In the 1930s, the WPA hired writers to interview people who had been enslaved and this project resulted in the WPA Slave Narratives. Above are three photos of Texans who survived life in slavery: William Adams, age 90: Rosa Washington who lived in El Paso; and Sarah Ashley, age 93. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
A few years ago, my granddaughter came home after school to tell me they were learning Texas history. "It's Texas Independence day," she said. I asked her what that meant and she answered, "freedom!" I sat her down and told her: "For your African American ancestors, it meant slavery. For your Mexican ancestors, it meant violence and losing their land. For your Indigenous ancestors, it meant death." I remember she sat in silence for a while. That is not how her teacher described it.
Every March 2, I think about the way Texas history is taught and what people *think* Texas independence represents.
#TexasIndependenceDay is the top trending hashtag on Twitter right now with 19.2 K tweets. Celebratory tweets about Texas. Freedom.
I took a look at the Constitution of the Republic of Texas (1836) to see what "Texas independence meant." What I found:
Sec. 9 * Enslaved people would remain enslaved. * There would be no prohibition about bringing in new enslaved people into Texas. * "No free person of African descent, either in whole or in part, shall be permitted to reside permanently int he republic without the consent of Congress." Think about that one-- if you were a free Black, you had to leave Texas.
Sec. 10. "All persons (Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians excepted) who were residing in Texas on the day of the declaration of independence shall be considered citizens of the republic and entitled to all the privileges of such." At the time of independence, there were about 5,000 enslaved people in Texas. By 1845, it had risen to 30,000. By 1865, A slave owner could not free his slaves without the approval of Congress and Congress was forbidden from passing a law that forbade slavery.
Anyone with one great grandparent of African ancestry could not vote, own property, testify against a white person or marry a white person.
When I think of Texas Independence Day, I don't think of freedom. Rather, I think of the thousands of enslaved people who were forced to work in Texas, their struggles to gain their freedom, and the history of resilience that they represent.
My father used to tell me about sneaking into this theater to watch movies as a kid in the 1910s. It showed Spanish language films. In the 1940s, it was transformed into a "whites only" theater but that didn't last long. By the 1950s, it was headquarters to the Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers Union, a radical labor organization. Before it closed, it housed the Mine and Mill Bar.
This message is painted on the east side of the old Mission movie theater.
The bell tower of Guardian Angel Catholic Church, built in the 1910s to serve the growing Mexican immigrant community in what was then the "east side" of El Paso.
This pinata shop caught my attention as I was driving west on Alameda Street on my way to work.
Hawaiian dancer, Alameda Street.
Unicorn pinata on Alameda Street.
Proud graduate pinata.
Love message on the east side exterior wall of the old Mission Theater.
Segundo Barrio Father Rahm Street July 2022
Looking into Padre Pinto Plaza, Sagrado Corazon Catholic Church.
Treasures on the window sill.
Esperando el bus.
La Virgensita en la frontera
Woman reflected on la Virgencita, Segundo Barrio, 2021.
La Virgen de Guadalupe, 12 de diciembre 2017, Centro de Trabajadores Agricolas, El Paso
Protecting Barrio Duranguito 2019
Cd Juarez downtown December 2017
Raramuri father and son musicians, downtown Juarez, 2017.
The smell of copal, downtown Juarez, December 2017.
Ciudad Juarez limpia, downtown, December 2017.
Selling at the mercado, downtown Juarez, December 2017
Telcel payaso, downtown Juarez, December 2017
La Mariscal, Ciudad Juarez, 2017
Dos perros, La Mariscal, December 2017
Mujer con cabello verde, La Mariscal, Juarez, December 2017.
Beautiful death, La Mariscal, Ciudad Juarez, December 2017.
Tin Tan, La Mariscal, Ciudad Juarez, December 2017.
Montana Vista 2019
Red high heels in the desert 2019
El Centro July 2022
A tree reaches out to Oscar Zeta Acosta (mural by Lxs Dos), El Paso, Texas July 2022