Readings on the Black Experience in Texas



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Study Grant Proposal for Summer I 2011
Readings on the Black Experience in Texas
Roger Ward
Office Phone: 972-516-5026
Email: rward@collin.edu

Readings on the Black Experience in Texas

Ira Berlin’s seminal work on free blacks in the Antebellum South, Slaves Without Masters: The Free Negro in the Antebellum South, illustrated a diverse experience for free blacks based on factors like skin color, connection to white benefactors, and occupation. No factor, however, was more important than geographic region. Berlin employed an Upper South/Lower South dichotomy to demonstrate the significance of geographic region to the experience of free blacks therein. Berlin has since made a similar argument with regard to regional differences in slavery in Many Thousands Gone.


Subsequent local and regional studies of slavery and free black life have demonstrated that, while there were certainly similarities in the black experience across regions, Berlin’s Upper and Lower South dichotomy, while accurate to an extent, did not go far enough. As a result, regional differences in the black experience have become apparent within Berlin’s Upper and Lower South regional distinctions. The position of Texas within the South, as both a southern and western state, would certainly produce a different experience for blacks, slave and free, than other regions of the country. Even after the end of slavery, differences would likely persist as Texas has remained a unique region of the United States.

While pursuing my Ph.D. with a primary field of study in African American history at the University of Kentucky I immersed myself in much of the scholarship of the black experience in America and many of the most important works on race theory. Little of that scholarship, however, touched on black life in Texas. After nearly five years in Texas I still have not found enough time to read much of the scholarship on the black experience in Texas, a topic that my preliminary research has shown to be a growing field.


This study grant would afford me the opportunity to study a wide range of issues in the black experience in Texas – in particular, the significance of churches within black communities, black experience under and response to Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement in Texas. By enriching my knowledge through this extensive reading list, I will be able to bring a local and regional perspective to the African American History class as well as both of the U.S. History surveys.
I am not only looking, however, to enrich my teaching in the classroom. Since moving to Texas I have grown increasingly anxious to conduct research into the black experience in Texas but did not have enough knowledge of the field to know where I might contribute with my own scholarship. My extensive reading through this study grant should also identify potential areas of need in the historiography of Black Texas history, especially in those areas I have already expressed interest – black churches, Jim Crow, and civil rights.
The intersection of those subjects raise some especially interesting questions – in what ways did black church leaders insulate their congregations from Jim Crow? In what ways might they have perpetuated or supported Jim Crow (i.e., did they take an official position on lynching or periodic race riots in Texas)? Was the role of black churches similar to or different from black churches in other parts of the South with regard to civil rights? And did the Civil Rights Movement play out the same in Texas as it did in other parts of the South? While I hope to find some answers, I also expect that I will find room for more study in a field to which I hope to contribute in the future making this study grant beneficial to my students because of what I can bring to the classroom and to me in terms of my own professional development.

Plan of study:
Week 1:

I plan to begin my study by reading general works and collections on the African American history and culture in Texas. Alwyn Barr’s Black Texans: A History of African Americans in Texas, 1528-1995, along with two edited volumes, The African American Experience in Texas: An Anthology, edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and James M. Smallwood, and Bricks Without Straw: A Comprehensive History of African Americans in Texas, edited by David A. Williams will provide me with a general understanding of the black experience in Texas. I also expect that these broader works and anthologies may alter the reading list I have outlined here.


Week 2:

My second week of reading will focus on Antebellum Texas through Reconstruction. In order to better understand the unique experience of African Americans, both slave and free, in Antebellum Texas I will rely on Randolph B. Campbell’s An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865 and James M. Smallwood’s article, “Blacks in Antebellum Texas: A Reappraisal.”

Reconstruction was an important era throughout the South, in terms of the impact freedom had on the former slaves and the impact its failure had black and white southerners for nearly a century. I will use Murder and Mayhem: The War of Reconstruction in Texas by Smallwood, Barry A. Crouch, and Larry Peacock, as well as Campbell’s Grass Roots Reconstruction in Texas, 1865-1880.
Week 3:

Week 3 will be devoted to the daily black experience under the Jim Crow system, including black response to legal and social restrictions and the violence that often accompanied it. In short, I will focus on the social impact of Jim Crow and the black response. Given my initial assumption of the significance of black churches and the promise education held for black success, I will begin with Clyde McQueen’s, Black Churches in Texas and Michael Heintze’s, Private Black Colleges in Texas, 1865-1954. I will follow that up with Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow by James Conrad and Thad Sitton.

Since those may offer a more celebratory look at those institutions, I will use William Carrigan’s, The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916. I will supplement that with case studies such as John Weaver’s, The Brownsville Raid, Patricia Bernstein’s, The First Waco Horror, and Black Soldiers in Jim Crow Texas, 1899-1917 by Garna Christian.
Week 4:

In week 4 I will shift my focus to the political situation for blacks in Jim Crow Texas. Gregg Cantrell’s Kenneth and John B. Rayner and the Limits of Southern Dissent promises to offer an excellent introduction into the topic. African Americans and Race Relations in San Antonio, Texas, 1867-1937 by Kenneth Mason will also offer a local look at the political and social impact of Jim Crow on black Texans.

Since the poll tax and the white Democratic primary played such significant roles in disfranchising blacks in Texas, I will use a number of articles on those topics by Darlene Clark Hine, Dick Smith, and Donald Strong to further my understanding of those institutions.
Week 5:
The final week will conclude with a look at the Civil Rights Movement in Texas and its legacy (or the extent to which Texas lived up to the promise of the movement). I will begin with Merline Pitre’s In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957 which should connect black activism in the Jim Crow era to the Civil Rights Movement. I will supplement that with Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston by William Kellar and Race and Class in Texas Politics by Chandler Davidson.

For post-Civil Rights Texas, I will begin with Robert Bullard’s Invisible Houston: The Black Experience in Boom and Bust and Deep Ellum and Central Track: Where the Black and White Worlds of Dallas Converged by Alan Govenar and Jay Brakefield, as well as William Wilson’s Hamilton Park: A Planned Black Community in Dallas. I also plan to supplement my study of the period with as-yet-to-be-determined essays and articles.



Reading List
Barr, Alwyn, Black Texans: A History of African Americans in Texas, 1528-1995. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.
Bernstein, Patricia, The First Waco Horror: The Lynching of Jesse Washington and the Rise of the NAACP. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2005.
Bullard, Robert D. Invisible Houston: The Black Experience in Boom and Bust. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987.
Campbell, Randolph B. An Empire for Slavery: The Peculiar Institution in Texas, 1821-1865. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.
________. Grass Roots Reconstruction in Texas, 1865-1880. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1997.
Cantrell, Gregg. Kenneth and John B. Rayner and the Limits of Southern Dissent. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.
Carrigan, William D. The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004.
Christian, Garna L. Black Soldiers in Jim Crow Texas, 1899-1917. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995.
Davidson, Chandler. Race and Class in Texas Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.
Glasrud, Bruce A. and James M. Smallwood, The African American Experience in Texas: An Anthology. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2007.
Govenar, Alan and Jay Brakefield. Deep Ellum and Central Track: Where the Black and White Worlds of Dallas Converged. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1998.
Heintze, Michael R. Private Black Colleges in Texas, 1865-1954. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985.
Hines, Darlene Clark. “The Elusive Ballot: The Black Struggle against the Texas Democratic White Primary, 1932-1945.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 81 (1978): 371-392.
Kellar, William Henry. Make Haste Slowly: Moderates, Conservatives, and School Desegregation in Houston. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999.
McQueen, Clyde. Black Churches in Texas: A Guide to Historic Congregations. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2000.
Mason, Kenneth. African Americans and Race Relations in San Antonio, Texas, 1867-1937. New York: Garland Publishing, 1998.
Pitre, Merline. In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1999.
Sitton, Thad and James H. Conrad. Freedom Colonies: Independent Black Texans in the Time of Jim Crow. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005.
Smallwood, James M. “Blacks in Antebellum Texas: A Reappraisal.” Red River Valley Historical Review 2 (Winter 1975): 443-466.
Smallwood, James M., Barry A. Crouch, and Larry Peacock. Murder and Mayhem: The War of Reconstruction in Texas. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2003.
Smith, Dick. “Texas and the Poll Tax.” Southwestern Social Science Quarterly 35 (September 1955): 167-173.
Strong, Donald S. “The Poll Tax: The Case of Texas.” The American Political Science Review 38 (August 1944): 693-709.
Weaver, John D. The Brownsville Raid. New York: W.W. Norton, 1970.
Williams, David A., ed. Bricks Without Straw: A Comprehensive History of African Americans in Texas. Austin: Eakin Press, 1997.
Wilson, William H. Hamilton Park: A Planned Black Community in Dallas. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.

I have tentatively identified the following articles as potential scholarship to supplement the reading list



Curtin, Mary Ellen. “Reaching for Power: Barbara C. Jordan and Liberals in the Texas Legislature, 1966-1972.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 108 (October 2004): 211-231.
Dulaney, W. Marvin. “Whatever Happened to the Civil Rights Movement in Dallas, Texas?” In Essays on the American Civil Rights Movement, edited by W. Marvin Dulaney and Kathleen Underwood, 66-95. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1993.
Gillette, Michael L. “Blacks Challenge the White University.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 86 (October 1982): 321-344.
Glasrud, Bruce A. “Black Texas Improvement Efforts, 1879-1929: Migration, Separatism, Nationalism.” The Journal of South Texas 14 (2001): 204-222.
Goldberg, Robert A. “Racial Change on the Southern Periphery: The Case of San Antonio, Texas, 1960-1965.” Journal of Southern History 49 (1983): 349-374.
Pruitt, Bernadette. “’For the Advancement of the Race’: The Great Migrations to Houston, Texas, 1914-1919.” Journal of Urban History 31 (May 2005): 435-478.
Robinson, Charles F., II. “Legislated Love in the Lone Star State.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 108 (2004): 65-84.
Romero, Francine Sanders. “’There Are Only White Champions’: The Rise and Demise of Segregated Boxing in Texas.” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 108 (2004): 27-42.
SoRelle, James M. “The Emergence of Black Business in Houston: A Study of Race and Ideology, 1919-1945.” In Black Dixie: Afro-Texan History and Culture in Houston, edited by Howard Beeth and Cary D. Wintz, 175-191. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1992.


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