Outline of Texas
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Black History in Texas
Dr. Juliet E. K. Walker
Professor, Department of History
Outline of Texas
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Black History under the Six Flags of Texas: A Chronology

Texas has been under the control by three different nations; Spain, France, and Mexico. Also Texas has been under the control by the Republic, Confederacy, and the United States.

The Spanish Flag (1519-1685)
The Spanish flag was the first flag that represented Texas. This flag flew over Texas for three centuries, starting in 1519-1685 and again in 1690-1821, after Spanish explorers claims Texas in the name of their king.

1519: The Spanish flag was the first flag that represented Texas. This flag flew over Texas for three centuries, starting in 1519-1685 and again in 1690-1821, after Spanish explorers claims Texas in the name of their king.

1528: Estevanico, the first black in Texas arrived with the Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

The French Flag (1685-1690)
The French in the effort to expand the French Louisiana maintained a colony in eastern Texas that began in 1685 and ended in1690. The French flag flew over the state during that time.

The Spanish Flag (1690-1821)

1691: A black bugler accompanied Domingo Teran in exploring East Texas.

1776: Black weaver help established Bucareli on the Trinity River.

1792: Texas had 34 blacks total; which was 15 per cent of the population

1803: An increasing number of blacks in Texas came from the United States.

1807: Felipe Elua bought his freedom and moved to San Antonio where he owned houses, town lots, raised sugar, cotton, and vegetables.

1816: The African slave trade in Texas began

1817: In December Lafitte built slave barracks near Deweyville on Sabine River

The Mexican Flag (1821-1836)
Mexico winning its independence from Spain in 1821 Texas became part of the Republic of Mexico. The Mexican flag flew over Texas from 1821 to 1836.

1821: Moses Austin settled an Anglo-American colony in Mexican-Texas along the Brazos and Colorado Rivers.

1821 – 1865  Slavery spread over the eastern two-fifths of the state of Texas.

1823/4-1846: The Mexican Republic’s constitution abolished slavery and guaranteed equality for all Mexicans citizens, which included blacks.

Early-1820’s: Mexico’s policy to attract Anglo-American settlers for economic development backfires—by 1835, of the estimated 41,000 inhabitants, 35,000 were Anglo-Americans, 3,000 were Mexican-Texans, and 3,000 were blacks free and enslaved.

Early to mid-1820’s: Mexican-Texas was a safe haven for fugitive slaves, and was a province for free blacks to own land, prosper and become wealthy.

1828: A contract labor system was established that resembled slavery.

1835 Free Black Samuel McCulloch, Jr., was the first casualty of the Texas Revolution, receiving a shoulder wound when Texans captured the Mexican fort at Goliad in October.

1835 – 1838 William Goyens, a free black acted as an interpreter for Sam Houston with the East Texas Indians.

1835 – 1865 As many as 2,000 Africans were brought to Texas through the illegal trans-Atlantic African slave trade.

1836: The Constitution of the Texas Republic reversed a Mexican Constitutional statute concerning fugitive slaves, stating that fugitive slaves entering the state shall remain the status of a slave.

1836: A Spanish slave ship, with 200 Africans aboard, sailed up Sabine River to Niblett’s Bluff

1835-1836: The outcome of the Texas War of Independence incorporates Texas into the Southern United States, which officially extended slavery and prepared the Mexican northern frontier for U.S. imperialism.

The Texas Flag (1836-1845)
Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836 and established the Texas state. This flag flew over Texas as its national flag respecting Texas as an independent country from 1836 to 1845, but before joining the United States in December 29, 1845.

1836   The estimated Texas slave population numbered  5,000 out of 38,470 population.

1836 Antislavery advocate, Benjamin Lundy, who published the National Enquirer and Constitutional Advocate of Universal Liberty in Philadelphia in August , also published,  "War in Texas," a pamphlet arguing against the annexation of Texas to the United States.

1840: Law passed by the Republic of Texas Congress that prohibited the immigration of free blacks and ordered all free blacks to leave the Republic  within two years or be sold into slavery.

1840 Texas slave code required newly emancipated slaves to leave Texas within two years or risk being sold into slavery.

1840 Approximately 11,000 African Americans were enslaved in Texas by 1840.

1845 Texans had held a referendum on joining the Union.

1845: On Dec. 29th U.S. Congress accepted the Texas state constitution, and Texas became the 28th state, with legal slavery.

The United States Flag (1845-1861)
The United States flag has flown over Texas from 1845 to 1861, then again from 1866 to the present.

1846-1848: In the aftermath of the U.S.-Mexican War, the U.S. extended its boundaries from Texas to California, which resulted in Mexico losing almost half of its territory.

1850 The United States census reported 397 free blacks in Texas and  58,161 slaves, 27.4 percent of the 212,592 people.

1850 Numerically, females dominated, making up 56 percent, of the combined slave populations of the four largest towns in Texas.

1850 Texas urban bondsmen were in the labor force (10 to 54 years old) was 73 percent.

1850 Approximately 58,000 African Americans were enslaved in Texas by 1850.

1850 The census counted only about 400 free blacks in Texas, although there may have been close to 1,000.

1850 George Glenn, who was honored as one of the handful of black members of the Old Trail Drivers Association at the 1924 and 1926 annual meetings, was born into slavery in Texas.

1852  In the presidential election, the Whig party suffered from having a candidate from Texas who was generally unpopular in the rest of the Union.
1852 Voter interest was low, and the Whigs garnered only 26 percent of a meager turnout.

1853 Although William Ochiltree drew some votes for governor, by 1855 the Whig party was dead in Texas.

1854 Slave repression intensified,  as vigilantes in Austin drove autonomous slave religion underground.

1854 The issue of  some German antislavery attitudes first came to public attention at the time of the annual Staats-Saengerfest (State Singers Festival) on May 14th and 15th. Delegates from various local political clubs of German citizens in western Texas met in San Antonio.

1856 The editor of the San Antonio Zeitung was threatened with a coat of tar and feathers for printing criticisms of slavery.

1857 The Quitman Texas Free Press, which contributed to growing fears of slave insurrections in Texas, had disappeared by the summer.

1860: Series of fires swept North, Central, and East Texas towns following John Brown’s raid in 1859.

1860 Approximately 182,000 African Americans were enslaved in Texas by 1860 that was about 30 percent of the Texas population.

1860 L. M. Stroud, a planter in antebellum Texas owned 112 slaves. He was one of the few planters in Texas who owned more than 100 slaves.

1860: Texas held 182,556 bondsmen of the 196,494 slaves in the Western U.S.

1860: The Belleville Countryman, semiweekly newspaper, founded on July 28th. It was published by W. S. Thayer for editor and proprietor John P. Osterhout.

1860 Large slave holders such as Robert and D. G. Mills had plantations in the lower Brazos and Colorado rivers in Brazoria, Matagorda, Fort Bend, and Wharton counties.

1860 Brazoria County was 72 percent slave, while north central Texas had fewer slaves than any other settled part of the state, except for Hispanic areas.

1860 The United States census reported 355 free blacks in Texas and 182,566 slaves,  30.2 percent of the total population.

1860 Texas was divided between a region dependent on slavery region and a largely slave-free region.

1860 Comprising 16 percent of the total, slaves formed an important part of the town populations in Texas.

1860 Numerically, females dominated, making up 54 percent, of the combined slave populations of the four largest towns in Texas.

1860 Some 69 percent of Texas urban slaves (10 to 54 years old) worked in town occupations.

1860  A slave revolt planned for August, in which whites were said to be involved was described in July in a letter printed by the Texas  State   Gazette that said:  "It was determined by certain abolitionist preachers, who were expelled from the country last year, to devastate, with fire and assassination, the whole of Northern Texas, and when it was reduced to a helpless condition, a general revolt of  slaves, aided by the white men of the North in our midst, was to come off on the day of election in August."

1860    In the summer, when vigilance committees alleged that there was a widespread abolitionist plot to burn Texas towns and murder their citizens, suspicion immediately fell upon outspoken critics of slavery.

The Confederate Flag (1861-1865)
Between 1861 and 1865, the Confederate flag flew over Texas, as it was a state in the Confederate States of America.

1861 A story of Lavinia Bell, a black woman who had been kidnapped at her early age and sold into slavery in Texas, was on a Canadian newspaper.

1861: At a state convention held in Austin delegates voted 166 to 8 to secede from the Union. (Some 70 percent of the delegates owned slaves.)

1861 On February 23rd, Texas went to the polls and voted for secession.:  46,153 were for and 14,747 were against.

1861 The secession of the state became official on March 2nd, Texas Independence Day.

1861 On March 5th, the Secession Convention reassembled and took further steps to join the Confederacy.

1864 D. W. Burley, who was a free black before the end of slavery, was a captain in a battalion of black soldiers that defended St. Louis from Confederate raiders.

1865: Texas’s slave population increases to 250,000, as slave holders throughout the United States attempt to preserve servile labor—70,000 blacks were brought to Texas during the waning moments of the Civil War.

The United States Flag (1866-present)

1865 D. W. Burley arrived in Texas and organized a debating society for blacks.

June 19, 1865: General Order No. 3, ended slavery in Texas two months after blacks was emancipated in the Union.

1865: General C. C. Andrews at Houston ordered that during holidays freedmen could not have off until all the crops were gathered.

1865: The Belleville Countryman ceased on August 21st. But it was subsequently continued by the Texas Countryman.

1865: The Union League, organized in the North to support the policies of President Lincoln, established its first local council in Texas and faded as a viable political force in 1873.

1865: The Freedmen’s Bureau began operation in Texas under the control of General E. M. Gregory.

1865 On November 15th, a provisional governor of Texas Andrew Jackson Hamilton issued a proclamation fixing January 8, 1866 as the date for an election of delegates to a constitutional convention to meet at Austin on February 7th.

1865-1868 More than 1,500 acts of violence against blacks were committed and over 350 blacks were murdered by white Texans.

1866 The constitutional convention in Texas adjourned on April 2nd.

1866: Texas’s 1866 Constitutional Convention gave newly freed African-American men the right to sue or be sued, to contract and be contracted with, to acquire and transmit property, to obtain equal criminal prosecution under the law, and to testify orally in any case involving another African-American.

1866: White state constitutional convention met to write a new constitution that would redefine black men.

1866: Gregory Institute, a high school for black children, was established by the Freedmen’s Bureau.

1866: Jeremiah J. Hamilton, a black leader, organized a meeting in Bastrop to establish unity among black laborers in controlling wages.

1866: Texas constitution allowed separate black schools.

1867: The Texas delegation was organized in response to the congressional edict to extend the right to vote to all men regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

1867: The first ever state Republican convention that met in Houston was predominantly Black in composition. About 150 Black Texans attended, compared to less than 20 Whites.

1868 James McWashington was one of five black delegates to sign the Constitution of 1869.

1868: The Freedmen’s Bureau was phased out in Texas.

1868-1900 Forty three African Americans served in the state legislature, and they put their effort to move the state toward democracy.

1868-1869: The Texas delegation split into two factions during the 1868-1869 Constitutional Convention: the Conservatives and the Radicals.

1868-1869: Texas’s first state president George T. Ruby, a free-born black, was elected delegates to Texas’s Constitutional Convention.

1869: George T. Ruby was appointed deputy collector of customs at Galveston, a position in which he was an important patronage broker.

1870 D. W. Burley, who was one of twelve black legislators, won election to the Texas House of Representatives.

1870: Members of the Radical faction of Texas delegation formed the Radical Republican Association, an organization of white and African-American Republicans.

1870: President Ulysses S. Grant proclaimed Reconstruction in Texas at an end on March 30th.1870: In August Texas legislature incorporated the Gregory Institute as a black public high school.

1870-71: Franco-Prussian war. French troops pulled out of Mexico. Texan filibusters invade northern Mexico, seize Chihuahua and Sonora, proclaim Republic of Sierra Madre, which requests annexation by CSA. Revolutionary forces in Mexico execute Maximillian.

1871: The wife of Senator Burton was thrown off a moving train when she refused to leave the whites-only coach.

1871: Senator Gaines, one of four African Americans to serve Texas as state senator during the 19th century, supported the Free School Bill that helped finance an agricultural and mechanical college (now Texas A&M University).

1872: Paul Quinn College was founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Austin. Paul Quinn College began as an elementary and secondary school and later moved to Waco.

1873: Norris Wright Cuney, an educated black politician, organized a Color Men’s Convention in Brenham to promote good feelings between themselves and the white fellow citizens.

1873: Former African-American legislator Goldstein Dupree was killed by the Ku Klux Klan while campaigning for Governor Davis.

1873 Born as a slave, Walter Moses Burton was elected to the Texas Senate. Representing Fort Bend, Wharton, Waller and Austin counties he served four terms.

1873 Jacob E. Freeman participated in the Colored Meña's Convention at Brenham, which tried to enhance the status of African Americans in Texas politics.

1874 Sr. David Abner, who was born into slavery, was elected to the Texas legislature.

1874 Jacob E. Freeman won election to the Texas House of Representatives for the 14th Legislature and served on the Penitentiary Committee.

1875 Bird B. Davis, who was born into slavery, represented Wharton County at the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1875.

1875: On January 23rd a committee was appointed by the mayor of the Houston to look into the possibility of establishing a system of free schools in Houston.

1875: Matthew Gaines, one of four African Americans to serve Texas as state senator during the 19th century, was arrested for making a civil rights speech in Giddings, Texas.

1876: Ratified by voters the constitution reiterated that the right to vote could not be restricted by race, although it could be restricted by sex. And proposed bill for women’s suffrage was ignored during the convention.

1876: The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas for Colored Youths; known today as Prairie View; was founded.

1878: Prairie View opened with only eight black men.

1879  As part of  the "Exodus of 1879," a few thousand black Texans moved to Kansas to seek greater opportunities

1883: Texan compensated emancipation scheme ruled unconstitutional by Confederate Supreme Court. Populist Party founded in Confederacy.

1885-1914: Republic of Texas becomes important oil and beef producer; dependence on plantation agriculture weakened. Texas Ranger police/army organization reformed after Apache Wars (1873-1898).

1887: William H. Holland, who was born as a slave in Marshall in 1841, petitioned the Texas Legislature to establish a Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth, and legislation was passed.

1887-1888 Houston A. P. Bassett represented Grimes County in the Texas House of Representatives during the 20th Legislature.

1889: Texas called constitutional convention. Attempt to amend constitution to abolish slavery failed. Texas seceded from the CSA and reestablished itself as an independent republic. Texas Constitution abolished slavery without compensation.

1889: Texas initiated segregation of public transportation

1889 A black Republican party member, Alexander Asberry who was born into slavery in Wilderville served in the 21st Legislature.

1895: Riots in Texas Rangers, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Alabama militia killed over 5,000 freed slaves in a 5-day period; much of the city was destroyed.

1892: Three slaves - Patrick Jennigsm, Sam Smith, and a slave called "Cato" - were hanged in Dallas.

1900: 35,000 blacks worked as farm laborers, 45,000 farmed as tenants, and 20,000 owned the land they tilled.

1900 The number of blacks in Texas grew to more than 600,000 even though the percentage of the blacks in Texas fell to 20 percent of the population by 1900.

1901: The New Century Cotton Mills at Dallas was organized by a Negro Masonic Lodge.

1906 Fewer than 5,000 blacks voted in the state after the imposition of a poll tax in 1902 and the passage of the white primary law in 1903.

1909: Penny Savings Bank opened, which was black owned.

1910: Segregated neighborhoods established in Texas. Dallas city ordinance passed designating the boundaries of black and white neighborhoods.

1910: Negro Democratic League was organized by black leaders in search of a political home.

1910: Texas school districts spent an average of $10 per year on white students and $5.74 on black students.

1912 The 1st Texas chapter of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) was organized in Houston. It was three years after the national organization had been founded.

1914: The Progressive Party barred blacks from it organization.

1917: The Morrill Act and the Smith-Hughes Act helped establish four black high schools.

1919: An Equal Rights Association was organized by blacks to promote democratic government and equal justice.

1927: Texas law that prevented blacks from voting in “white primaries” overturned.

1929 – 1930’s: The Great Depression struck hard at black Texans with an increase of unemployment from 4.8 per cent to 8.8 per cent in 1933.

1933: Blacks and white could not wrestle together.

1936 Blacks participated in the Texas Centennial of 1936, where they were allowed to disseminate information on the contributions they made to the state and to the nation's development.

1936 From the Negro Day celebration of 1936 three organizations emerged: the Texas State Conference of Branches of the NAACP, the Texas State Negro Chamber of Commerce, and the Texas Negro Peace Officers Association (now the Texas Peace Officers Association).

1936: Barbara Jordan Born on February 21 in Houston, Texas

1939: Black farmers received loans and marketing guidance from the Farm Security Administration to alleviate the suffrage from the Great Depression.

1941: The Texas Commission on Democracy in Education was established by the Colored Teachers State Association to promote equality for black teachers and schools.

1943: Texas Council of Negro Organizations attacked segregation of public colleges.

1944 Texas blacks won a Supreme Court decision in Smith v. Allwright case of 1944, which declared the white primary unconstitutional.

1950: Texas blacks won a major Supreme Court decision in the Sweatt v. Painter case that eliminated segregation in graduate and professional schools. The U.S. Supreme Court ordered that Herman Sweatt and four other blacks be allowed to register at the University of Texas at Austin law school.

1952: Colleges began to integrate

1954  Brown v Board of Education Supreme Court decision declared that the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson ruling of "separate but equal" was unconstitutional. The integration of schools began for school districts from the Brown case.

1956 Opposing the Brown decision R. Allan Shivers, Texas Governor, called out Texas Rangers to prevent Black students from entering the public school in Mansfield.

1956: Barbara Jordan graduates magna cum laude from Texas Southern University

1958: There were over 120 school districts that integrated their schools; except in Dallas and Houston school districts.

1959: Barbara Jordan graduates from Boston University Law School

1960’s: Black and white students from Texas Southern University in Houston, the University of Texas at Austin, and other colleges across Texas began to protest restaurant and theater segregation.

1962 Barbara Jordan runs for the Texas House of Representatives, loses election

1963: NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality picketed, petitioned, and boycotted against segregation in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio.

1964: The Civil Rights Act passed; which made other school districts to integrate their schools.

1964 Barbara Jordan loses second campaign for the Texas legislature

1965: The Future Farmers of America and the Future Homemakers of America emerged with the New Farmers of America and the New Homemakers of America, the black counterparts.

1966: The poll tax requirement to vote was struck down by the Supreme Court.

1966: Black high schools began to participate in the Texas Interscholastic League sports competition.

1966: Barbara Jordan elected to the Texas State Senate, becoming the state's first black senator since 1883; gains support of President Lyndon B. Johnson

1968: Barbara Jordan wins second term in Texas senate

1970: 75 per cent of the black students in Texas went to integrated schools reported by the Texas Education Agency.

1971 Judson Robinson became the  first black city councilman in Houston.

1971: Federal judge eliminated last of the all-black schools by combining them with white and biracial school districts.

1972: Barbara Jordan elected to U.S. House of Representatives; assigned to House Judiciary Committee

1979: Barbara Jordan Retires from public life; becomes professor at  University of Texas-Austin

1983 Dallas was named one of the ten best cities for blacks  due to the social, political, and economic opportunities for African Americans.

1989 – 1995: Texas Statutes did not authorize sentencing prisoners to hard labor as part of their punishment. (Statutes before and after did authorize the imposition of such slavery.)

1994: Barbara Jordan Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom

1996: Barbara Jordan Dies in Austin Texas on January 17

Related Links:
Six National Flags of Texas Flags
North Texas Opposed Secession in 1860
George T. Ruby
Progressive Party
Brownsville Raid
Brown Case
Civil Rights Act of 1964

Alwyn Barr, Black Texans: A History of Negroes in Texas, 1528-1971 (Austin: Jenkins Publishing Company, 1982), pp. 39-69.

Alwyn Barr and Robert A. Calvert, eds., Black Leaders: Texans for Their Times (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1981).

Alexander Hogg, Industrial Education [Origin and Progress.] State Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (Galveston, Texas: The Galveston News, 1879), pp. 23-39.

Underconstruction animated gif

Last Modified: April 18, 2003