AFRICA, TEXAS. Africa is three miles southeast of Center in central Shelby County. This predominantly black community was settled in the last quarter of the nineteenth century by former slaves who cleared the heavily wooded area for farming. The focus of the community was originally a one-room building that served as a school and as a meetingplace for the congregation of St. John's Baptist Church. Later a building was constructed for the church. Residents also built a two-story town hall, which served as a school building and community center where lodge meetings and other social affairs were held. Although periodic attempts were made to establish other churches in the community, none of them was successful. The school had forty-seven students in 1899, twenty in 1903, and seventy-six in 1938. At one time Africa also had a gristmill, a syrup mill, and three stores. During the 1940s and 1950s the population of the area declined, and improved transportation led to the consolidation of the school district with the Center school district. By 1983 only St. John's Baptist Church, a cemetery, and a few houses remained.
Charles E. Tatum, Shelby County: In the East Texas Hills (Austin: Eakin, 1984).