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.

(Chorus)
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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The Orange County War of 1856

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2012-03-08 03:31Z by Steven

The Orange County War of 1856

W. T. Block, (1920-2007)
1979

Reprinted from W. T. Block, “Meanest Town on The Coast,” Old West, Winter, 1979, pp. 10ff.
Sources: Galveston Weekly News and Tri-Weekly News, June 1 to July 15, 1856. The issue of July 15 of Tri-Weekly News contains a full, 8-column page of the war. Also, an excellent secondary account is A. F. Muir, “The Free Negroes of Jefferson and Orange Counties, Texas,” Journal of Negro History, XXXV (April, 1950), 183-206.

Any visitor to Madison, Texas, (now Orange) in the month of May, 1856, would have hardly imagined that that community was steeped in jealousy and hatred. Only four years earlier, Orange County had cut itself adrift from neighboring Jefferson County and established its county seat at Madison, a prosperous village located on the Sabine River, twelve miles from its mouth, and cooled by the prevailing southerly breezes from Lake Sabine.

Madison had no log-cabin or unpainted clapboard ugliness. Already a thriving timber products center, it had grown from zero population to 600 in ten years. One early writer praised its fairy-tale appearance, 150 white cottages “ensconced like a duck in a nest of roses” and encircling a mile-long river crescent studded with stately cypresses. Five steam saw mills and shingle mills, two shipyards, a dozen other hand-powered industries, stores and cotton warehouses lined the banks of the river where six steamboats and numerous sail craft transported lumber and cotton abroad. A multi-billion foot reservoir of huge, virgin cypress and pine forests abutted the community that had already become the state’s leading exporter of lumber, shingles, lathes, fence pickets, barrel staves, and wagon spokes.

If Madison’s idyllic setting belied its ugliness within, it also left as totally inexplicable the strangest circumstances that were ever a party to vigilante violence and twelve assassinations—a sheriff who, along with his uncle, comprised the most skillful ring of counterfeiters in early-day Texas; a West Texas killer who rode with the Moderators, the party of “law and order;” and a dozen free Mulattoes, who were slaveholders, wealthy cattlemen, and considerably less “black” than the hearts of their persecutors.

By 1856 Orange County, Texas, had the largest aggregate of “free blacks” in the state, numbering about 100. The nucleus of the Mulatto colony included Aaron, Abner, William, Jesse, and Tapler Ashworth and their children; Hiram Bunch, Gibson Perkins, and Elijah Thomas, all of whom were either brothers, in-laws, or were otherwise closely related. The wives of some of them were white, whereas a few white men in the county had Mulatto wives (mixed marriage was illegal, although seldom enforced). Most of them having arrived in Texas by 1834, a few of them held Mexican land grants. Some had military bounties or land grants from the Republic of Texas, and most of them had served one enlistment in the Texas Army in 1836. While several of mixed ancestry were Mulattoes, others were of quadroon or octoroon ancestry.

Despite the marriage laws of the state, six of the group had taken white spouses, a continuing process which had left some of them as a whole “three or four generations removed from black blood” (a phrase coined by an early county historian). Except for their disfranchisement from the political and judicial processes, they had gained most of the privileges of whites, including an 1840 enabling act from the Congress of the Texas Republic to circumvent the forced removal of free blacks from the state. Although many of them were widely respected, they still had committed, in the eyes of their neighbors, one cardinal and unforgivable sin—they had accumulated large tracts of valuable lands and thousand of cattle which were coveted by others.

Nonetheless, the free blacks were allied through marriage bonds and partnerships to many white settlers as well (one of whom was Sheriff Edward C. Glover), who rallied to the Mulattoes’ side whenever the violence began. Hence, the number of free blacks and their allies made it impossible for any small number of whites to attack them without considerable bloodshed…

Read the entire article here.

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Crossing the color line

Posted in Dissertations, History, Law, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2012-01-30 03:34Z by Steven

Crossing the color line

Baylor University
August 2011
107 pages

Alisha Hash

A Thesis Approved by the Department of History Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Baylor University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

Miscegenation, a word not coined until the Civil War, has been an intrinsic part of American History. There is a rich field of scholars discussing the experiences of interracial couples from Colonial America through Reconstruction. Historically, most researchers focus on the earliest laws enacted in the colonies and how these laws were adjusted and applied. However, there has been very little work done on specific states with the exception of a few anomalous regions such as Louisiana. Although the contributions that have been made thus far have been invaluable, there is a hole in the research. There has been very little work done on the state of Texas. Only one author, Charles F. Robinson III, has explored the topic in depth, therefore, his work should be examined thoroughly and critically.

Read the entire thesis here.

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Yellow Rose of Texas

Posted in Articles, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Texas, United States on 2012-01-25 23:50Z by Steven

Yellow Rose of Texas

The Handbook of Texas Online
Texas State Historical Association
2012-01-21

Jeffrey D. Dunn

James Lutzweiler

“The Yellow Rose of Texas,” one of the iconic songs of modern Texas and a popular traditional American tune, has experienced several transformations of its lyrics and periodic revivals in popularity since its appearance in the 1850s. The earliest published lyrics to surface to date are found in Christy’s Plantation Melodies. No. 2, a songbook published under the authority of Edwin P. Christy in Philadelphia in 1853. Christy was the founder of the blackface minstrel group known as the Christy’s Minstrels. Their shows were a popular form of American entertainment featuring white performers with burnt cork makeup portraying caricatures of blacks in comic acts, dances, and songs. The plaintive courtship-themed 1853 lyrics of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” fit the minstrel genre by depicting an African-American singer, who refers to himself as a “darkey,” longing to return to “a yellow girl,” a term used to describe a mulatto, or mixed-race female born of African-American and white progenitors. The songbook does not identify the author or include a musical score to accompany the lyrics:

There’s a yellow girl in Texas
That I’m going down to see;
No other darkies know her,
No darkey, only me;
She cried so when I left her
That it like to broke my heart,
And if I only find her,
We never more will part.

Chorus: She’s the sweetest girl of colour
That this darkey ever knew;
Her eyes are bright as diamonds,
And sparkle like the dew.
You may talk about your Dearest Mae,
And sing of Rosa Lee,
But the yellow Rose of Texas
Beats the belles of Tennessee.

Where the Rio Grande is flowing,
And the starry skies are bright,
Oh, she walks along the river
In the quiet summer night;
And she thinks if I remember
When we parted long ago,
I promised to come back again,
And not to leave her so.

Chorus: She’s the sweetest girl of colour, &c

Oh, I’m going now to find her,
For my heart is full of woe,
And we’ll sing the songs together
That we sang so long ago.
We’ll play the banjo gaily,
And we’ll sing our sorrows o’er,
And the yellow Rose of Texas
Shall be mine forever more.

Chorus: She’s the sweetest girl of colour, &c.

“Dearest Mae” and “Rosa Lee,” the only named females in the song, are the titles of two songs also appearing in Christy’s Minstrels songbooks. These songs were published earlier (1847–48) and are similar in style. Both are sung by a black man in a courtship setting with lyrics similar to those found in “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” Dearest Mae, who was from “old Carolina state,” was described as follows: “Her eyes dey sparkle like de stars, Her lips are red as beet,” and “She cried when boff [both] we parted.” Rosa Lee lived in Tennessee and had “Eyes as dark as winter night, Lips as red as berry bright.”

…In 2011 Yale Divinity School Library archivist Joan Duffy uncovered material indicating that the song’s composer might have been John Kelly, a famous minstrel banjoist, comedian, and composer who took the stage name “J. K. Campbell” in 1851 at the request of a fellow minstrel performer. According to Edward Le Roy Rice (1911), in 1859 and 1860 Campbell was working with George Christy’s Minstrels at Niblo’s Saloon in New York City under name of J. K. Edwards before changing his stage name back to J. K. Campbell. A minstrel “comic song” composed circa 1861 by “J. K. Campbell,” entitled “Ham Fat,” is similar in style to “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” One of the lines reads: “You may talk about your comfort, But Massa is the man…”…

Read the entire article here.

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Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans

Posted in Anthropology, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Latino Studies, Media Archive, Mexico, Monographs, Texas, United States on 2012-01-10 03:01Z by Steven

Recovering History, Constructing Race: The Indian, Black, and White Roots of Mexican Americans

University of Texas Press
2001
389 pages
6 x 9 in., 50 b&w illus., 4 maps
Paperback ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-292-75254-2

Martha Menchaca, Professor of Anthropolgy
University of Texas, Austin

The history of Mexican Americans is a history of the intermingling of races—Indian, White, and Black. This racial history underlies a legacy of racial discrimination against Mexican Americans and their Mexican ancestors that stretches from the Spanish conquest to current battles over ending affirmative action and other assistance programs for ethnic minorities. Asserting the centrality of race in Mexican American history, Martha Menchaca here offers the first interpretive racial history of Mexican Americans, focusing on racial foundations and race relations from prehispanic times to the present.

Menchaca uses the concept of racialization to describe the process through which Spanish, Mexican, and U.S. authorities constructed racial status hierarchies that marginalized Mexicans of color and restricted their rights of land ownership. She traces this process from the Spanish colonial period and the introduction of slavery through racial laws affecting Mexican Americans into the late twentieth-century. This re-viewing of familiar history through the lens of race recovers Blacks as important historical actors, links Indians and the mission system in the Southwest to the Mexican American present, and reveals the legal and illegal means by which Mexican Americans lost their land grants.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Racial Foundations
  • 2. Racial Formation: Spain’s Racial Order
  • 3. The Move North: The Gran Chichimeca and New Mexico
  • 4. The Spanish Settlement of Texas and Arizona
  • 5. The Settlement of California and the Twilight of the Spanish Period
  • 6. Liberal Racial Legislation during the Mexican Period, 1821-1848
  • 7. Land, Race, and War, 1821-1848
  • 8. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Racialization of the Mexican Population
  • 9. Racial Segregation and Liberal Policies Then and Now
  • Epilogue: Auto/ethnographic Observations of Race and History
  • Notes
  • Bibliography

Introduction

In this book it is my intent to write about the Mexican American people’s Indian, White, and Black racial history. In doing so, I offer an interpretive historical analysis of the experiences of the Mexican Americans’ancestors in Mexico and the United States. This analysis begins with the Mexican Americans’prehistoric foundations and continues into the late twentieth century. My focus, however, is on exploring the legacy of racial discrimination that was established in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest and was later intensified by the United States government when, in 1848, it conquered northern Mexico (presently the U.S. Southwest) and annexed it to the United States (Menchaca 1999:3). The central period of study ranges from 1570 to 1898.

Though my interpretive history revisits many well-known events, it differs from previous histories on Mexican Americans and on the American Southwest because the central thread of my analysis is race relations, an area of study that is often accorded only secondary significance and generally subsumed under economic or nation-based interpretations. It also differs because I include Blacks as important historical actors, rather than denying their presence in the history of the Mexican Americans. Finally, as part of this analysis I demonstrate that racial status hierarchies are often structured upon the ability of one racial group to deny those who are racially different access to owning land. This process leads to the low social prestige and impoverishment of the marginalized. I close my analysis with commentaries on contemporary United States race relations and auto/ethnographic observations of Mexican American indigenism. Auto/ethnography is used as a method to illustrate how historical events influence racial identity.

This form of intellectual inquiry emerged from my conversations with archaeologist Fred Valdez. In 1986 Fred and I were both hired as assistant professors in the Anthropology Department at the University of Texas at Austin. It was the first time that I had met a Mexican American archaeologist. We were both fascinated by the ethnohistory of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and shared the unconventional view that Mexican Americans were part of the indigenous peoples of the American Southwest. Following endless conversations on the indigenous heritage of the Mexican Americans, we decided to study the indigenous groups of the Southwest that had been conquered by Spain and Mexico. Our objective was to identify the groups that had become subjects of Spain and, later, citizens of Mexico. This research was used to prepare an undergraduate class on the “Indigenous Heritage of the Mexican Americans.” We were pleasantly surprised that our class became very popular, as evidenced by the large enrollments. In general, students were interested in knowing about their heritage, while many others were interested in seeking specific information about the mission Indians from whom they were descended.

For me, this academic endeavor converged with the publication of Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s classic book Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1980s (1986). Their work influenced me to reassess the significance of studying the racial heritage of the Mexican Americans, given that my interest until that point had been solely to outline their indigenous ancestry. According to Omi and Winant, the significance of studying race is not to analyze the biological aspect of a people’s heritage, but rather to understand the politics and processes of racial categorization. They urgently call upon social scientists to study race as a central source of societal organization, because in multiracial societies race has been used historically by those in power to share social and economic privileges with only those people who are racially similar to themselves. Omi and Winant do not urge scholars to explore the origins or psychology of this inclusive-exclusive behavior, but rather to provide a historical context, showing how those in power use race to rationalize the distribution of wealth…

Read the entire Introduction here.

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White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001

Posted in Books, History, Law, Media Archive, Monographs, Religion, Slavery, Texas, United States on 2012-01-09 21:27Z by Steven

White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001

University of Texas Press
2005
299 pages
6 x 9 in., 20 halftones
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-292-71274-4

Michael Phillips, Historian

From the nineteenth century until today, the power brokers of Dallas have always portrayed their city as a progressive, pro-business, racially harmonious community that has avoided the racial, ethnic, and class strife that roiled other Southern cities. But does this image of Dallas match the historical reality? In this book, Michael Phillips delves deeply into Dallas’s racial and religious past and uncovers a complicated history of resistance, collaboration, and assimilation between the city’s African American, Mexican American, and Jewish communities and its white power elite.

Exploring more than 150 years of Dallas history, Phillips reveals how white business leaders created both a white racial identity and a Southwestern regional identity that excluded African Americans from power and required Mexican Americans and Jews to adopt Anglo-Saxon norms to achieve what limited positions of power they held. He also demonstrates how the concept of whiteness kept these groups from allying with each other, and with working- and middle-class whites, to build a greater power base and end elite control of the city. Comparing the Dallas racial experience with that of Houston and Atlanta, Phillips identifies how Dallas fits into regional patterns of race relations and illuminates the unique forces that have kept its racial history hidden until the publication of this book.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Prologue: Through a Glass Darkly: Memory, Race, and Region in Dallas, Texas
  • 1. The Music of Cracking Necks: Dallas Civilization and Its Discontents
  • 2. True to Dixie and to Moses: Yankees, White Trash, Jews, and the Lost Cause
  • 3. The Great White Plague: Whiteness, Culture, and the Unmaking of the Dallas Working Class
  • 4. Consequences of Powerlessness: Whiteness as Class Politics
  • 5. Water Force: Resisting White Supremacy under Jim Crow
  • 6. White Like Me: Mexican Americans, Jews, and the Elusive Politics of Identity
  • 7. A Blight and a Sin: Segregation, the Kennedy Assassination, and the Wreckage of Whiteness
  • Afterword
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

1. The Music of Cracking Necks: Dallas Civilization and Its Discontents

Toward the end of her life, Lizzie Atkins looked back on the days since Texas Emancipation and, despite the abolition of slavery, believed that the African American community had degenerated. The Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s sent a host of interviewers across the South to collect anecdotes from former slaves. Interviewed at her home in Madisonville, Texas, 144 miles southeast of Dallas, Atkins insisted that something bad had happened to black Texans since the end of the Civil War. Blacks grew lazy, becoming liars and thieves, Atkins said, because “they are mixing with the white people too much, so many half-breeds, and this shows they are going backwards instead of forwards.”

Atkins, who grew up as a slave in Washington County, about 204 miles southeast of Dallas, believed that before the Civil War a solid color line existed between black and white. On one side, blackness equaled dignity, honesty, and thrift. On the other, whiteness meant degeneracy. Atkins could not hide her contempt for white people or their culture. In spite of the inequality it generated, Texas’ color line allowed a separate black society to develop in which African Americans judged the world and their peers on their own terms. Seven decades after slavery, Atkins saw this separation as natural and miscegenation violated this fundamental order.

Atkins’ comments reflect one basic truth. Much of East and North Central Texas before the Civil War had a simpler black-white racial structure. As this chapter will argue, soon after Anglo Texas’ separation from Mexico in the 1835-1836 revolution, white elites created a society rooted in the absolute legal separation of the white and black worlds. In order to prevent the development of a mulatto population that might inherit the political and economic wealth of the racial ruling class, white leaders promulgated harsh legal penalties in the 1840s and 1850s attached to blackness. Blacks faced slavery, the death penalty for many crimes punished less severely for whites, and laws defining the offspring of mixed-race parents as enslaved bastards ineligible for inheritance. Whiteness was defined simply as the absence of blackness, Indian blood, or other racial “pollution,” although many who were socially accepted as white had been polluted in this manner. Elites hoped that the social superiority all whites ostensibly enjoyed over blacks ameliorated disparities of power and wealth within the white community.

To the dismay of elites, however, frequently severe weather and a cash-strapped economy made life insecure for the non-slaveholding majority. In Dallas, divisions developed along economic and regional lines, leading to outbursts of violence that disturbed elite confidence and security. When a fire destroyed downtown Dallas in 1860, elite suspicions settled on white abolitionists born outside the South. The violence of 1860 created the terrain on which postwar racial ideology developed. Elites labeled those opposed to their notions of race and class hierarchy as uncivilized and therefore not fully white. After Reconstruction, the city leadership embraced a more fluid concept of race in which white status could be gained or lost based on acceptance of elite social norms. This more flexible definition of whiteness, which held dissent in check, shaped Dallas politics for more than 130 years afterward.

The legal division of Texas into completely separate white and black boxes purportedly meant that all white people were created equal. The poorest white Texans were at least not black slaves and could claim higher social status than their servile neighbors. It was just that some white Texans were more equal than others. Dallas’ wealthiest pioneer Anglo families saw no contradiction in creating a community in which a few families rapidly accumulated great wealth while simultaneously praising the principles of democracy. Men such as Frank M. Cockrell, son of the city’s first business magnates, Alexander and Sarah Cockrell, divorced the concept of aristocracy from anything so crass as monetary wealth. Dallas, Frank Cockrell insisted, developed as a racial aristocracy, with a white ruling class atop a permanent black underclass.

From the perspective of the 1930s, Cockrell admired the culture of 1850s Dallas, where “[t]here were among the women the refined, cultured and accomplished. Socially all on an equality. Merit the only distinction.” Cockrell, however, emphasized another distinction: “the adaptability and self-government of the Anglo-Saxon race, characteristic of the Southern people,” which made the average pioneer in early Dallas “a very superior immigrant.” Cockrell’s words carried a particular sting in the 1930s after many non-Anglo-Saxons from Europe made America their home and faced mixed assessments of their whiteness by their contemporaries. Early on, elites like Cockrell portrayed Anglo-Saxons as the sole creators of civilization, a vital first element of the city’s Origin Myth. The Anglo-Saxon majority participated, at least theoretically, in what sociologist Howard Winant calls a herrenvolk democracy, a nominally free society in which political participation depends on skin color or ethnicity.

William H. Wharton, pleading with Americans to support the 1835-1836 Texas Revolution, declared that God would prevent Texas from becoming “a howling wilderness, trod only by savages, or that it should be permanently benighted by the ignorance and superstition, the anarchy and rapine of Mexican misrule . . . the wilderness of Texas has been redeemed by Anglo-American blood and enterprise.” The founders of Anglo Texas envisioned a race-based society in which Indians would be driven out, blacks exploited as slaves, and Mexicans reduced to the role of surplus labor. The state’s white leadership shuddered at the thought of miscegenation. “[A]malgamation of the white with the black race, inevitably leads to disease, decline and death,” Galveston State Representative and later Dallas mayor John Henry Brown warned in 1857. The Constitution of the Texas Republic adopted in 1836 specifically denied citizenship to “Africans, the descendents of Africans, and Indians.” Interracial sex, particularly if it involved slaves, threatened this racial order. In 1837 the Texas Congress criminalized marriage between persons of European ancestry and African ancestry, even free blacks. The law denied black consorts’ claims to white lovers’ estates and reduced mulatto children to illegitimacy.

Hoping to discourage miscegenation, the Texas Legislature in August 1856 defined the children of mixed-race unions as persons “of color.” By law, anyone with at least “one eighth African blood” would be excluded from whiteness and defined as a slave. Such mixed-race persons immediately suffered the same social and political disabilities as African Americans. Both slave and free African Americans could suffer the death penalty, according to a December 1837 state law, not just for murder but also for insurrection or inciting insurrection, assaulting a free white person, attempting to rape a white woman, burglary, and arson…

Read the entire Introduction here.

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Escaping to Destinations South: The Underground Railroad, Cultural Identity, and Freedom Along the Southern Borderlands

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Live Events, Mexico, Native Americans/First Nation, Slavery, Texas, United States, Wanted/Research Requests/Call for Papers on 2011-12-29 00:07Z by Steven

Escaping to Destinations South: The Underground Railroad, Cultural Identity, and Freedom Along the Southern Borderlands

National Park Service
Network to Freedom
2012-06-20 through 2012-06-24
St. Augustine, Florida

The Network to Freedom has joined with local partners to present an annual UGRR [Underground Railroad] conference beginning in 2007. These conferences bring together a mix of grass roots researchers, community advocates, site stewards, government officials, and scholars to explore the history of the Underground Railroad. Rotated to different parts of the country, the conferences highlight the unique history of various regions along with new research.

The 2012 Conference theme is the resistance to slavery through escape and flight to and from the South, including through international flight, from the 16th century to the end of the Civil War. Traditional views of the Underground Railroad focus on Northern destinations of freedom seekers, with symbols such as the North Star, Canada, and the Ohio River (the River Jordan) constructed as the primary beacons of freedom. This conception reduces the complexity of the Underground Railroad by ignoring the many freedom seekers that sought to obtain their freedom in southern destinations.

Likewise, borders and the movement across them by southern freedom seekers are also very crucial to our understanding of the complexities of the Underground Railroad. Freedom seekers often sought out political and geographical borderlands, as crossing these locations usually represented the divide between slavery and freedom. To this end, the conference will explore how southern freedom seekers seized opportunities to escape slavery into Spanish Florida and the Seminole Nation, to the Caribbean Islands, and into the western borderlands of Indian Territory, Texas, and Mexico.

Escape from enslavement was not just about physical freedom, but also about the search for cultural autonomy. The conference will explore the transformation and creation of new cultural identities among southern freedom seekers that occurred as a result of their journeys to freedom, such as the dispersal of Gullah Geechee culture and the formation of Black Seminole cultural identity.

The 2012 Conference will include participation by independent and academic scholars at all levels, educators, community activists, public historians and preservationists, and multi-media and performance artists. The conference seeks to create a cultural, historical, and interpretive exchange between domestic and international descendent communities of southern freedom seekers.

Gullah Geechee and Black Seminole descendants are particularly welcome at the conference.

For more information, click here.  Call for papers information (Deadline 2012-01-15) is here.

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Bynum: The Long Shadow of the Civil War (2010)

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Mississippi, Slavery, Texas, United States on 2011-10-23 04:17Z by Steven

Bynum: The Long Shadow of the Civil War (2010)

The Civil War Monitor: A New Look at America’s Greatest Conflict
2011-10-19

Laura Hepp Bradshaw
Carnegie Mellon University

The Long Shadow of the Civil War: Southern Dissent and Its Legacies by Victoria E. Bynum. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010. Cloth, ISBN: 0807833819.
 
“Few histories,” Victoria Bynum laments, “are buried faster or deeper than those of political or social dissenters” (148). By resurrecting the histories of three anti-secessionist communities in the South, Bynum’s latest book about the Civil War home front and post-war aftermath brings previously ignored strains of political and social dissent back to life through an intricate examination of the period rooted in race, gender, and class politics. Ultimately guided by three central questions designed to probe the prevalence of Unionism among southerners during the war, the effects of Union victory on freedpeople and southern Unionists, and the Civil War’s broader legacies, Bynum finds answers in the Piedmont of North Carolina, the Piney Woods of Mississippi, and the Big Thicket of Hardin County, Texas. These regions, though miles apart, are united in Bynum’s analysis by kinship and the political alliances of non-slaveholding, yeoman farming families…

…These home front battles, Bynum tells us, had a lasting effect on the political and social clime of the Reconstruction era, and beyond.  When Republican Reconstruction ended and Jim Crow Reconstruction segregated the South, former southern Unionists like Jasper and Warren Collins of the Big Thicket region rejected the two-party political system in favor of alternative platforms such the Populists or Socialists, in addition to the predominant southern religions.  Newt Knight and his descendants struggled against the rising tide of white supremacy that sought to divide white, black, and Native American demographics by living openly as a multi-racial community.  Furthermore, Bynum highlights the challenges faced by women in the Reconstruction period, as Jim Crow also regulated sexual mores and relations between both the sexes and races.
 
Thematically, the book harnesses examples of gender, class, and race on the wartime home front and in the post-war period. Yet, even though a vast portion of the book is devoted to discussing the anti-secessionist personalities of Newt Knight, Jasper and Warren Collins, and to a lesser extent, Bill Owens, an explicit examination their gender is curiously overlooked. Bynum mentions that “southern Unionists, Populists, and Socialists” were portrayed as “cowards and traitors,” but she fails to examine the implications of those labels within the broader context of southern masculinity (114). That said, Bynum’s sophisticated, multi-layered analysis of class relations, especially during the Civil War, more than make up for this shortcoming. She thoroughly illustrates a web of complex, inter-community class tensions that linked the conscripted poor, men fortunate to wave Confederate service, and the home guard. Bynum successfully explicates the repercussions of a segregated South on people of mixed race descent who were forced to either claim their black identity, like Anna Knight, a descendant of Newt Knight, or to “pass” as white by relocating away from the communities of their birth and obscuring their ancestry, as many other Knight Company descendants were forced to do…

Read the entire review here.

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The Cosmic Race in Texas: Racial Fusion, White Supremacy, and Civil Rights Politics

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, History, Mexico, New Media, Social Science, Texas, United States on 2011-09-25 22:06Z by Steven

The Cosmic Race in Texas: Racial Fusion, White Supremacy, and Civil Rights Politics

The Journal of American History
Volume 98, Issue 2 (September 2011)
pages 404-419
DOI: 10.1093/jahist/jar338

Benjamin H. Johnson, Associate Professor of Global Studies and History
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
 
In the early twentieth century, a number of Latin American intellectuals embraced racial fusion and predicted that it would one day undo the white supremacy represented by the United States. These ideas influenced Mexican American civil rights advocates in Texas in the 1930s and 1940s, who found the embrace of hybridity to be a realistic description of their own racial backgrounds and an effective rejoinder to Jim Crow’s emphasis on racial purity. Attacking the consensus that an aspiration for whiteness drove these civil rights claims, Benjamin H. Johnson finds deep ties between Mexican American and Mexican political cultures and concludes that borderlands histories can take a transnational approach without obscuring the influence of nation-states or denying the emancipatory potential of claims to national belonging.

“The days of the pure whites, the victors of today,” proclaimed José Vasconcelos in 1925, “are as numbered as were the days of their predecessors. Having fulfilled their destiny of mechanizing the world, they themselves have set, without knowing it, the basis for a new period: the period of the fusion and mixing of all peoples.” Vasconcelos wrote these words in Mexico as his four-year tenure as the secretary of the nation’s public education system came to a close and as his quest for an elected position (first the governorship of the state of Oaxaca and then the presidency) began. They appeared in La raza cósmica, an enormously influential work that circulated across the hemisphere. Whereas the U.S. intellectual and civil rights crusader W. E. B. Du Bois had prophesied that the color line would be the problem of the twentieth century, Vasconcelos confidently predicted its erasure. The struggles of a country such as Mexico, which had just emerged from a decade of revolution and civil war, were for Vasconcelos at the center of global dynamics, as they heralded the rise of the cosmic race of his title, first in Latin America and then across the globe.

Although Vasconcelos was not well known in the United States, where his predictions would have surely struck both the architects and victims of a particularly brutal phase of white supremacy as ludicrous, he did have a profound influence there. His ideas, and the postrevolutionary political and social order of which they were a part, provided Mexican American civil rights leaders in Texas in the 1920s and 1930s, particularly those involved with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a reflection of their own racial self-conception and a set of arguments with which to critique white supremacy.

This article examines the connections…

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Texas bucks U.S. trend on standardized scoring

Posted in Articles, Campus Life, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Texas, United States on 2011-08-09 04:10Z by Steven

Texas bucks U.S. trend on standardized scoring

Houston Chronicle
2011-07-25

Jennifer Radcliffe
 
It will tally multiracial students but not report their scores separately

Multiracial students are being tallied for the first time in Texas history, but their standardized test scores won’t appear as a separate group when accountability ratings are released Friday.

As it grapples with increasing diversity, Texas has opted not to measure the scores of the state’s 78,419 multiracial, non-Hispanic students as an ethnic subgroup whose performance matters in determining whether a school made “adequate yearly progress.”
 
Instead, they’ll join the ranks of the 180,000 Asian students lumped in with their schools’ entire student body for accountability purposes…

…Some scores moved
 
As Texas transitions to the new categories this year, state officials have opted to return some multiracial students’ scores to their previous category, if records indicate that the student was originally listed as white or African American. Their scores will only count in that previous category if they improve the school’s rating…

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