From Slave to Statesman: The Legacy of Joshua Houston, Servant to Sam Houston

From Slave to Statesman: The Legacy of Joshua Houston, Servant to Sam Houston

From Slave to Statesman: The Legacy of Joshua Houston, Servant to Sam Houston

From Slave to Statesman: The Legacy of Joshua Houston, Servant to Sam Houston


This is the story of the "other" Houston, Joshua, the slave of Margaret Lea until she married Sam Houston and moved to Texas in 1840. Joshua was unique among slaves: he was taught to read and write, and was allowed to keep money he earned. The story is set in a background of historical details about southern social history before, during, and after the Civil War.

Sources include slave autobiographies and biographies; Houston family letters; oral histories of descendants of both Houston families; birth, marriage and death records; land records and deeds; church and school records.


Joshua created a path and left a legacy. We retraced that path searching for clues about his life. What we found was astounding, but we have not stopped our search. This book, therefore, is only a beginning. We hope others, including his descendants, will continue the search for information about Joshua Houston and the other unheralded heroes of the Reconstruction period in Texas and throughout the South.

Researching the life of anyone who lived a century ago is challenging, but researching one who spent half of his life without a last name has been a special challenge. Our good fortune was that Joshua Houston had spent over twenty years with Texas’s greatest hero, General Sam Houston. By studying the hundreds of personal letters that Sam and his wife Margaret wrote to each other, as well as reading documented accounts of their lives, we were able to chronicle the life of his servant Joshua, who eventually became a hero in his own right.

Although this book centers on Joshua and how he and other ex-slaves made a difference in Walker County, Texas, we discovered quickly that similar stories were occurring throughout the rest of the state and the South. These men and women formed networks throughout their religious, political, social, and educational organizations that helped them steer through the troubled waters that existed before the Civil War and after Emancipation. We hope that this book will inspire others to study their own communities and counties, discovering men and women, both black and white, who made a positive difference in the lives of all Texans during this turbulent time.

A note on our decision of when to use the terms “Negroes,” “Colored,” “Blacks,” and “African-Americans,” might be necessary. Rather than going back and changing all the terms as they were used in our sources to what is considered politically correct now, we decided to use the terms that were politically correct at the time the sources were written.

Our indebtedness is first to General Sam Houston and his wife Margaret, who left a paper trail of letters which allowed us to determine Joshua’s role in their lives. We are grateful to the Houston family descendants who pre-

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