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Texas 2016 - History

Texas 2016 - History

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Why Is Texas So Red, And How Did It Get That Way?

We all know Texas is a red state. Democrats haven’t won a statewide election since 1994, and Republicans have carried the state in every presidential election since 1976.

Texas wasn&rsquot always a dependably Republican state. It was once a bastion for Democrats, but has since drifted red. So how did that happen?

Editors&rsquo Note: This story was originally published on Oct 24, 2016.

We all know Texas is a red state. Democrats haven&rsquot won a statewide election since 1994, and Republicans have carried the state in every presidential election since 1976.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

The question of how that came to be got Gilda Garcia wondering, so she asked TXDecides – our statewide public radio collaborative that&rsquos answering Texas voters&rsquo questions ahead of Election Day.

&ldquoI remember growing up my parents talking about Texas being all Democratic – period,&rdquo Garcia said. &ldquoSo what happened?&rdquo

Let&rsquos start by talking about what happened to voters. Even when Texans voted for Democrats, it was still a conservative state. It still had two parties, but the parties were conservative Democrat and moderate Democrat. Up until the 1970s, voting for Democrats was just what you did.

&ldquoA lot of southerners would be Democrats back then,&rdquo explained Lynn Foster, who grew up an Oklahoma Democrat. &ldquoAnd, so, they would inherit the Democratic party from their parents, on down and grandparents and so on.&rdquo

When he came to Texas in the late &rsquo70s, just like hundreds of thousands of others did, the state&rsquos economy was booming. Matthew Dowd, who worked on President George W Bush&rsquos 2004 re-election campaign, says the people that came here brought even more conservative ideals with them.

&ldquoPeople that were coming here because they wanted lower taxes, or they were coming here because they didn&rsquot like regulations, or they were coming here because they had a greater degree of freedom,&rdquo he said.

Those people settled in the state&rsquos metro areas. People like Lynn Foster, who moved to Fort Worth.

&ldquoThere were a lot of conservatives where I worked. It was a military contractor,&rdquo said Foster. &ldquoI got to listening to what they were saying, and seeing what the Democratic Party was doing, and I decided that they were right and the Democratic party was wrong.&rdquo

Changing Parties

So, more conservatives were moving to Texas, but, like Foster, many were still Democrats. Changing that took encouragement, or discouragement, from the parties. Dowd says that began with the parties moving away from the middle.

&ldquoThe brands of the two political parties. The way they became and the way they moved to the outer edges,&rdquo said Dowd. &ldquoThe Democratic brand becoming more liberal or progressive the Republican brand becoming more conservative.&rdquo

Former Democrat Foster says it was his perception that Democrats were giving away tax dollars to help others.

&ldquoWell, certainly one of the big things was the welfare state. I certainly as a college student had a lot of sympathy for people and things like that,&rdquo said Foster. &ldquoBut, after I later determined that other people were having to pay for that kind of thing, I didn&rsquot think it was right.&rdquo

Creating a Villain

Here&rsquos where the Republican Party jumped in. It used concerns like this to create the idea of the &ldquotax-and-spend liberal.&rdquo

And for presidential elections, that tactic worked pretty well. Foster, along with most Texans voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980. But, when Republicans used the same attack against Democrats in local races, it didn&rsquot work as well. Harvey Kronberg is publisher of a political newsletter called Quorum Report.

&ldquoWhen they started running these harsh negative campaigns against them, it backfired for almost a decade,&rdquo explained Kronberg. &ldquoPeople would say, &lsquocandidate or State Representative X is a tax-and-spend liberal.&rsquo But the folks that sat around the coffee shop with them knew that he wasn&rsquot a tax-and-spend liberal. And so it undermined the Republican message.&rdquo

So, that provided a bit of a firewall for Democrats, but, as those known lawmakers started to retire, the unknown Democrats running to replace them had a harder time shaking the liberal label.

While the state started voting for Republican presidents in 1980, Republicans didn&rsquot lock down all the statewide offices until the mid to late &rsquo90s, and didn&rsquot totally control the state legislature until 2003.

Now along the way, there weren&rsquot just wins at the ballot box. There were wins in back rooms. Meetings convincing business groups that had given money to Democrats for decades to start funding Republican campaigns, and, Dowd says, meetings with conservative Democrats on the brink of losing their next election.

&ldquoThere was a lot of convincing that Republicans were doing for Democratic office holders saying, &lsquoYou better switch or you&rsquore going to get beat.&rsquo And that happened,&rdquo said Dowd. &ldquoThey basically just ran the numbers for them and said, &lsquoIf you want to hold office, you better switch parties.'&rdquo

And, switch they did probably the most famous one being a West Texas Democrat named Rick Perry.

Red Today, Blue Tomorrow?

Texas is now a Red State. But, how long will it stay that way? Polls in Texas show GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump leading Democrat Hillary Clinton by just 3 or 4 points. But there&rsquos a lot of evidence that suggests it&rsquos not support for Clinton, but dislike of Trump that&rsquos causing the close race.

Dowd said mix that with ongoing dislike of the Democratic brand and you have a state ready to elect an independent candidate.

&ldquoSo you have Democrats who can&rsquot elect somebody statewide that&rsquos disenfranchised. You have independents who don&rsquot participate in the two parties that&rsquos disenfranchised. And you have about a third of Republican primary voters who are reasonable, thoughtful, sort of main stream, who really have no power because of what the party has become,&rdquo Dowd explained. &ldquoThat is a large group of voters that really, fundamentally, can only be tapped by an independent.&rdquo

Who will that independent candidate be? What office will they run for? And when will they run? We may be able to start answering those questions after Nov. 8.


Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, is the name given to Emancipation Day by African Americans in Texas. On that day in 1865 Union Major-General Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston. It stated:

"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

General Orders, No. 3. U.S. House, 54th Congress, 1st Session (H. Doc. 369, Part 2). &ldquoGeneral Order Number 3,&rdquo 1896. U.S. Documents Collection. Y 1.1/2: SERIAL 3437

Large celebrations on June 19 began in 1866 and continued regularly into the early 20th century. African Americans treated this day like the Fourth of July, and the celebrations contained similar events. In the early days, Juneteenth celebrations included a prayer service, speakers with inspirational messages, reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, stories from former slaves, food, red soda water, games, rodeos, and dances.

The celebration of June 19 as Emancipation Day spread from Texas to the neighboring states of Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. It also appeared in Alabama, Florida, and California as African American Texans migrated.

In many parts of Texas, freedmen and women purchased land, or "emancipation grounds," for Juneteenth gatherings. Examples include: Emancipation Park in Houston, purchased in 1872 what is now Booker T. Washington Park in Mexia and Emancipation Park in Austin.

Celebration of Juneteenth declined during World War II but returned in 1950 at the Texas State Fair Grounds in Dallas. Interest and participation fell away during the late 1950s and 1960s as attention focused on expansion of freedom for African Americans. In the 1970s Juneteenth revived in some communities. For example, in Austin the Juneteenth celebration returned in 1976 after a 25-year hiatus. Texas House Bill 1016 passed in the 66th Legislature, Regular Session, declared June 19, "Emancipation Day in Texas," a legal state holiday effective starting in 1980. Since that time, the celebration of Juneteenth continues across the state of Texas with parades, picnics, and dancing. Find out more at the Juneteenth article in the Handbook of Texas from the Texas State Historical Association.

On Thursday, June 17, 2021, after unanimous passage in the United States Senate and subsequent passage in the House, President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday. Many states, including Texas, have long recognized Juneteenth, but only some observe it as an official holiday. This bill makes Juneteenth a national holiday.

Find more resources in our collections pertaining to Juneteenth by searching our catalog or visit Archives and Manuscripts to learn more about our archival materials.

Other Areas of Interest:

Juneteenth article in the Handbook of Texas from the Texas State Historical Association

Resources Available Include:

U.S. House, 54 th Congress, 1 st Session (H. Doc. 369, Part 2). &ldquoGeneral Order Number 3,&rdquo 1896. U.S. Documents Collection. Y 1.1/2: SERIAL 3437. General Orders 3_Juneteenth (PDF)

Let&rsquos Pretend: Mae Dee and Her Family Join the Juneteenth Celebration, 1978. Ada DeBlanc Simond. Main collection. 976.431 SI56J.

Juneteenth at Comanche Crossing, 1983. Doris Hollis Pemberton. Main Collection. 976.400496073 P369J.

Juneteenth Texas: Essays in African-American Folklore, 1996. Francis Edward Abernathy. Texas Documents Collection. Z N745.7 T312f No.54.

Juneteenth!: Celebrating Freedom in Texas, 1999. Anna Pearl Barrett. Main Collection. 394.263 B275j.

Subject Vertical File, &ldquoJuneteenth Celebrations,&rdquo various dates. Main Collection. Vertical File Index.

A Brief History Of Texas Barbecue

When visiting Texas, there is no way to avoid the famous Texas barbecue. Then again, why would you want to? Texas barbecue is more than just a regional cuisine. Barbecue is a weekend activity, the passing down of family traditions, a community celebration, and a whole lot of Texan pride. If you find a Texas town without a barbecue joint, then you have probably crossed into New Mexico by mistake. Read on to discover what can make Texans queue at BBQ joints all morning long for a bite of the best Texas barbecue.

Not all meat can earn the privilege of being called barbecue. Barbecue is a unique method of cooking that uses a closed lid and indirect heat that surrounds the meat. Coals are usually piled to the side or in the center, and the meat is spread around it. Barbecue is a slow process that can take over half a day and is used for large cuts. Barbecue should not be confused with grilling. Grilling uses direct heat, has a quicker cooking time, and is used for small cuts of meat like steaks or hot dogs.

Still, not all barbecue is the same. In the United States, barbecue has regional differences specific to the state and city. The four major types of BBQ are Memphis barbecue, Kansas City barbecue, Carolina barbecue, and Texas barbecue. Each region has its own preferences of meats, spices, fuel, and fixings. Texas is a beef-eating, wood-burning state with a soft spot for the right sauce or dry rub.

Within Texas, regional barbecue characteristics get even more specific. Central, South, East, and West Texas each have their own particular traits. Central Texas burns oak and pecan wood, while West Texas prefers mesquite. East Texas and South Texas barbecue emphasize sauce, but Central Texas barbecue is all about the rub. West Texas barbecue is usually cooked at a high temperature, and Central Texas barbecue is slowly smoked at a low heat. Yet, most of Texas can agree that brisket is king in the state.

The regional differences in Texas barbecue can be explained by the established cuisines of settling immigrant groups in each area. Central Texas barbecue is credited to Czech and German settlers who owned butcher shops and would often smoke leftover meat to preserve it. They began offering smoked meat to customers, and it was so popular they eventually evolved into barbecue joints. South Texas is famous for its barbacoa which was introduced by Mexican farmhands near the border. Barbacoa was traditionally made by wrapping a cow’s head in damp leaves and placing it in a pit with hot coals for several hours. The saucy, chopped barbecue of East Texas is credited to African-Americans who settled in the area after being emancipated from slavery. West Texas barbecue is often called ‘cowboy barbecue’ because it is cooked over an open fire and birthed from the day of cattle drives and trail blazing.

Today, Texas barbecue remains a large part of the Texan identity. While cooking methods have improved and recipes can be swapped more easily, regions still hold on to their unique barbecue identities and traditions. Texas is a big state, but rest easy knowing there’s never a barbecue joint too far away.

The History Of Big Tex At The State Fair Of Texas — And Why We Love Him So Much

The State Fair of Texas is underway at Fair Park. For nearly 65 years, Big Tex, the giant cowboy, has stood over the fair, greeting visitors. Here’s a history lesson.

In 1949, he was the world’s largest Santa Claus in Kerens, about an hour south of Dallas.

Howell Brister had the idea -- the town wanted to help attract Christmas shoppers. So why not build a huge Santa? Practically everyone in the small town helped out -- welders, garment factory workers, even farmers. The farmers acted as models – their body dimensions helped shape Big Santa.

Big Santa was a big hit. Trains stopped to drop off shoppers. There was front-page newspaper coverage.

The next year, though, in 1950, the buzz died off a bit. So Brister drove across the state trying to sell it. He approached the State Fair. The fair bought Santa in 1951 for $750.

The State Fair initially planned on just keeping him as Santa and putting him in Fair Park for the holidays. Then they thought: Let’s create a cowboy.

The fair brought in a guy named Jack Bridges to make Big Tex. Bridges was a very colorful, very quirky artist. He tinkered with the Santa frame – and gave Big Tex a bigger head and broader shoulders.

Bridges worked quickly – he apparently built the head in just three weeks.

Video: Big Tex through the years

Crowds swarmed around the big guy. Kids posed for pictures. One kid dressed up as a cowboy, and posed like Big Tex, with his right hand waving and his left arm stretched out.

One thing, though. Big Tex looked a bit scary that first year. His nose was long and hooked. One of his eyes was shut, as if he was winking. So, like some Texans of a certain age, Big Tex got a nose job. And Bridges opened his eye.

He’d get lots of trims and nips and tucks through the years.

Video: Watch Big Tex bust a move!

Big Tex learned to speak in 1953, his second year at the fair. A series of folks have provided his booming voice through the years.

Jim Lowe was the voice of Big Tex for almost 40 years and lots of people give him credit for developing the Big Tex personality.

Bill Bragg was the voice for about a decade, but he had a falling out with the fair soon after Big Tex burned down. The fair has kept the name of the current voice a secret.

Big Tex burned down in 2012.

An electrical short in his wiring sparked the fire. The flames shot up his body, eating away his clothes and his face within minutes.

His charred frame stood for a couple of hours at Big Tex Circle. The scene was surreal. People were crying, staring, taking pictures. They eventually took him down – his charred steel skeleton was placed under a huge piece of canvas. And there was a police escort as he was taken away from Big Tex Circle.

Video: Watch Big Tex burn down

The fair wanted him rebuilt in time for the 2013 fair and it wanted Big Tex built in Texas – and it wanted it to be a big secret.

Not many companies can do this type of work. But there’s a company near San Antonio – in Boerne – that builds giant set pieces for amusement parks – SRO Associates.

The company spent many months working on him – modeling him from old pictures and creating 3D images on computers.

The State Fair wanted his hand, arm and face movements more fluid, not as herky-jerky. SRO worked with a San Antonio-based company, Texas Scenic, to build his steel frame and program his movements.

His face, by the way, is made of silicone skin it feels like raw chicken.

Video: Watch Big Tex get rebuilt

He embodies Texas – he’s literally larger than life and that always appeals to Texans. He’s quite the character – this large, friendly rancher, a little sunburned from the sun, welcoming folks to the fair.

We consider him part of the family. Each year you venture to Fair Park and catch up with Big Tex. You grab a corny dog and you take a picture in front of him, it’s where memories are made.

The Worst Lynching in Texas History

On July 6, 1920 two African American men, Herman and Ervin Arthur, were burned at the stake in the Paris, Texas area.

After fighting for his country in WWI, 28-year-old Herman Arthur returned home having glimpsed a world far removed from the Jim Crow South. He joined his parents, Scott and Violet Arthur (both of whom had been born into slavery) in Paris and began working as a sharecropper for 61-year-old J. H. Hodges and his 34-year-old son, William. Herman lived in a sharecropper shack with his parents, his 18-year-old brother Ervin, three sisters (aged fourteen, seventeen and twenty) and his six-year-old nephew, Ervin Hill (named after his 18-year-old uncle).

The sharecropper arrangement the Arthurs had with the Hodges was a losing proposition and it eventually grew worse. The Hodges demanded that they work six days a week instead of five, and when the Arthurs skipped a Saturday on May 26, J. H. and William appeared at their shack unannounced (on Thursday, July 1), looking to have a word with Herman. When they discovered only two of the Arthur girls at the shack, they threw out the food the girls had been cooking and kicked the family’s stove into the yard. Then they made the two sisters undress, confiscating their clothing because they considered the Arthur family in arrears for not working the previous Saturday. When the rest of the family returned, they realized the situation was no longer tenable.

On July 2 the Arthurs began packing their things, but the Hodges reappeared with their guns up Herman and Ervin responded in kind. According to a letter to the New York Age, J. H. and William fired on the Arthurs first and when Herman and Ervin fired back, J. H. was shot in the head and William was shot in the neck. Both men succumbed to their wounds and Herman and Ervin fled.

A massive manhunt was conducted, but the Arthur brothers had already escaped to Oklahoma. In their absence, an enraged number of the white population seized the rest of the Arthur family and placed them in the Lamar County jail “for their own protection.”

There are different versions of what happened next.

In 1980, a 66-year-old Ervin Hill told the Chicago Tribune that Herman and Ervin returned to Paris of their own volition because they had heard the rest of their family was going to be lynched in their stead. In 1998, a 91-year-old retired, white civil attorney and Paris resident named Hardy Goodner Moore told the Tribune that the Arthur brothers were captured near Valiant, Oklahoma after they were betrayed by a black resident named Pitt McGrew. Whatever the case, Herman and Ervin returned to Paris and were placed in the county jail alongside the rest of their family.

The Arthur brothers told their story and claimed self–defense, but the facts in the case were irrelevant. Several unruly factions of the white citizenry were not amicable to a trial and signs that announced Herman and Ervin’s lynching began appearing around town. Lamar County Judge Ben H. Denton attempted to dissuade the effort, assuring his constituents that the suspects would have a speedy trial, but they didn’t want to wait.

At 7:30 pm on July 6, the Arthur brothers were removed from the county jail and taken to the Lamar County fairgrounds (on the northern edge of Paris). A lynch-mob chained them to a flagpole, tortured them and then burned them to a crisp as a crowd of 3,000 citizens looked on. Their smoldering remains were then dragged via automobile through the African American section of the city, their executioners all the while screaming “Here are the barbecued Niggers.”

Scott and Violet Arthur and their grandson Ervin Hill were subsequently released, but the Arthur sisters remained in custody. They were reportedly beaten and raped repeatedly by twenty white men and then given a bucket of molasses, a sack of flour and some bacon and advised to make themselves scarce.

The Arthur sisters eventually rejoined their father mother and nephew and hid in the local woods until members of a local African American Masonic Lodge and a handful of white neighbors helped them escape.

On July 7, the Paris News reported that factions of the black community in Paris “were assembling and would seek revenge” for the Arthur brothers lynching that night. That evening dozens of white citizens looted guns and ammunition from local hardware stores and stood at the ready in the town square. The black “uprising” never materialized and Paris Mayor J. Morgan Crook spent the following day traveling from crowd to crowd attempting to diffuse white paranoia.

The bodies of Herman and Ervin were recovered separately and a day apart. According to the Paris News they were buried at an undisclosed location in Lamar County. According to the Chicago Tribune, they were buried in the town’s earliest African American cemetery a short distance from the fairgrounds. The Tribune also noted that a middle-class subdivision for blacks was later built on top of the cemetery.

Several elements inside and outside the state of Texas believed that the Arthurs had been innocent because they acted in self-defense, and some officials suggested they were innocent altogether because they hadn’t been involved in the shooting at all. According to the New York Times, Lamar County Sheriff William Everett “Eb” Clarkson told McCurtain County (Oklahoma) Sheriff U. W. Dewitt he was sure that one if not both of the lynched Arthur brothers was innocent.

On July 9, the NAACP protested the act of lawlessness and on July 10 a special Lamar County grand jury convened to inquire into the lynching. Nothing came out of the protest or the grand jury investigation and hundreds of African Americans subsequently left Paris.

What was left of the Arthur family arrived in Chicago on August 30, 1920. A prominent black doctor named W. W. Lucas met them at the train station and took them to the Chicago Urban League to set up temporary housing. The influential African American newspaper the Chicago Defender organized a fund for the Arthurs and eventually raised enough money for them to get their own home. Chicagoans embraced the Arthurs and they began a new life. Scott Arthur died in 1937 at the age of 101. Violet passed in 1951 at the age of 97.

Hill characterized Violet as more a mother to him than a grandmother and, though he marveled at her strength over the years, he knew she never completely got over the lynching. “There were times long after we all grew up that she would go into a room by herself,” he said, “and just moan and groan about Uncle Ervin, her baby boy, and Uncle Herman.”

On May 15, 2016, the city of Waco held a memorial on the 100th anniversary of the Waco Horror, the burning at the stake of a young, mentally disabled African American man named Jesse Washington. The sitting mayor of Waco, Malcolm Duncan, Jr., formally apologized for the incident and the community as a whole made a commitment to move forward together. Members of that city even have a historical marker addressing the issue in the works.

The centennial for the February 1, 1893 torture and burning at the stake of Henry Smith in Paris, Texas—the worst lynching in Texas History—has passed. The 100th anniversary of the burnings at the stake of Herman and Irvin Arthur is a few years away. The city of Paris, Texas should openly and formally acknowledge these atrocities, officially apologize and make some effort to atone for them. The city of Paris, Texas needs to come clean to be clean, and be clear about where they stand on this history.

This article was posted on Tuesday, July 5th, 2016 at 10:41am and is filed under Racism.

Oral History Interview with Addie Walker, July 29, 2016

Ms. Walker grew up Raywood, Texas which is a unincorporated town of a few hundred people. She was born in 1943 in Liberty County. Walker discussed the Black neighborhood she grew up in and changes in Raywood over time. Walker described her experiences attending segregated schools including the quality of resources and instruction. Walker also discussed the role of colorism in the community. Walker described a divide between some Black children and Creole children based on color. Walker left Raywood to attend Prairie View and returned to Raywood. Walker has taught in Raywood schools for 52 years. Walker also discusses … continued below

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Ms. Walker grew up Raywood, Texas which is a unincorporated town of a few hundred people. She was born in 1943 in Liberty County. Walker discussed the Black neighborhood she grew up in and changes in Raywood over time. Walker described her experiences attending segregated schools including the quality of resources and instruction. Walker also discussed the role of colorism in the community. Walker described a divide between some Black children and Creole children based on color. Walker left Raywood to attend Prairie View and returned to Raywood. Walker has taught in Raywood schools for 52 years. Walker also discusses how segregation operated in such a small town. She described a more positive Black-White relations during segregation in comparison to how others described race relations in surrounding areas.

Texas 2016 - History

On March 27, some 21 days after the fall of the Alamo, James Fannin and roughly 345 captured soldiers were executed by Mexican General Urrea at the order of Santa Anna after the fall of the Presidio la Bahia. The bodies of the soldiers were burned.

Out of this story came another one of a Mexican woman who had shown mercy to those who had been captured at other times or feigned death in the massacre. In various accounts, the woman was referred to by several variations of the name, including Alvarez, but for this account, we will use Francita Alavéz or just Señora Alavéz.

Her background is largely unknown but she is thought to perhaps have been wife or perhaps a lover of a Mexican officer, Telesforo Alavéz. She is first noted to have persuaded a Mexican soldier to spare the lives of several Texas captives from earlier battles, rather than to have them be sent on to Gen. Urrea to be executed with the captives from Goliad. Other accounts tell of her slipping into the stronghold where the Goliad captives were held and helping several of them escape the night before the massacre.

Her heroism was recounted by witnesses, Dr. Joseph Barnard and Dr. John Shackleford, who were spared by Urrea. Dr. Shackleford referred to her as “a second Pocahontas.” To their accounts was added another by one Isaac Hamilton who twice escaped, from Goliad and later from a Mexican stronghold at Victoria, the latter time reportedly aided by Señora Alavéz.

Francita Alavéz then passed almost unknown into history. Little of her later life is documented. Beginning with the son of Telesforo and Señora Alavéz, Matías Alavéz, descendants of Telesforo Alavéz have since lived and worked on the King Ranch, following the death of Telesforo. Señora Alavéz was in her 90s and bedridden when she came to the ranch. She reportedly died while residing on the King Ranch and was buried there in an unmarked grave. Descendants of the couple still live in the Kingsville area.

Accounts of her actions live on. The Battle of Goliad is reenacted annually and her story has been integrated into the reenactment, most recently in April of 2016. For many years, various individuals including Judge J. T. Canales and Mrs. F. L. Thomas gave lectures telling of Alavéz’s bravery. In addition, Mrs. Thomas is known to have compeleted an original one act play in 1935 about Señora Alavéz. Governor Price Daniel appointed the two and others at various times to a state Angel of Goliad Committee. The committee was authorized to plan a memorial to Señora Alavéz.

Concerning Mrs. Thomas, she is generally referred to in written accounts simply as Mrs. F. L. Thomas, but Mabel Clare Randall Thomas was a well known Central Texas speaker and author, having composed many poems and other works many of which concerned Texas history. In the early days of radio, she became known as “The Story Lady” as she read stories and poems for children over local radio. In 1963, she was named Texas Woman of the Year by Progressive Farmer Magazine and was honored in the Texas House of Representatives for her contribution to the literature of Texas and for her civic work in the Bryan-College Station area and Texas at large.

Several artistic works now exist in honor of Señora Alavéz. Hugo Villa was commissioned to create a bust of her and it is now displayed at the Presidio La Bahia Museum in Goliad. A statue by Che Rickman stands between the Presidio and the Fannin Monument, also in Goliad. She is the central character depicted in a painting by Everett Jenssen that hangs in the Goliad State Park museum. Images of these works may be seen at www.angelofgoliaddhp.com, a website created for descendants of Alavéz.

She will be revered forever in the memory of Texans. The following is the inscription on her Texas Historical Marker:

“Amid the cruelties of the Texas War for Independence, one notable woman committed acts of bravery and compassion. Francisca Alavéz (also known by similar names) accompanied Mexican Army Captain Telesforo Alavéz to Texas in March 1836. In seven incidents between March and April, she intervened with Mexican troops under command of Gen. José de Urrea to help captured Texian prisoners at Agua Dulce, Copano, La Bahia, Victoria and Matamoros.

On Mar. 20, Maj. William P. Miller and 75 men of his Nashville Battalion were captured as they unloaded their ship at Copano Bay. Alavéz insisted that binding cords which cut off circulation be removed and food and water be provided. The men were moved to Presidio La Bahia at Goliad, where hundreds of Col. James Fannin’s troops were already held after their capture at Coleto Creek. At least 342 men were taken out of the fort on Mar. 27 and shot under orders of Gen. Santa Anna in what was termed the Goliad Massacre. Alavéz helped save the lives of many men, including 16-year-old Benjamin Hughes. Another survivor, Dr. J.H. Barnard, recalled that she pleaded for their lives, helped sneak out some troops at night and hid some of the men. Her humanitarian acts included tending to wounds and sending messages and provisions to those still imprisoned.

The Texas Centennial of 1936 revived interest in Alavéz with articles, a play, and a bronze bust and historical mural for Goliad’s Memorial Auditorium. Additional commemorations, such as a resolution from the Texas Legislature in 2001, have helped confirm Dr. Barnard’s assertion that ‘her name deserves to be recorded in letters of gold among those angels who have from time to time been commissioned by an overruling and beneficent power to relieve the sorrows and cheer the hearts of men.'”

The story of the Angel of Goliad was another favorite of Officer Dennis Wesley.

America’s Lost History of Border Violence

Runyon Photograph Collection/The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History/University of Texas at Austin

A hundred years ago, in the Texas counties along the U.S.–Mexico border, a decade-long flurry of extralegal killings perpetrated by Texas Rangers, local law enforcement, and civilian vigilantes took the lives of thousands of residents of the United States who were of Mexican descent, and pushed many more across the border into Mexico. This record of death and intimidation, which irrevocably shaped life in those border counties, has not been commonly taught in the state’s mainstream school curricula or otherwise recognized in official state histories. Mexican-American communities, however, have preserved the memory of the violence in family archives, songs, and stories. “To many Mexicans, contemporary violence between Anglos and Mexicans can never be divorced from the bloody history of the Borderlands,” write William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb in their history of lynchings of Mexican-Americans. “They remember, even if the rest of the country does not.”

Belatedly, tentatively, Texas has begun to reckon with this bloody history. As election-year rhetoric around the border and Mexican immigration has reached new levels of xenophobia and racism, the state—goaded by a group of historians calling themselves Refusing to Forget—has taken steps toward commemoration of the period called “La Matanza” (“The Killing”), with an exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and three historical markers soon to be unveiled. For a state that has long refused to come to terms with those years—sealing transcripts of a Congressional investigation into the killings and waxing nostalgic about the Texas Rangers despite their involvement—it’s something like progress, even if the legacy of this violence will require far more than exhibits to expiate.

The deaths that occurred between 1910 and 1920 are part of a longer history of lynching of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the United States—itself little-discussed in comparison with the parallel history of violence against black Americans. Carrigan and Webb identify waves of violence against Americans of Mexican descent in the 1850s (when Mexicans were forcibly expelled from many mining camps in California), the 1870s (when Mexicans and Americans both took to raiding farms and ranches across their respective borders), and the 1910s. While a mob’s stated reason for lynching black victims tended to be an accusation of sexual violence, for Mexicans in the United States, the reason given was often retaliation for murder or a crime against property: robbery, or what was sometimes called “banditry.”

Property—in the form of land—was the underlying cause of the Texas border violence that took place in the second decade of the 20 th century. At the turn of the 20 th century, an epic, often illegal, transfer of land began, moving ownership from Tejanos living in the border counties of Texas to newly arrived Anglo farmers and ranchers. (Because the people living through this history did not use the term “Mexican-American” to describe themselves, I’m following the lead of the Refusing to Forget historians, and using the terms “Texas-Mexicans” or “Tejanos” to describe Texas residents of Mexican descent.) The advent of the railroad, which reached the border city of Brownsville in 1904, made Anglo expansion onto historically Mexican land possible, seriously shifting the balance of power in the land along the Rio Grande.

This area had fallen within the borders of the United States since the middle of the 19 th century, when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War and made the river the new boundary between the two countries. But it had remained culturally Mexican, with many Mexican residents staying on the ranches where they had been living—which were now, legally, located in Texas. Between the signing of the treaty and the advent of the railroad, the area was predominately Mexican, with a small number of Anglo settlers mixing into the culture, intermarrying with Tejano neighbors and learning to speak Spanish. As historian John Moran Gonzalez put it to me: “You paid your taxes in dollars, but you paid for your groceries in pesos. English was the language of government but everybody spoke Spanish.” The Border Patrol wasn’t founded until 1924 in the meantime, people went back and forth across the river easily.

After the railroad arrived, irrigation companies soon followed suit, and the Rio Grande Valley’s naturally fertile lands began to look more and more appealing to Anglo immigrants. The price of land went up, and so did taxes Mexican ranchers found it hard to pay. “Sheriffs sold three times as many parcels for tax delinquency in the decade from 1904 to 1914 as they had from 1893 to 1903,” writes Benjamin Heber Johnson in his book Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion And Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans Into Americans. “These sales almost always transferred land from Tejanos to Anglos.” Because records of land ownership in the region had been poorly maintained when the land was less desirable, Anglo settlers could often challenge ownership in court. If the Tejano living on the land didn’t have the funds to fight such a challenge, they ended up selling parcels in order to pay legal fees. Sometimes, Johnson writes, white ranchers “resorted to the simple expedient of occupying a desired tract and violently expelling previous occupants.” The end result was catastrophic for the Tejano community: Between 1900 and 1910, more than 187,000 acres of land transferred from Tejano to Anglo hands, in just two Texas counties (Cameron and Hidalgo). Many who lost their land ended up working on it, paid, not well, by its new owners.

Just as these white settlers began moving into the region, a series of events in Mexico (a recession in 1906 the Mexican Revolution in 1910) caused an increase in Mexican immigration, as people fled instability in their home country. The decadelong revolution in Mexico ended the reign of Porfirio Diaz, a dictator who had supported wealthy landowners and industrialists. The reforms called for by Mexicans who challenged Diaz’s rule included land redistribution. This scared Anglo Texans, who worried that revolutionaries might look at Texas—where some Anglos had begun to accumulate huge tracts of land that once belonged to Tejano smallholders—and see fertile ground for protest and action.

Bullock Texas State History Museum

Groups like the revolutionary Junta Organizadora del Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM), which had opposed the U.S.–backed Diaz regime, did in fact influence some Mexicans living in the United States. When a copy of the Plan de San Diego, a fiery document calling on Mexicans (and a list of other minority ethnic groups) to rise up against Anglo rule and establish their own government in the Southern United States via armed struggle, surfaced in Duval County, Texas, in 1915, the climate turned toxic. Anglo ranchers, reading news of the Plan de San Diego in their newspapers, felt increasingly threatened. Throughout that year, groups of Mexicans and Mexican Texans, some operating with the political and material support of revolutionaries in Mexico, raided railroad lines and communication infrastructure in South Texas.

A number of raids on Anglo ranches did occur. Occasionally, the raiders even killed ranchers outright. Johnson starts his book with the story of Nellie Austin, an Anglo woman who watched her husband and son killed by armed Sediciosos, as the rebels came to be called. “I went first to my husband and found two bullet holes in his back one on each side near his spinal column,” Austin later said of the day the men came to her farm. “My husband was not quite dead but died a few minutes thereafter. I then proceeded to my son Charles who was lying a few feet from his father I found his face in a large pool of blood and saw that he was shot in the mouth, neck and in the back of the head and was dead when I reached him.”

The Austins, Johnson points out, were “important local segregationists whose personal behavior had angered many Tejanos” it seems likely that they were targeted because their attitude toward Mexicans was so brutal. The elder Austin was known to kick field workers he considered to be working too slowly. According to a local law enforcement officer, six men in the party that killed him had worked for him, and had felt “the toe of his boot.”

The actions of the Sediciosos who attacked Anglo property during the first half of the decade pose an interesting problem for historians telling the story of the deaths of Tejanos during the same period. How to account for the fact that those many extralegal killings that took place between 1915 and 1920 were inspired not only by phantoms living in the minds of people who had so recently moved into the region and dispossessed its residents, but also by actual acts of resistance?

After visiting the Refusing to Forget group’s exhibit at the Texas State History Museum, journalist Aaron Miguel Cantú wrote a critical review of it for the New Inquiry, decrying the relative absence of the Sediciosos in the exhibit’s story of the unfolding violence in South Texas. A true representation of the history, Cantú wrote, would show that “the Rio Grande Valley was the last place where a gunslinging anti-government insurgency seriously threatened US borders.” To Cantú, the diminished presence of this resistance in the exhibit’s storyline heightens the sense that the Texas Mexicans who died in the ensuing violence were innocent victims, and unfairly sidelines the Tejanos and Mexicans who did fight back against the huge social and economic changes occurring in the border counties.

Even when you fully account for the actions of the Sediciosos, the Anglo response to these raids was a brutal overreaction, killing (and driving back across the border) a lopsided number of Tejanos and Mexicans.

The Texas Rangers were founded in 1836. As historian Kelly Lytle Hernandez writes in her history of the Border Patrol, Rangers—roaming law enforcement officers who became legendary for their frontier toughness—were key to the Anglo settlement of Texas. Their heroic image among white settlers in the 19 th century was earned at a price paid by everyone else, as the Rangers “battled indigenous groups for dominance in the region, chased down runaway slaves who struck for freedom deep within Mexico, and settled scores with anyone who challenged the Anglo-American project in Texas,” Hernandez writes.

Gordon Grant/Library of Congress

Between 1910 and 1920, the state drastically upped the number of Texas Rangers who patrolled the area. The Mexican Revolution and the raids by the Sediciosos were one trigger for the increase in law enforcement World War I was another. When the war began, some Americans feared that Mexico might side with Germany. The fears made things worse for Texas Mexicans in the border region, as Rangers and local law enforcement were charged with determining the loyalties of the local population, and delivering “slackers” to draft boards. In an article in the journal American Quarterly, historian Monica Muñoz Martinez writes that the force went from 13 Rangers in September 1913 to around 1,350—paid and unpaid—by the end of the war. “The dramatic increase in the force led to rampant hiring with little administrative oversight,” Martinez notes. The creation of a new category of Ranger, called the “Loyalty Ranger,” allowed for quick induction of less-qualified personnel. The Rangers assisted local sheriffs and landowners, acting as enforcers for Anglo ranchers. During this time, the Rangers, little supervised and much valued by scared Anglo citizens of the region, cemented their place as the agents of white rule in the borderlands.

Later testimony recorded the way the Rangers took advantage of their power to carry out extralegal killings in the far distant reaches of the rural border counties in the wake of the discovery of the Plan de San Diego. In October 1915, after raiders derailed a train in Olmito, Texas, near Brownsville (the railroad, as a primary agent of Tejano dispossession, was a frequent target), Rangers and civilian helpers captured 10 ethnic Mexicans, hanging and shooting them on the spot.* The local sheriff, W.T. Vann, later said that Ranger Captain W.T. Ransom was responsible:

Many killings in the initial period of violence in 1915 resolved old conflicts between Anglo and Tejano neighbors, in the favor of the Anglo. Some Anglo landowners who had long desired land owned by Tejano neighbors found ways to accuse them of raiding and scare them across the river, then offered them bottom dollar for their abandoned ranches, securing legal title through intimidation.

One killing in particular highlights how little the social power that Tejano elites had accumulated during their decades in the region could accomplish, when up against the impunity the Rangers felt in the months after the discovery of the Plan de San Diego. On Sept. 27, 1915, W.T. Ransom and two civilians killed Jesus Bazán and Antonio Longoria, Tejano ranchers in Hidalgo County and members of the local elite (Longoria was a county commissioner). The two—Bazán, the father-in-law, and Longoria, his son-in-law—had lost horses to raiders and decided to report it to the Rangers who were camping nearby. Monica Martinez writes that the prevailing climate made the choice to report this crime difficult. “On the one hand, [Longoria and Bazán] knew that if they reported the robbery to local or state police, their kin could face the raiders’ wrath for aiding local authorities,” she writes. “On the other hand,” if they kept quiet and the horse thieves were arrested, “the families could be accused of supporting bandit activities and risk brutal reprisals.”

They decided to report the theft. After the pair rode away from the Ranger camp on horseback, Ransom, accompanied by two Anglos, got in a Model T and drove behind them. He eventually caught up, and the three men shot the Tejano riders in the back. Workers on the ranch witnessed this event, and Ransom warned them, Martinez writes, “not to bury or move the bodies. Taking this additional step of intimidation denied the bodies a proper burial and forced neighbors and friends of the dead to endure an extreme act of disrespect.” In killing such high-status members of the Tejano community and refusing them burial, Ransom demonstrated the absolute nature of Ranger power over the borderlands, making a vivid argument for Ranger invincibility.

Bullock Texas State History Museum

Such disrespect of the testimony, property, and lives of Tejanos, even the most elite, was endemic during 1915. The way local newspapers wrote about the violence shows how the killings drew from, and hardened, burgeoning racism, in a region where the Anglo minority had once lived in relative peace with their Tejano neighbors. As was often the case with lynchings of African-Americans, Anglo papers reported on the deaths of 1915 with a boosterish attitude that seems macabre to a modern reader. Johnson quotes a few: “The known bandits and outlaws are being hunted like coyotes and one by one are being killed … The war of extermination will be carried on until every man known to have been involved with the uprising will have been wiped out,” wrote the Lyford Courant. The editor of the Laredo Times argued: “The recent happenings in Brownsville country indicate that there is a serious surplus population there that needs eliminating.” A newspaper in San Antonio reported: “The finding of dead bodies of Mexicans, suspected for various reasons of being connected with the troubles, has reached a point where it creates little or no interest … It is only when a raid is reported or a [white] American is killed that the ire of the people is aroused.”

Raids by Tejanos and Mexicans associated with the Revolution died down in 1916, but the tension between Tejanos and Anglos remained. Tejano residents of South Texas felt completely unprotected by the law. In a 1916 petition to President Woodrow Wilson and the governor of Texas, the Tejano residents of Kingsville described the conditions that prevailed during that time:

The Kingsville residents reported an incident in which two community members were arrested and taken by an officer to Brownsville they were killed en route. “The place where and by whom killed, is not learned,” the petition states in formal passive voice. “Before being tried, and while they were still presumed innocent under our law, they were killed. And their widows, after making diligent inquiry, are given no information as to where the bodies may be found.” Confirming the petitioners’ fears that they might be retaliated against for preparing the complaint, the Anglo attorney who helped the group prepare this petition reported that a Ranger later came to a courthouse where he was working, asked him, “Are you the son of a bitch that wrote that petition at Kingsville?” and pistol-whipped him.

In 1918, State Rep. José T. Canales called for hearings to investigate the recent conduct of the Texas Rangers in 19 cases of wrongful dispossession, assault, and murder. Canales wrote a bill that would require Rangers to post bond before serving (to guarantee their good conduct) and to be otherwise more tightly regulated by the state. That Canales, the only state legislator of Mexican descent, managed to raise these questions in an official forum is remarkable. But reading the transcripts of the 1919 hearings (which were kept sealed until the 1970s and are now available in PDF form) is an exercise in frustration. Witness after witness stonewalls the legislator, evincing respect for the Rangers, defense of their conduct, and disbelief at any allegations Canales advances.

A few Anglo witnesses did speak on behalf of Tejano citizens. Playing to his Prohibitionist Progressive allies in the legislature, Canales emphasized the drunkenness and dissipation of the Rangers he called Virginia Yeager, an Anglo witness who was a suffrage activist, to speak about her own encounters with the Rangers. “They have no regard for either the civil or military laws,” Yeager wrote in her letter to the legislature, included in the transcripts. “They make their own out of a bottle.” Witnesses both Anglo and Tejano spoke about “rough treatment,” drunkenness, and the “evaporation,” or disappearing, of citizens of Mexican descent. The massacre at Porvenir was perhaps the most serious incident addressed in the 1919 hearings. Rosenda Mega, “47 years old, American citizen, born at Fort Davis, Texas, but residing at Van Horn, Texas,” told the commission that he had special knowledge of this event. Mega had spoken with people who lived in the West Texas town of Porvenir, and heard them recount the story of the murder of 15 residents of the small village, which took place on Jan. 28, 1918. (Most of the remaining residents of Porvenir—around 140 of them—had fled to Mexico, and so were unavailable for comment.)

Soldiers and law enforcement mounted the assault on Porvenir in apparent retaliation for a raid on a nearby ranch. The residents told Mega that about 40 “American soldiers, Rangers, and Texas Ranchmen” searched the town, found no evidence of involvement, but selected a group of men to be killed anyway—perhaps as a warning. Mega’s testimony, filtered through the typewriter of the legislature’s stenographer, is brutal: “They took them about one-quarter of a mile from said ranch, and then in a very cowardly manner, and without examining any of them, shot them.” Listing the names of the dead, Mega added: “One of those killed was my father-in-law, in whom I had great faith, and with whom I have traded for many years.”

Canales’ bill, as he wrote it, didn’t pass. The bill the committee approved removed the requirements that Rangers be bonded, and while it called for the end of the Special Rangers, it allowed the governor to retain the power to expand the Ranger force at will. The legislature found evidence that the Texas Rangers were “guilty of, and responsible for, the gross violation of both civil and criminal laws of the state,” but failed to punish the force’s current leaders. Monica Martinez told me that although the official state narrative about the 1919 hearings was a story of redemption—as she summarized it, “the Texas Rangers were reformed, the numbers of the Rangers were reduced, and the bad apples were kicked out”—in actuality, many of the men who were named during the hearings went on to other jobs in Texas law enforcement.

Texas History: Texas Student Edition 2016

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Texas History: Texas Student Edition 2016 1st Edition by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (K-12). Save up to 80% by choosing the eTextbook option for ISBN: 9780544339606, 0544339606. The print version of this textbook is ISBN: 9780544320307, 0544320301.

Texas History: Texas Student Edition 2016 1st Edition by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (K-12). Save up to 80% by choosing the eTextbook option for ISBN: 9780544339606, 0544339606. The print version of this textbook is ISBN: 9780544320307, 0544320301.

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