Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: Black Leadership in Texas, 1868-1898

Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: Black Leadership in Texas, 1868-1898

Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: Black Leadership in Texas, 1868-1898

Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: Black Leadership in Texas, 1868-1898


Through Many Dangers, Toils and Snares, originally published in 1985, was the first book to make an in-depth examination of the cadre of African American lawmakers in Texas after the Civil War. Those few books that addressed the subject at all treated black legislators en masse and offered little or nothing about their individual histories. Early scholars tended to present isolated events of the violence and political deterrents inflicted upon black voters but said very little about how these obstacles affected black lawmakers.

Author Merline Pitre has departed from this traditional method and relied upon the untapped original materials found on these black lawmakers. This third edition features a new preface and extended, updated appendixes, ensuring that this study will remain useful to political scientists, sociologists, and historians of Texas political history, Afro-American history, and revisionists of Reconstruction.

MERLINE PITRE is the author or editor of numerous books, including Black Women in Texas History, In Struggle against Jim Crow, and Southern Black Women in the Modern Civil Rights Movement, winner of the Liz Carpenter Award for Research in the History of Women.


When I first read and reviewed Dr. Merline Pitre’s excellent study of black leaders in Texas in the late nineteenth century after its publication in 1985, I was unaware that no full-length study of the state’s black leaders in this period had been done since J. Mason Brewer’s popular study of black Texas legislators published in 1935. I soon learned, however, that Dr. Pitre’s study was the first comprehensive attempt to interpret and analyze the state’s black leadership within the times in which they lived. Moreover, her study was groundbreaking because it challenged the traditional scholarship on the state’s post-Civil War black leadership that usually lumped all of them together as “ignorant and dishonest negroes,” who knew nothing about self-government and the administration of state affairs.

Dr. Pitre was the first historian to offer an interpretive framework for the state’s post-Civil War black leadership. Her use of the words from the song “Amazing Grace” to describe the problems and challenges that confronted the state’s black leadership was both creative and appropriate. In addition, her extended biographies of Matthew Gaines, Richard Allen, Norris Wright Cuney, George T. Ruby, and Robert Smith helped to show the diversity of ability and approaches among the state’s postwar black leadership and to put to rest forever the inaccurate and monolithic description of them as “ignorant negroes.”

Since the publication of Dr. Pitre’s study of postwar black leadership in Texas, several studies have appeared addressing various aspects of the state’s postwar race relations. Scholars have examined the state’s race relations from the perspective of the Freedman’s . . .

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