Texas’ 1836 Project

There are different stories, legends, and narratives in popular culture today in Texas, and parts of the U.S., about events that took place over twelve days and nights at Misión San Antonio de Valero February 23 to March 6, 1836, otherwise known as the Siege of the Alamo. One such pop-narrative is from a southeastern Anglo-American viewpoint, post-Civil War. Another is from a later Anglo-Texian viewpoint about the new Republic begun in 1845. And still another much less popular or well-known narrative from an indigenous Tejano viewpoint begun in circa 1821. There is a fourth narrative that is so obscure and completely overlooked today that for the purposes of this blog-post, time, and word-count I shouldn’t mention it. But that would disrespect and defeat the virtues of Agnotology, something I personally hold very dear in our modern fight against disinformation, destitute scholarship in town squares, and partisan politics. Therefore, I will indeed mention the unsung fourth narrative of earliest Texas history: the Indian Nations of Taysha, or Texas.

It’s worth mentioning that part of Texas’ state and national identity is wrapped in what we call the Six Flags of Texas. Technically speaking this is not the full story. It should actually be at least “Seven Flags of Texas,” perhaps one representing the Indian Nations of Taysha. But unfortunately when Anglo-Americans write their victorious histories, peoples they’ve labelled “uncivilized” are omitted and made footnotes, maybe. But oh well, I digress.

Quietly woven throughout the narratives of the Southeastern Anglo-American and Anglo-Texian viewpoints, but rarely mentioned publicly or taught in Texas school classrooms today was slavery’s role in Texas’ fight for independence from Mexico and eventual willing annexation by the expanding United States. The deluge of Anglos immigrating from the Deep South slave-states which Mexico was against and trying to stop were, in the minds of Mexico’s government and empresarios, illegal incursions and seizures. At the very least, they were controversial, agitating, and enflamed tensions present between several clashes of cultures throughout the once vast (proclaimed) Spanish Territory of Tejas. Anglo-American immigrants did not wish to pay any taxes or tariffs to the Mexican government, particularly to Antonio López de Santa Anna who seized power himself in an insurrection against former President Bustamante. Many prevalent Tejanos of Tejas such as the very well-known José Antonio Navarro opposed Santa Anna’s dictatorship and by default Mexico.

What might surprise many Texans today is that several of Tejas’ Tejano elite such as the Navarro family also owned slaves, and by default and by way of economic motivations, Navarro and key Tejanos of Texas’ Republic also opposed Mexico’s recent independence from Spain and from the practice of slavery. However, these historical facts found on a Texas 1860 Census Slave Schedule for Atascosa County (location of Navarro’s San Geronimo Ranch) show he owned six to nine slaves indicating clearly that Texas’ fight was at least in part to keep slavery legal in the new Republic. Navarro and other famous Texas Tejanos with him fought Mexico for independence along with slave-owning Anglo-Americans…

…to protect the practice of slavery in Texas, upon which cotton farming relied heavily. It was not uncommon for families of this group to own slaves in the colonial period. Although the number of families holding slaves was small, it was a vital connection between Tejano elites and American cotton growers immigrating to Texas.

Henry and Patsy Navarro” from Casa Navarro History at the Texas Historical Commission website, accessed 7/10/2021
Movie set of the 2004 film “The Alamo”

What is also commonly unknown about earliest Texas history is that those same Tejanos who fought, bled, and died for Texas’ independence from Mexico at the Alamo and other battle-fields eventually lost over the next decade their original land grants and rights as citizens of Texas. By 1860-61 they were “legally expunged” you might say when Texas officially joined the Confederate States of America and its fight to keep slavery alive.

Since the end of the American Civil War in 1865, the legendary fight at the Alamo twenty-nine years earlier was intentionally altered to emphasize the southern Anglo-American and Anglo-Texan narrative as a fight solely against Santa Anna, thus overshadowing all other narratives in the face of humiliated Confederate defeat. Confederate Texans wanted to save face then and were successful. Now today with the advent of reignited racial awareness and heated tensions, resident first-, second- and third-generation Texans (a few fourth-generation too) and politicians—many of whom trace their pedigrees to the Midwest and Deep South slave-states—want at any cost to protect and advance a more Anglo-narrative of Texas history. More precisely, Texas school curriculums are being further realigned to promote an anachronistic Republican narrative which is not comprehensive or contextual to verifiable TayshaTejano Texas history.

Over the past two-weeks of this month, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, himself a first-generation Texan from Maryland, confirmed on his Twitter account that he personally called for the censorship and cancellation of a July 1st book promotion at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, TX. The name of the book and co-authors? Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth by Chris Tomlinson, Bryan Burrough, and Jason Stanford.

But this censoring tactic is part of a greater movement by GOP state officials like Gov. Gregg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Senator Ted Cruz, and other Republican officials regarding critical race theory and whether verifiable academic history has a place in Texas public school curriculums.

On June 16th, 2021 the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 797 requiring Texas schools to display the term “In God We Trust” across campus buildings if such signage is donated to them. House Bill 2497 was passed by the Texas Legislature in May 2021 giving a biased GOP committee the authority to promote our “official” state history—to residents receiving their driver’s license—from the aforementioned Anglo-narratives. House Bill 3979 is awaiting Gov. Abbott’s signature and it dictates how Texas teachers can talk to their students about current events and America’s as well as Texas’ history of racism and slavery. These legislative bills are just three of a number of other bills in a state-wide Republican campaign to teach reteach and promote a more narrow, patriotic version of our national and Anglo-Texan histories. Here in Texas it is called The 1836 Project and it plays off of and counters the acclaimed or controversial 1619 Project, but with a modern, intentional Texas GOP twist. From Gov. Gregg Abbott this past May:

“To keep Texas the best state in the United States of America, we must never forget why Texas became so exceptional in the first place.”

Personally I would argue that these recent campaigns to modify or omit established historical scholarship that is indeed verifiable, in Texas and other states, began as early as 2010, if not sooner. Though governmental officials like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are and have been censoring or obstructing democratic freedoms and liberties in Texas on public property, they have gone much further than book promoting events.

For those of you born prior to the year 2000, remember in your classrooms the concept of “Compare and Contrast“? Critical-thinking and analysis skills are paramount for students to learn and acquire for the overkill of today’s “Disinformation Age.” Beginning at least in 2010 and 2012 political campaigns within the Texas GOP began muddling up this vital concept and skill getting taught in our public school curriculums. From The Poynter Institute’s PolitiFact website:

Gail Collins [of the New York Times] says Texas GOP platform calls for schools to stop teaching “critical thinking.”

Sue Owen, PolitiFact.com, August 11, 2012 — accessed 7/11/2021

Nevertheless, the Texas GOP did muddled-up and confuse the issue. Deputy Executive Director of the Republican Campaign, Chris Elam, stated the platform subcommittee unintentionally and unknowingly implied opposition of teaching critical-thinking in schools. He and his party were correct about that as can be read here:

“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

As Gail Collins wrote, the Texas GOP platform does state that the party opposes “critical thinking.” But Collins also leaves out some important context. The platform makes it clear that its opposition is centered on one type of education model: outcome-based education.

Whatever one wishes to call it and play complicated games with words and phrases, this past May and June 2021 in our Texas Congress, the confusion and muddling has been scaled up again. It seems it has taken on yet another form when it all begins to censor and omit significant facts that compose an exhaustive contextual historical picture. This new type of political manipulations upon verifiable, established academic scholarship—whether in classrooms or in the town square—has become a dangerous epidemic in 21st-century America. Allowing this epidemic to continue will only setup further future digressions into sociopolitical turmoil that is ill-equipped to correct, adapt, and progress itself into a truly healthy, thriving Constitutional democracy. I’m unsure how you my readers might feel, but this destitution of Agnotology being replaced by (hyper?) Patriotism over historical, contextual facts disturbs me greatly.


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