Black Dixie: Afro-Texan History and Culture in Houston

Black Dixie: Afro-Texan History and Culture in Houston

Black Dixie: Afro-Texan History and Culture in Houston

Black Dixie: Afro-Texan History and Culture in Houston

Synopsis

An innovative contribution to the growing body of research about urban African-American culture in the South, Black Dixie is the first anthology to track the black experience in a single southern city across the entire slavery/post-slavery continuum. It combines the best previously published scholarship about black Houston and little-known contemporary eye-witness accounts of the city with fresh, unpublished essays by historians and social scientists. Divided into four sections, the book covers a broad range of both time and subjects. The first section analyzes the development of scholarly consciousness and interest in the history of black Houston; slavery in nineteenth-century Houston is covered in the second section; economic and social development in Houston in the era of segregation are looked at in the third section; and segregation, violence, and civil rights in twentieth-century Houston are dealt with in the final section. Collectively, the contents of Black Dixie utilize the full range ofprimary sources available to scholars studying the black South. These include such traditional material as newspapers and diaries as well as newer techniques involving quantification and statistical analysis. The editors' remarks relate the individual essays to one another as well as placing them within the context of scholarly literature on the subject. Hence Black Dixie will serve both as a resource and as a model for the study of black urban culture in Texas and throughout the South.

Excerpt

Houston, which often strikes both visitors and residents as a city with no history, actually dates back to the 1830s. This was the era of city building that saw communities like Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and scores of less successful urban ventures either founded or first establishing themselves as urban areas. The initial exploration and European settlement of the Houston area, like most of the other cities of this period, predated the founding of the city by a considerable period. Blacks participated in the initial explorations and settlement of both Texas and the Houston area.

Estaban, an African who was one of the four survivors of the Cabeza de Vaca expedition that shipwrecked on the Texas coast in 1528, established the pattern of black involvement in Spanish Texas. Blacks accompanied most Spanish expeditions into Texas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and they were part of the population of most Spanish garrisons and settlements in Texas in the eighteenth century. Blacks probably comprised between fifteen and twenty-five percent of the population of Spanish Texas in the late eighteenth century. Furthermore, although the Spanish introduced slavery into Texas, the majority of blacks residing in the province were free. For example, in the San Antonio area in 1778, 151 of 759 male residents were black or mulatto, and only 4 of these were slaves. Free blacks in Spanish Texas faced few, if any, restrictions on their freedom. They were accepted socially and followed whatever trade or profession that they chose. Census data lists blacks or mulattos as farmers, merchants, teachers, shoemakers, carpenters, miners, teamsters, laborers, and domestic servants. Several of them owned land and cattle.

Most of the blacks who resided in Spanish Texas were born there or even further south in what is present-day Mexico. However, beginning in the early nineteenth century, an increasing number came from the United States. This migration increased after 1821, when Mexico won its independence from Spain. Free blacks came to Texas because there was greater . . .

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