, anthropologists came out historians to document everything that was in the cemetery. And the Texas Historical Society, officially put it on the record as a cemetery. And so that was a very important distinction for us to get because a lot of these cemeteries get lost and no one has a record of them. All of us have a story all of us have a history. And I hope me sharing mine and The Mount Experience is something that everyone can see they can do as well.”

Rodney Hawkins

There was a lot of beauty to see throughout The Mount Experience. But as you walk around, you really get a sense for how much hard work this family had to go through to uncover their family history. You’ll be able to smell the moss and all the wildlife they dug through to get to that cemetery.