?The Afro-Texans: As They Were and As They Are Today?

February 3, 2009
By Nicholas Hébert DIAMOND, Austin, Texas
Nicholas Hébert DIAMOND, Austin, Texas
84 articles 25 photos 0 comments

Blacks in Texas have a very interesting bond and history. Both have undergone progressive eras, discriminations, peaks and valleys, and the horrors of oppression and Depression. As an Afro-Texan myself, I step slowly into our ebony descent into time from 2009 backward . . .

Typically, the history we are taught in Texas or anywhere in that case, conveys a sense and message of "black failure" in contrast to "the sagas of white gallantry"; and so, things have been portrayed one-sided. All African Americans in Texas vary by region-be it by ethnic background, historical background, or any other. " . . .they all seem to be mixed down here . . ."- Maxine DeBlanc, Salvation Army Youth Leader, native of San Angelo, Texas commenting on Beaumont (of southeast region).

"One of our main issues in AISD is home suspension for African Americans. We need to talk about it and discover whether it is discrimination against our African American population in our schools or is it that a higher number of incidents occur with these African American students ". . ."- meeting at a Texas High School, anonymous speaker. Although this articulated speaker didn't elaborate on the matter, those brief collections of words can capture our attentions. It can make anyone wonder: "What is really going on with African Americans in Texas today?? Still, the controversial issue bleeds over into B. School District - a fitting example of such atrocities.

History is still being made today in the struggle to alleviate racial hatreds and backward Southern concepts. African American Texans still lay victim to a few remaining discriminations. Specifically, East and Southeast Texas have significant black populations although whites remain the majority. As of February 1-7, 2008, Beaumont Independent School District (BISD) was exposed for prejudices against blacks. ". . .the race-based majority-to-minority (M?to-M) policy is currently being used . . .still excludes transfers for students at most predominantly white schools."- Jerry Jordan, News Editor of The Examiner (SETX newspaper)
" . . .the Pacific Legal Foundation, which threatened to file a federal lawsuit against the school district if it continued to use the M-to-M policy . ..the foundation's attorneys gave BISD 30 days to end the illegal M-to-M policy or be prepared to defend its position 'all the way to the Supreme Court.'"-Jerry Jordan reports.

Essentially, oner two white students would be placed at black schools and vice versa to "integrate" the schools to a certain degree but still have a sense of "segregation" of the colors all the same. " . . .based on the race of a child."- Melody Chappell, BISD attorney. Twenty of twenty-nine BISD schools were under the M-to-M policy and of them, all were predominantly black schools. In response to the "defeat" of the M-to-M policy, Westbrook High School (white), shrank its district tremendously, thus creating a hindrance to black parents that desired to send their children to that school (in the summer of 2007) and therefore limiting the diversity of the school district. When the battle carried on into 2008, anonymous parents raved "BISD lumped" white students with all other minorities . . .and shoved them aside to provide blacks with "preferential treatment".

The road murder of a man in Jasper Texas would mar Black Texan history forever. It was signs that Texas still chose to stay true to prejudices. The Scotsman, a Texas newspaper nicknamed it the "town of hatred" in telling the story of how the Ku Klux Klan dragged a disabled black man to death chained to the back of a pick-up truck just outside of a logging town in east Texas by the name of James Byrd. The case was reopened for trial in 1998 in which the cards were stacked heavily against the three Texans responsible in the court of law.

Etta Moten Barnett, native of Weimar Texas was an actress, singer and philanthropist famous for the words: ?Life does not owe me one thing.? She died of cancer in January of 2004. As I turn back the pages in the book on the passage of time, the Afro-Texan story leads me to William Goyen. He was born in Trinity Texas and had moved to Houston with his family at the age of eight years. In 1937 and 1939, he received his B.A. and M.A., degrees at Rice University. By publishing his first novel, ?The House Of Breath? in 1950, he brought prestige and pride to the African American name in Texas. He was one of the most prolific Negro authors of South Texas stock. Goyen had acclaimed this when he published ?The Fair Sister?, ?Come the Restorer?, ?Faces Of the Blood Kindred? , and in writing the lyrics for the 1958 film ?Left-Handed Gun?. ?. . .[F]rom a sawmill family . . .his aspect is intense and patrician, his manner gracious and courtly; Goyen?s hair is silver, he speaks with a strong South-western accent.?- Robert Phillips 1975
In spite of the famed, there are still few Negroes and Negresses that are accomplished people that have never received recognition by means of web pages, books, etc. On February 28, 1929, Irene Savannah Gilder Thompson was born into a mixed family in East Texas of Black and Indian (common for the region). Later in life, she left the Piney Woods of Doucette, Tx (three miles north of Woodville on Hwy 69) and earned a doctorate degree and currently sports the title of ?Doctor of Education? in southern California. Yet still, her thoughts and memoirs never left her mind after 79 years. ?I went to Macy?s after everything was integrated and there was a white woman and her little girl; she exclaimed ?ah, a nigger?. The south wasn?t ready for that kind of change,? she recalls. ?I remember when I was goin? tuh school; we had to walk three miles; I had a white woman for a teacher when we got older and I?d didn?t know if she was prejudiced or not until I had to take a spellin? tes?; I got my paper back and she marked for a word she didn?t give me-skeleton, but I know she gave it to the white boy on the other end of class but I?ll never forget it. You cin1 cawl2 me anytime an? ax3 me how to spell skeleton and I?ll tell you becawse I ain?t forgot it an? I never will.?

From 2009 to 2004 and beyond, the years go back with an iron clank for Afro-Americans-the clank of manacles, shackles, and such ?of slavery?. ? . . .slavery was a unique bond between blacks and whites . . .the two groups may have maintained separate spheres, but each sphere was deeply influenced, indeed dependent on the other . . .? ? Alan Brinkley (from American History- A Survey)

An African American educator was born into slavery by the name of Rufus Hardin whom had outlived the bondage and began school at the age of 13

Galveston, Texas had in fact been a central market for slaves and slave auctioning- a port at which Africans arrived. A sound, young field hand cost betwixt five hundred and seventeen hundred dollars from the 1840s to the 1850s. Blacks in Texas had almost been a commodity. Of course, the prices depended upon the fluctuations of cotton. At the time of Emancipation, a considerably large amount of Afro-Americans out of 250,000 of the overall South were freed. ? . . a deep and seemingly unbridgeable chasm yawned between slavery and freedom . . .?- Alan Brinkley. Gradually, over time, Blacks overwrote the ?brutal and dehumanizing institutions of slavery? by extolling themselves to levels of recognition by contributions to the State Of Texas.

The State Of Texas is literally littered with riddles of Black Heritage from end to end. ?Blacks arrived in West Texas in the early sixteenth century and nearly five centuries later continue to contribute to a region that shares so many characteristics with the western Untied States. . .?- Black Americans in West Texas--Edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and Paul H. Carlson with Tai D. Kreidler

Black presence in Texas still to this day pose a question as to how long they?ve been here and how they managed to stick around. More importantly it was about what they did. Pre-Columbian discovery of America by Africans had included settlement in parts of present-day Texas. This was an ethnic group known as the Black Ouchita (WASHITAW). As far as their history, there is a lot of factual depth and accounts on European encounters and the mark they left in Texas history and Texas soil. Concisely, it can be said that the Washitaw owned over fifteen million acres of land which had included Texas and this large fraction of the nation was known as Washitaw Proper. Currently, they still exist and own sixty-eight thousand of the original amount, a small portion of which is still Texas. In extensive delving, historians have found that these ?Texas Blacks? have origins in Morocco and have had them prior to enslavement. ?Susu Economics the History of Pan-African Trade, Commerce, Money and Wealth, tells a reality of this,?- Paul Barton editorial, TOMRIC Agency.

After conveying Black Heritage deeply embedded in Texas roots, in close, one could say that Blacks are almost ?indigenous? to the area. From Spanish exploration to partially Acadian settlement, Texas annexation, undergoing a conversion of the area into a Saxon dominion, and hate murders to unlawful segregations, Black blood runs unrestrained through the state of Texas now as it had long ago. The ?Afro-Texan? as I may call it is historically ancient, modern, and all of the above from end to end in Texas, scarcely in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, densely concentrated in the North of state, and a kind of qualité ­elangé´ in the south and southeastern bayous of Texas, and fairly isolated in the comfort of East Texas? piney wood saw-milling towns. The African American Texan has bypassed enslavement, waded through the Depression, and Reconstruction but nearly drowned mottling in a sea of turmoil up to this day in discrimination. Either way we?d gone, we?d have still left a deep impression on the state itself past and present.

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