When Louisiana Creoles Arrived in Texas, Were They Black or White?

Posted in Articles, History, Louisiana, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2015-12-21 02:05Z by Steven

When Louisiana Creoles Arrived in Texas, Were They Black or White?

Zócalo Public Square

Tyina Steptoe, Assistant Professor of History
University of Arizona

Tyina Steptoe’s book, Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City, was published by the University of California Press in 2015.

Mixed-Race Migrants Came to Houston for Jobs and Ended Up Challenging Definitions of Race

Actor Taye Diggs recently raised eyebrows by declaring that he hopes his young son—who has a white mother of Portuguese descent—identifies as “mixed” instead of black. Diggs, who is African-American, also included President Barack Obama in his statement. “Everybody refers to him as the first black president. I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying that it’s interesting. It would be great if it didn’t matter and that people could call him mixed. We’re still choosing to make that decision, and that’s when I think you get into some dangerous waters.”

So, who is “black” in America? To answer this question, I think it helps to look at the history of Houston, the city where I grew up and a place that has grappled with the black-white color line in a different way than we’ve conventionally come to understand race in America. A sizable population of people in Houston through the 20th century has identified as “Creole”—and many never really identified as black or white.

The Creoles who came to live in Houston were descendants of a free, mixed-race population that appeared in colonial Louisiana in the 18th century. The first generation typically had French or Spanish fathers and African mothers. Coerced sexual relationships, complex negotiations, and outright rape led to the creation of this population. Some white men freed their mixed-race offspring, who became known as gens de couleur libre (free people of color). Free people of color formed a separate racial group in colonial Louisiana. Since they were free, they were not lumped into the same category as black slaves. But they also did not have the same legal status as white people. Free people of color, then, were neither white nor black. Following the end of slavery in 1865, they called themselves Creoles of color, a name that future generations continued to use to identify themselves as a group…

Read the entire article here.

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Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Monographs, Texas, United States on 2015-12-21 01:56Z by Steven

Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City

University of California Press
November 2015
320 pages
Hardback ISBN: 9780520282575
Paperback ISBN: 9780520282582

Tyina Steptoe, Assistant Professor of History
University of Arizona

Beginning after World War I and continuing throughout the twentieth century, Houston was transformed from a black-and-white frontier town into one of the most ethnically and racially diverse urban areas in the United States. Houston Bound draws on social and cultural history to show how, despite Anglo attempts to fix racial categories through Jim Crow laws, converging migrations—particularly those of Mexicans and Creoles—complicated ideas of blackness and whiteness and introduced different understandings about race. This migration history is also a story about music and sound, tracing the emergence of Houston’s blues and jazz scenes in the 1920s as well as the hybrid forms of these genres—like zydeco and Tejano soul—that arose when migrants forged shared social space and carved out new communities and politics. Houston’s location on the Gulf Coast, poised between the American South and the West, yields a particularly rich examination of how the histories of colonization, slavery, and segregation produced divergent ways of thinking about race.

This interdisciplinary book provides both an innovative historiography about migration and immigration in the twentieth century and a critical examination of a city located in the former Confederacy.

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B. Iden Payne Awards 2015 Winners and Nominees

Posted in Articles, Arts, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2015-10-27 19:40Z by Steven

B. Iden Payne Awards 2015 Winners and Nominees

B. Iden Payne Awards
Austin, Texas

Below are the nominees for the 2014-2015 theatrical season.

THEATER FOR YOUTH: 2014 – 2015  Season

Outstanding Production

Winner: Am I White / Salvage Vanguard Theater

Outstanding Direction

Winner: Jenny Larson / Am I White, Salvage Vanguard Theater

Outstanding Lead Actor

Winner: J. Ben Wolfe (Wesley Connor) / Am I White, Salvage Vanguard Theater

Outstanding Featured Actor

Winner: Michael Joplin (Ryan) / Am I White, Salvage Vanguard Theater

Outstanding Original Script

Winner: Adrienne Dawes / Am I White, Salvage Vanguard Theater

Read the entire Winners and Nominees list here.

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Here’s what I did when racists complained about an interracial family in my magazine

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2015-07-28 02:32Z by Steven

Here’s what I did when racists complained about an interracial family in my magazine

The Washington Post

Scott Vogel, Editor-in-Chief
Houstonia, a city magazine based in Houston, Texas

Offended by this image? Houstonia magazine doesn’t want your business. (Photo by Chris Skiles/Houstonia)

Don’t compare me to business owners who refuse to serve LGBT customers

As editor in chief of a lifestyle magazine, my job has been to balance two competing concerns of the journalism business: publishing stories that make a difference and selling ads that make money. This month, I discovered a third, hitherto unknown concern: ads that make a difference.

The full-page ad on the first page of Houstonia magazine’s June issue seemed innocuous. It showed a family of five in cozy domesticity, enjoying the warmly capacious living room they ostensibly found through the upscale real estate agency that created the ad. Mom stood barefoot in the living room, an arm around her 5-year-old daughter. Dad sat on an overstuffed sofa, struggling to keep the couple’s squirmy 2-year-old from leaving his lap. And at their feet was an unbearably cute baby boy perched atop an embroidered pillow on the family’s rug. Carefully composed and brightly lit, the scene, it seemed, could be described with just one word: adorable. But as it turned out, there was another word for it: disgusting.

That’s how a suburban Houston doctor described the image in an email to Ashton Martini Group, the real estate company responsible for the ad. “I will not put this magazine in my reception area!” he wrote. The source of his disgust? The mother in the ad was white; the father, black; and the couple’s three children, biracial. A second complaint reached me a week later, from a subscriber who confessed that, although he liked our magazine, “I just can’t go for racial mixing.” And so, lest his children “get it into their heads that this is okay,” he had taken our June issue straight from the mailbox to the trashcan.

I followed the two men’s impulsive actions with one of my own…

Read the entire article here.

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(Collective) Memory of Racial Violence and the Social Construction of the Hispanic Category among Houston Hispanics

Posted in Articles, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Social Science, Texas, United States on 2015-07-21 01:51Z by Steven

(Collective) Memory of Racial Violence and the Social Construction of the Hispanic Category among Houston Hispanics

Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
Volume 1, Number 3 (July 2015)
pages 424-438
DOI: 10.1177/2332649215576757

Elizabeth Korver-Glenn
Department of Sociology
Rice University, Houston, Texas

Prior U.S.-based research examining the collective remembrance of racially charged events has focused on the black-white binary, largely bypassing such remembrance among U.S. Hispanics. In this article, I ask how a group of Mexican-origin Hispanics in an historic Houston barrio remember two racially charged events as well as whether and how these events are publicly commemorated. Additionally, race and collective memory research has often highlighted the role of collective memory in shaping race relations. I argue that collective memory can also be an institution, structuring macro- and micro-level representations of race. Thus, I ask whether and how respondents’ memories shape the social construction of the Hispanic category. I find strong memory convergence with respect to one event—the case of Jose Campos Torres—and divergence in three directions with respect to the Moody Park riot. The former corresponds to a collective understanding of what Hispanic meant in the past while the latter corresponds to a fractured understanding of what Hispanic means in the present. I also explore how respondents’ racial self-perceptions coincide with their various interpretations of the riot. Overall, I theorize that a fractured collective memory of a racially charged event suggests a fractured collective identity and contributes to an ambiguous Hispanic category. I conclude by discussing suggestions for future research.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Texas woman discovers she’s white after 70 years

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, Passing, Texas, United States, Videos on 2015-06-24 01:49Z by Steven

Texas woman discovers she’s white after 70 years

Houston, Texas

Marvin Hurst, Reporter
KENS 5 TV, San Antonio, Texas

Byrd with her adoptive family. (Photo: (Photo: Family Photograph))

The mere mention of Rachel Dolezal’s name sets Verda Byrd off like a stick of dynamite. “She lied about her race,” Byrd said. “I didn’t lie about my race because I didn’t know.”

Dolezal’s much publicized choice to identify herself as black has been under scrutiny. The former NAACP President in Spokane, Wash. is accused of deceiving the public by insisting she was not only of black descent but black herself.

Byrd considers herself African-American. Her preference in race comes through an incredible set of circumstances. She was born to Earl and Daisy Beagle in September 1942. They named her Jeanette. She describes her parents as white transients.

Earl walked out on his family. At the time, Daisy had five children to take care of. The struggling mother had to get a job to feed her kids and keep a roof over their heads. The woman fell 30 feet to the ground in a trolley accident. The state of Missouri took her children because she was in no shape to care for them…

Read the entire article here. Watch the story here.

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Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Politics/Public Policy, Religion, Texas, United States, Women on 2013-09-15 20:08Z by Steven

Las Tejanas: 300 Years of History

University of Texas Press
456 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
142 illustrations, 3 tables
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-292-70527

Teresa Palomo Acosta

Ruthe Winegarten (1929-2004)


  • 2004 T.R. Fehrenbach Award; Texas Historical Commission
  • Texas Reference Source Award; Reference Round Table, Texas Library Association

This groundbreaking book is at once a general history and a celebration of Tejanas’ contributions to Texas over three centuries

Since the early 1700s, women of Spanish/Mexican origin or descent have played a central, if often unacknowledged, role in Texas history. Tejanas have been community builders, political and religious leaders, founders of organizations, committed trade unionists, innovative educators, astute businesswomen, experienced professionals, and highly original artists. Giving their achievements the recognition they have long deserved, this groundbreaking book is at once a general history and a celebration of Tejanas’ contributions to Texas over three centuries.

The authors have gathered and distilled a wide range of information to create this important resource. They offer one of the first detailed accounts of Tejanas’ lives in the colonial period and from the Republic of Texas up to 1900. Drawing on the fuller documentation that exists for the twentieth century, they also examine many aspects of the modern Tejana experience, including Tejanas’ contributions to education, business and the professions, faith and community, politics, and the arts. A large selection of photographs, a historical timeline, and profiles of fifty notable Tejanas complete the volume and assure its usefulness for a broad general audience, as well as for educators and historians.


  • Foreword by Cynthia E. Orozco
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Native Women, Mestizas, and Colonists
  • Chapter 2: The Status of Women in the Colonial Period
  • Chapter 3: From the Republic of Texas to 1900
  • Chapter 4: Revolution, Racism, and Resistance: 1900-1940
  • Chapter 5: Life in Rural Texas: 1900-1940
  • Chapter 6: Life in Urban Texas: 1900-1940
  • Chapter 7: Education: Learning, Teaching, Leading
  • Chapter 8: Entering Business and the Professions
  • Chapter 9: Faith and Community
  • Chapter 10: Politics, the Chicano Movement, and Tejana Feminism
  • Chapter 11: Winning and Holding Public Office
  • Chapter 12: Arts and Culture Epilogue: Grinding Corn Fifty Notable Tejanas
  • Time Line
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Blacks in Colonial Spanish Texas

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2013-05-26 23:05Z by Steven

Blacks in Colonial Spanish Texas

Texas State Historical Association: A Digital Gateway to Texas History

Jesús F. de la Teja, Jerome H. and Catherine E. Supple Professor of Southwestern Studies and Regents’ Professor of History
Texas State University, San Marcos

From the initial encounters between the Old and New Worlds following Christopher Columbus’s voyages of exploration, African-descent people have been part of the story of the Americas. The African diaspora, although overwhelmingly a forced emigration carried out as part of the international slave trade, contributed to the creation of the complex multi-racial societies of Hispanic America. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved sub-Saharan Africans were sold into slavery in Spanish and Portuguese America between approximately 1550 and 1821. Hispanic legal and religious traditions allowed for considerable numbers of Africans to achieve manumission through gift or purchase, marry people of other ethnicities, produce free offspring, and in the Spanish world constitute one element of what came to be called the castas (racial/ethnic groupings). By the time of Spanish settlement in Texas in the early eighteenth century, the black Mexican population was composed overwhelming of free people of color, mostly identified as mulatto, combining European and American Indian elements…

…The complex characteristics of race and ethnicity in the broader Spanish empire were reflected in Texas’s Hispanic society. Miscegenation was widespread, and members of subordinate groups strove to “whiten” as they climbed the social ladder. In the socio-racial hierarchy of the Spanish colonial world, Spaniards stood at the top, followed by the various castas, with Indians and Africans at the bottom. Lighter skin brought with it the possibility of “passing” either for oneself or for one’s children. An analysis of extant sacramental records from San Antonio indicates that casta labels were often applied in an arbitrary and inconsistent manner. Additionally, military service tended to mask the actual phenotypical background of soldiers who were consistently listed as “Spaniard” during their active service, but whose casta might then devolve to that of a color quebrado (broken color) upon retirement. Consequently, census figures, which are available for the last decades of the colonial period, offer only an approximation of the size of the Afro-Mexican portion of the Texas population. In 1792 for instance, the civil (excluding military personnel) census summary for the province listed 415 mulattoes and 40 blacks in a reported casta population of 2,961. It also listed a total of 367 individuals in an “other” category, which reflects the ethnic ambiguity of many mixed-blood members of Hispanic Texas society. Similarly at Laredo, which was not a Texas jurisdiction until 1848, there were 155 mulattoes in a total town population of 718, making them the second largest casta group behind those categorized as Spaniards. The collapse of the mulatto population and substantial increase in the number of mestizos reported in census records from the late 1790s onward attests to greater possibilities for upward ethnic mobility on the Texas frontier….

Read the entire article here.

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Paralegal claims discrimination by law firm because of mixed-race heritage

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Law, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2013-03-26 03:36Z by Steven

Paralegal claims discrimination by law firm because of mixed-race heritage

The Southeast Texas Record: Southeast Texas’ Legal Journal
Beaumont, Texas

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau

HOUSTON – Montgomery County resident Darren Chew claims he was subjected to racial discrimination while working for a collections law firm and has filed a lawsuit.

Recent court papers filed March 15 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas allege Rausch Sturm Israel Enerson & Hornik LLC mistreated Chew because of his mixed heritage.

The plaintiff, whose father is of Chinese descent and mother white, worked as a paralegal/paraprofessional at the time of the events in question.

He states that derogatory racial terminology was often used at the respondent’s office and within the management’s earshot.

According to the suit, Chew was occasionally referred to as a “chink”, “chinaman”, “Uncle Tom” and “cracker”…

Read the entire article here.

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The ‘Yellow’ Rose of Texas

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes, History, Texas, United States on 2013-03-20 03:36Z by Steven

The American folk song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” is but one testimony to the desire for mixed-race women.  The version of this song that most baby boomers were compelled to learn in grade school is devoid of its original reference to a mulatto slave woman, Emily Morgan (Horton 1993:137, Turner 1976), because through the decades the lyrics have been changed.

There’s a yellow rose in Texas that I am going to see,
No other darkey knows her, no darkey only me;
She cried so when I left her, it like to broke my heart,
And if I ever find her we never more will part.

She’s the sweetest rose of color this darkey ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew,
You may talk about your Dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the yellow rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.

The song was inspired by Morgan, who unwittingly played a decisive role in the defeat of General Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón at San Jacinto.  According to Turner (1976), Morgan was a slave owned by Colonel James Morgan, who bought her in New York [City] and transported her to Texas in [October 25,] 1835.  There she was captured by General Santa Anna, whom she served as a concubine.  According to ethnologist William Bollaert, Sam Houston succeeded in a surprise attack in the battle of San Jacinto against Santa Anna, who was amorously engaged with Morgan.  While Morgan may have led to the demise of Santa Anna’s troups, she was also an inspiration for “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” which has become integral to American folk music.

According to Turner (1976:49) the song was “composed and arranged expressly for Charles H. Brown by J. K. …  Through the years the identity of the initialed composer or arranger has remained a mystery” (see original lyrics in Appendix E).  Throughout the ensuing decades, writers have changed the lyrics, and after the 1858 and 1906 versions (see Appendices F and G), the term “darky” disappeared altogether, thus obliterating the metaphor of the yellow “rose.”  While lyrics can easily be changed, the historical accounts, and, indeed the progeny of mixed unions cannot obscure the genetic record. Despite theories that promulgated the inferiority of African women, it was not unusual for Europen American men to engage in conjugal relations with these same women.

Obiagele Lake, Blue Veins and Kinky Hair: Naming and Color Consciousness in African America (Santa Barbara: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003), 21.

Read more about the “Yellow Rose of Texas” here.

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