Slavery and Freedom in Texas: Stories from the Courtroom, 1821–1871

Posted in Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Law, Monographs, Slavery, Texas, United States on 2017-07-19 03:22Z by Steven

Slavery and Freedom in Texas: Stories from the Courtroom, 1821–1871

University of Georgia Press
2017-11-01
258 pages
2 b&w photos, 8 maps
Trim size: 6 x 9
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-8203-5133-9
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8203-5163-6

Jason A. Gillmer, John J. Hemmingson Chair in Civil Liberties and Professor of Law
Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington

Riveting trials that exposed conflicting attitudes toward race and liberty

In these absorbing accounts of five court cases, Jason A. Gillmer offers intimate glimpses into Texas society in the time of slavery. Each story unfolds along boundaries—between men and women, slave and free, black and white, rich and poor, old and young—as rigid social orders are upset in ways that drive people into the courtroom.

One case involves a settler in a rural county along the Colorado River, his thirty-year relationship with an enslaved woman, and the claims of their children as heirs. A case in East Texas arose after an owner refused to pay an overseer who had shot one of her slaves. Another case details how a free family of color carved out a life in the sparsely populated marshland of Southeast Texas, only to lose it all as waves of new settlers “civilized” the county. An enslaved woman in Galveston who was set free in her owner’s will—and who got an uncommon level of support from her attorneys—is the subject of another case. In a Central Texas community, as another case recounts, citizens forced a Choctaw native into court in an effort to gain freedom for his slave, a woman who easily “passed” as white.

The cases considered here include Gaines v. Thomas, Clark v. Honey, Brady v. Price, State v. Ashworth, and Webster v. Heard. All of them pitted communal attitudes and values against the exigencies of daily life in an often harsh place. Here are real people in their own words, as gathered from trial records, various legal documents, and many other sources. People of many colors, from diverse backgrounds, weave their way in and out of the narratives. We come to know what mattered most to them—and where those personal concerns stood before the law.

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The Strange Career of William Ellis

Posted in Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States, Videos on 2017-04-15 23:40Z by Steven

The Strange Career of William Ellis

C-SPAN
2017-04-08

Karl Jacoby talked about his book, The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire. He spoke at the 5th annual San Antonio Book Festival.

Watch the video (00:45:45) here.

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Mexican Is Not a Race

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, History, Interviews, Latino Studies, Texas, United States on 2017-04-10 02:09Z by Steven

Mexican Is Not a Race

The New Inquiry
2017-04-06

Chris Chen and Wendy Trevino

Poet Wendy Trevino argues that a radical new Chicanx politics means forging an identity based on shared political struggle, not myths of racial homogeneity–an idea rooted in anarchist struggles along the Texas-Mexican border a century ago

WITH the recent publication of a chapbook of sonnets, Brazilian Is Not a Race, poet Wendy Trevino excavates a history of racial violence at the borders of the U.S. and beyond. The chapbook also describes a childhood spent in the Rio Grande Valley where the narrator is pressured to internalize the social hierarchies that organize daily life in Harlingen, Texas.

Blurring boundaries of polemic and historical description, the poems trace the roots of these social divisions through the legacy of murderous state and settler border violence. But Trevino balances this account with a less familiar counter-history of militant Tejano resistance, embodied in figures like anarcho-syndicalist Ricardo Flores Magón. By presenting both histories, the work shows how border-making congeals racist “commonsense” assumptions over time, and also interrogates fundamentally anti-black and anti-indigenous Latin American state programs to cultivate cultural unity through “race mixing.” Attentive to the emergence of racial hierarchies out of a history of enslavement and the Spanish and English colonization of the Americas, Trevino’s writing returns to an unsettled past where unity is not a precondition for political action, but a product of it…

CHRIS CHEN. I know Vasconcelos and Gloria Anzaldua have different understandings of the political implications of miscegenation. I’m reminded here of critic Jared Sexton’s account of how Vasconcelos’s version of mestizaje preserves an anti-black and anti-indigenous racial order as a “dream of unequivocally hierarchical global integration” whose “eugenicist impulses and implications are unavoidable, casting long shadows over whatever limited threats it presents to the ‘ethnic absolutism’ of Anglo-Saxon white supremacy.”

WENDY TREVINO. During “nation building” in both Mexico and Brazil, elites promoted strong mestizaje ideologies that imagined the prototypical citizens of each country to be mixed-race, although the imagined mix was different in each country. To say a country or place is racially homogenous because everyone’s a “mix” of the same peoples is to acknowledge existing racial divisions without acknowledging the racial hierarchies from which they stem, and as long as there are prisons, plantations, maquiladoras, favelas, etc., one can only ignore these hierarchies and their relation to the racialization of peoples. This conception of mestizaje can also erase whole groups of people, which became clear to me when I returned to Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands and the story of Malinche

Read the entire interview here.

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The Strange Career of William Ellis: Texas Slave to Mexican Millionaire

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2017-03-12 01:45Z by Steven

The Strange Career of William Ellis: Texas Slave to Mexican Millionaire

Columbia News: Office of Communications and Public Affairs
Columbia University, New York, New York
2016-06-28


Karl Jacoby

The odds were certainly against William Henry Ellis, who was born into slavery on a Texas cotton plantation near the Mexico border.

But a combination of sheer moxie, an ability to speak Spanish and an olive skin allowed Ellis to reinvent himself. By the turn of the 20th century, he was Guillermo Enrique Eliseo, a successful Mexican entrepreneur with an office on Wall Street, an apartment on Central Park West and business dealings with companies and corporations halfway around the world.

His unusual life story is told in a new book titled The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire by Karl Jacoby, a professor in the history department and the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. Ellis “learned how to be what people wanted him to be, and how to be sure that people would see what they want to see,” Jacoby said…

Read the entire article here.

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Dating in the Time of #BlackLivesMatter

Posted in Articles, Media Archive, Social Justice, Social Science, Texas, United States, Women on 2016-12-19 00:06Z by Steven

Dating in the Time of #BlackLivesMatter

Racism Review: shcolarship and activism toward racial justice
2016-02-24

Shantel Buggs, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Sociology
The University of Texas, Austin

When I started my dissertation research a year ago, I had not considered what impact the widespread media coverage of #BlackLivesMatter as a movement and rallying cry might have on my respondents. With my research, I intended to explore the online dating experiences of women who identify as multiracial here in Texas; what I have found has been a complex mobilization of Black Lives Matter as a metric of racial progressiveness. In 2016, it has become clear that the increased media attention being paid to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is shaping a particular orientation toward, and conversation around, race and racism in the United States. As scholar Khury Petersen-Smith notes, the movement has “shattered what remained of the notion of a ‘post-racial’ America.” More specifically, my work has found that BLM has impacted individual-level relationships, creating a framework within which people are able to evaluate and “vet” their dating partners, especially amidst claims that society is more “progressive” and that the atrocities we have witnessed are “not about race.”

As every good social scientist knows, words mean things. The language around, and produced by, movements like BLM – particularly in regards to discourses of race, racial inequality, state-sanctioned violence, and racism – has influenced the ways in which the multiracial women in my study discuss race, racism, and inequality in the context of their intimate relationships. Several women have described using their own stances on the issues BLM addresses as a means of selecting potential dating partners. This finding suggests that BLM and other widespread social justice movements are having significant impacts on how people are navigating racial politics on an interpersonal level. This is particularly pertinent during a time where U.S. media and popular culture is especially focused on issues of racism and state-sanctioned violence…

Read the entire article here.

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Afro-Latinos: a vision of Houston’s mixed-race future

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Arts, Census/Demographics, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2016-12-05 01:58Z by Steven

Afro-Latinos: a vision of Houston’s mixed-race future

The Houtson Chronicle
Houston, Texas
2016-11-19

Olivia P. Tallet, Reporter

Afro-Latinos embody Texas’ mixed-race future

It happens all the time. At the taco truck, Raul Orlando Edwards placed his fajita order: “Señorita, por favor, póngale la cebolla bien cocida” (“I’d like the onions well-done.”)

“Man,” said the African-American behind him in line, “how did you learn to do that?” Meaning: Why, for a black man, is your Spanish so good?

“I’m Latino,” Edwards answered. The director of the Strictly Street Salsa Studio and founder of the Afro-Latino Festival of Houston, he’s a Panamanian-Jamaican immigrant.

The guy stated the obvious: “I thought you were black!”

“I’m blacker than you are!” Edwards replied. And, he says, they laughed.

These days, in both Texas and the U.S. at large, skin color is an ever less reliable indicator of identity. According to a 2015 Pew survey, about a quarter of U.S. Hispanics identify themselves as Afro-Latino. Like Edwards, the vast majority (70 percent) are foreign-born.

Afro-Latinos generally are descendants of African slaves brought to Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most are biracial or multiracial. Being Afro-Latino, says Alain Lawo-Sukam, professor of Hispanic and Africana Studies at Texas A&M University, is less about skin color than about identity and a sense of belonging.

By their very existence, Afro-Latinos challenge the traditional “one-drop” view of race in the United States: the idea that one drop of African blood makes a person black. Afro-Latinos like Edwards aren’t simply black, white or Hispanic. They’re a combination – and as such, a vision of the United States’ racially and ethnically complex future. They’re a minority inside a minority; a melting pot within the melting pot…

Read the entire article here.

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Audiology freshman talks finding cultural identity on campus

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2016-09-04 00:48Z by Steven

Audiology freshman talks finding cultural identity on campus

The Daily Texan: Serving the University of Texas at Austin community since 1900
2016-08-31

Henry Youtt


Audiology freshman Karis Paul is the daughter of an Indian father and a half-Irish, half-Austrian mother. Mixed-race students make up only 3 percent of the students on campus.
Photo Credit: Juan Figueroa | Daily Texan Staff

“What race are you?” the questionnaire reads above a set of yet unmarked boxes.

White. Black. Hispanic.

For many people, this requires just another stroke of the pen, but for audiology freshman Karis Paul, there’s a little more to it than that.

Growing up in El Paso — where the population is approximately 80 percent Hispanic — Karis, the daughter of an Indian father and a half-Irish, half-Austrian mother, found acceptance in a town that exudes racial diversity. However, Karis was seen as white, leaving her uncertain of her identity in a nation that didn’t allow people to check multiple boxes in the census’ race category until 2000.

“My situation was nothing that I was very aware of until I got a little older,” Karis said. “I would tell people I’m Indian, and they’d be like, ‘What? Are you serious? Show me a picture of your dad.’ They would say, ‘You’re so not Indian.’”

Only about 3 percent of students on campus identify as mixed race. Karis said this underrepresentation often leads to misunderstandings in conversations about racial identity or, in her case, a sheer lack of such conversations…

Read the entire article here.

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Biography: ‘The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire,’ by Karl Jacoby

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2016-07-22 18:41Z by Steven

Biography: ‘The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire,’ by Karl Jacoby

The Dallas Morning News
2016-06-24

Karen M. Thomas, Professor of Journalism
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

From all accounts, Guillermo Enrique Eliseo commanded attention. The elegantly dressed Mexican-born Wall Street baron in Gilded Age Manhattan was known for his gold watch, fine taste and ability to strike business deals on both sides of the border. He also had a huge secret.

Eliseo began life not on a Mexican hacienda but across the border on a Texas plantation where he was born into slavery as William Henry Ellis. How he transformed himself into Eliseo is the topic of The Strange Career of William Ellis.

Karl Jacoby is a stellar researcher, and the topic is fascinating. He ferrets out Ellis’ tale of reinvention from historical documents, news accounts and Ellis’ personal material, including letters to his family. Where records are scarce, such as for the years Ellis was a slave on a Victoria plantation, Jacoby instead turns to what is known about American slavery itself. He describes Texas’ role in trying to keep cotton as king and what life was like in Victoria, a town close to the U.S. and Mexican borders, in the 1800s. By doing so, Jacoby is able to extrapolate Ellis’ experience, motivation and preparation for ultimately redefining his personal racial boundaries

Read the entire review here.

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Across the Border

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2016-07-22 14:40Z by Steven

Across the Border

The Nation
2016-07-21

Michael A. Elliott, Professor of English
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia


William Henry Ellis, (Photo courtesy of Fanny Johnson-Griffin)

A new biography of William Henry Ellis reminds us how much we still don’t know about the elusive history of racial subterfuge in America.

When, in 1912, James Weldon Johnson published his sly and searching novel of racial passing, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, he did so anonymously, leaving readers to assume it was a factual account of a light-skinned African American crossing the color line to travel in the world of whiteness. In the aftermath of its publication, Johnson took pleasure in listening to others puzzle over its authorship. He even had “the rarer experience,” as he later described it, of being introduced to someone else claiming to have written the book. The story, it seems, was too good not to be true.

In the long era of Jim Crow, fact could be as strange, if not stranger, than fiction. At precisely the same moment that Johnson was enjoying his literary ruse, a fellow New Yorker calling himself Guillermo Enrique Eliseo was frantically trying to keep his financial interests in Mexico afloat as that country convulsed under wave after wave of political revolt. With each new regime, the businessman sought to curry favor and press for new investment opportunities, but the changes were so rapid that he struggled to find the proper currency in which to pay his taxes. Many of those who knew Eliseo presumed him to be a Mexican from near the US border (though others thought he was Cuban, or even Hawaiian), a well-traveled gentleman active in Latin America’s quest for modernization.

Had Johnson known Eliseo, he might have nodded in recognition. Eliseo had been born as an African-American slave on a South Texas cotton plantation in 1864, just as the entire social order of the region was being transformed by the conclusion of the Civil War. Over the course of a lifetime, Eliseo—or, as he was more commonly known, William Henry Ellis—built both elaborate fictions and an impressive network of business interests that spanned North America and beyond. His biography is the subject of a new book by historian Karl Jacoby, with a title that gives away its story: The Strange Career of William Ellis: The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire. Ellis’s life and Jacoby’s reconstruction of it remind us how much we still don’t know about the elusive history of racial subterfuge in America…

Read the entire article here.

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A Tale of Racial Passing and the U.S.-Mexico Border

Posted in Articles, Biography, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Mexico, Passing, Texas, United States on 2016-07-20 21:18Z by Steven

A Tale of Racial Passing and the U.S.-Mexico Border

The New Yorker
2016-07-20

Jonathan Blitzer


The African-American businessman William Ellis, pictured here around the year 1900, frequently passed as Mexican.
COURTESY FANNY JOHNSON-GRIFFIN

Some people knew him as William Ellis, and others as Guillermo Eliseo. He could be Mexican, Cuban, or even Hawaiian, depending on whom you asked. Everyone seemed to agree that he was spectacularly wealthy and successful. In the dime-store Who’s Who books that were popular at the turn of the twentieth century, his name, in one form or another, appeared regularly. He was a “Banker, Broker, and Miner,” who came to New York from the “Mexican frontier,” an exemplar of the self-made man.

It was one of his life’s many ironies that the pedigreed gatekeepers of American high commerce celebrated his origin story without knowing a thing about his actual origins. William Ellis was born a slave, in Texas, in the eighteen-sixties. Like at least some of his siblings, he was light-skinned, but with a key difference: on the city census that recorded blackness with a “c” (for “colored”), Ellis was somehow spared the label. In his early twenties, he got into the cotton trade after a brief apprenticeship with a white local businessman, shuttling back and forth to the cities in northern Mexico. He started telling people that he was Mexican, and that he had anglicized his name for their convenience, as Karl Jacoby recounts in his fascinating new book, “The Strange Career of William Ellis.” Having grown up just south of San Antonio, along the border, Ellis came to speak fluent Spanish. He quickly grasped the possibilities of bilingualism in the race-riven landscape of the Reconstruction-era South…

Read the entire article here.

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