African Americans in South Texas History

By Bruce A. Glasrud | Go to book overview

After Emancipation
Cologne, Texas

SARA R. MASSEY

LOCATED ON U.S. HIGHWAY 59 NEAR THE VICTORIA County line in eastern Goliad County, about two hours south of San Antonio, is a highway sign for Cologne, a town that has a unique place in Texas history Today, there is no town, only three collapsed homes, but in 1877, a small village blossomed that was home to freed slaves of Victoria County and that excluded white inhabitants until the railroad came in 1889.

Joseph Smith and George Washington were both slaves born in Virginia and after emancipation, both lived in the town of Victoria.1 In 1850, Victoria County registered 1,396 whites, 52 free blacks, and 571 slaves for a total of 2,019 people. In the town of Victoria 806 people, including 157 slaves, lived. By 1860, Victoria’s population had expanded to 1,986 residents, including 521 slaves and one free black man.2

Five years later, after the Union’s victory in the Civil War, General Gordon Granger landed on Galveston Island. On June 19, 1865, he issued a proclamation freeing all slaves in Texas. Along with their new freedom, however, African Americans experienced pure, unadulterated fear for their lives. From 1865 to 1868 white Texans committed over 1,500 acts of violence against blacks, including more than 350 murders. Only intervention by the U.S. Congress and the imposition of military rule in the state brought a modicum of safety to African Americans. The era of Reconstruction had arrived.

The use of the political and legal system to regulate the behavior of African Americans was accompanied by a reign of terror in the state. Fifty thousand federal troops (including black soldiers) marched into Texas occupying all sections of the state. Despite the influx of troops,

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