New Texas History GOP-Tested, Fox News-Approved
Conservatives keep walking into racist rakes with their ongoing backlash to The 1619 Project, which suggested that slavery played a significant part in American history. Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law establishing an "1836 Project" that would promote “patriotic education" instead of The 1619 Project's more divisive “education." The state has already banned the teaching of The 1619 Project.
You can educate people or you can promote "patriotic education" but you can't do both.— Adam Serwer 🍝 (@Adam Serwer 🍝)1623102610.0
Abbott tweeted yesterday:
To keep Texas the best state in the nation, we can never forget WHY our state is so exceptional.
I signed a law establishing the 1836 project, which promotes patriotic education & ensures future generations understand TX values.
Together, we'll keep our rich history alive.
No, it seems like Abbott and Rep. Tan Parker, who filed the bill, want to keep Texas's rich history filled with lies.
They claim the 1836 Project is named after the year Texas gained its independence from Mexico. What really happened is that an increasingly large population of American settlers waged an armed rebellion against the centralist Mexican government. Immigration to Texas was opened to Americans in 1820 and by 1835 there were 10 times more Americans than Mexicans in Texas. Mexico should've built a wall.
A major catalyst for the Texas Revolution was — you guessed it! — slavery. The Texas economy was dependent on cotton, which was only profitable when enslaved people picked it for free. Vicente Guerrero, then president of the Republic of Mexico, declared that all enslaved people were emancipated, and those were fighting words for Anglo settlers.
From Texas Monthly:
"We are ruined forever should this measure be adopted," wrote John Durst, a prominent landowner and politician. Stephen F. Austin replied, "I am the owner of one slave only, an old decrepit woman, not worth much, but in this matter I should feel that my constitutional rights as a Mexican were just as much infringed, as they would be if I had a thousand."
Stephen F. Austin is known as the “Father of Texas" and the founder of “Anglo Texas" because of his successful “colonization" of the region. By 1825, he'd brought 300 families to the territory. Several Texas schools and colleges, and of course the state capital, are named after Austin. However, that “old decrepit woman" he enslaved had an inherent value even if he failed to recognize it. (Also, can you imagine how old a Black woman is if she actually looks old? Even under the brutal conditions of slavery, this poor, enslaved woman could've been over 100. White people are kinder to elderly dogs.)
Anglo Texans found cruel workarounds to Mexico's slavery ban. Before crossing into Mexican Texas, white Americans would meet with a notary public, who'd give the people they held in bondage a specific value. Even if the enslaved person gained their freedom once they entered Mexican Texas, they would now how to pay off the debt they “owed" to the sorry-ass excuse for a human who'd enslaved them. They were now a prisoner of their former “master." The costs for food, clothing, and housing were deducted from their measly wages of $20 a year (about $540 today). The debt was more oppressive than the worst student loan, and when they died, their children inherited the massive debt and the same horrific conditions.
These are the people Texas history books claim fought Mexico for their independence.
After defeating Mexico, the new Republic of Texas created a constitution that was a precursor to what the future Confederate states would attempt when they seceded in 1861. The Republic's constitution "protected slavery in no uncertain terms, much beyond what the U.S. Constitution did," according to University of North Texas historian Andrew Torget. The 1836 constitution prevented the Republic's congress from passing any law that would negatively affect slavery. Free Black people in Texas were considered a threat to the barbaric institution because enslaved people might try to escape. The history of slavery and America in general consists of Black people saying, “Please, God, no!" and white people saying, “But think about our profit margins!"
Last October, Texas Monthly writer Emily McMullar detailed how the Texas history taught to children is a pernicious myth that "erases the stories of Black and Hispanic Texans." Even the “Old 300" moniker for Austin's settlers ignores the enslaved people they brought with them from Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, and Tennessee. The 1836 Project is just more of the same, but as Fox Mulder once said, “You can't bury the truth." As long as I'm alive, I'll keep telling Americans the truth about them to their face.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."