In the context of the history of slavery in the Americas, the term free Blacks initially refers specifically to people of mixed African and European descent who were not slaves. This is also the case for many African Americans that helped the slave owners gain independence from Mexico. For example, Hendrick Arnold was of mixed ancestry and did the bidding of Texas slave owners by owning slaves himself. However, racial classifications were numerous in Mexico and many were free under the orders of the Afro-Mexican President Vicente Guerrero. Additionally, Victor Blanco, possibly an Afro-Mexican, or of Afro-Spaniard descent was the “mayor” of San Antonio during the time Spain ruled Mexico and before 1821.
Texas was a part of the Republic of Mexico from 1821 until 1826. Texas became a pro-slavery state in 1845. Blanco was elected the first vice governor under the Constitution of Coahuila and Texas, effectively making him the head official in San Antonio for a time. Recent Mexican reports indicate that nearly two million Mexicans identify with African ancestry.
A note about “Sambos” and “Uncle Toms,” or those who betrayed their own people, is important here. A few Blacks aided the Texas slave owners. Samuel McCulloch Jr., Henrick Arnold, and William Ashworth all worked in support of the oppression of their own people. A statue recently erected to honor Hendrick Arnold does not tell the whole story. He can hardly be described as a hero since he supported slavery even though he was part Black. Furthermore, both Arnold and Ashworth owned Black slaves themselves since they had white parents. They would fight against the free Afro-Mexicans who opposed slavery. McCulloch considered a mulatto, would have been treated better by some whites given his white father. The term “mulatto” comes from the Spanish and means mule, a racist term associating Black people with animals. In 1827, Arnold had a daughter with a slave named Dolly. Shamefully, Arnold held his own daughter Harriet as a slave. All the while this was going on free Afro-Mexicans were fighting as free men for General Santa Anna’s Mexican army and against the likes of these traitorous mulatto slave owners.
There is much ado about the Blacks that fought for the slave owners during the struggle to rip Texas away from Mexico, but little is said about the Afro-Mexicans that fought for Santa Anna against the Texas slave owners. Despite the painting of General Santa Anna as a supervillain he freed slaves wherever he went. Vicente Guerrero’s oldest daughter was the goddaughter of Santa Anna. The General knew that the inexperienced defenders would flee and so may have designed a plan to attack the north wall and leave the other walls partially open so that when the defenders attempted an escape, they would be ambushed by Black Mexican lancers of the Los Morenos Libre de Vera Cruz (The Free Black of Veracruz) unit.
After Mexico was defeated, slavery was once again instituted. Blacks were a population that was subjected to harsh plantation and farm life along the banks of the San Antonio River and the local creeks as pro-slavery southerners flooded into the state. Slave farms dotted the landscape with at least three slave-owning farms in the northern sector of Bexar County. There were slave farms in the southern sector in and near the Applewhite and Mitchell Lake areas, and on the near Southside in later years. One such slave plantation was on the near Northside just west of Broadway Street in San Antonio.
According to Father Juan Morfi (1778), the mission at San Saba, just 140 miles northwest of San Antonio, reported that 151 Blacks, some of whom were Afro-Indian were located within the mission walls during the 1700s. What is often ignored or erased were the cultural influences of the original Canary Island population by Berber, Black, Islamic, and Moorish customs and traditions. This is seen with the whistle language (Silbo) which was adopted by the Spanish colonial settlers but is clearly Moorish, North African or Berber in origin. Much of the original African customs and traditions of the original inhabitants of these islands, off the coast of Africa, were Hispanicized, and their origins were purposefully erased from history. Thus, a clearly defined Afro-Mexican population began to develop.
Blacks in San Antonio have many origins, including being both free and slaves. A review of the slave records from the 1700s also reveals that some of the Canary Islanders and Spaniards were slave owners or pro-slavery men. Records compiled at the Institute of Texan Cultures show that in the 1700s in Bexar County, Afro-Mexican, Afro-Indian, and Afro-Spaniard slaves were being sold. Because of their Spanish surnames little has been analyzed to document the entire slave system under Spanish rule in San Antonio and how they eventually became Afro-Mexicans. Examples of Afro-Mexicans being sold as slaves in early Bexar County can be found in the general manuscript series, 1603-1803 and are given as statistical census reports from that era. The record tells this story: San Antonio de Bexar and Villa of San Fernando – There is recorded a bill of sale between Maria Josefa Flores de Valdes and Justo Boneo y Morales for Negro slave named Luis . . . Villa of San Fernando and Presidio of San Antonio de Bexar. Another record shows a bill of sale between Gil Ibarvo and Angel Navarro for Negro slave Juana (Afro-Mexican). Also, in what was called San Antonio de Bexar and Villa of San Fernando de Austria, a bill of sale between Juan Andres Alvarez Traviezo and Facundo Mansolo for a mulatto slave named Maria de los Dolores was recorded.
Prior to 1829, Mexico had a slave system under the Spanish. Spain used Afro-Mexican soldiers and conquistadors during its rule as a colonial power. During the Deiz y Seiz celebration, Afro-Mexican President Vicente Guerrero abolished slavery and the Racial Casta System. Ironically, during the same year, a Black Mexican named José Francisco Laviña asked the mayor of San Antonio to free his wife being held as a slave in Bexar County. In the white slave-owning colonies of Texas, Moses Austin had brought with him 400 Black slaves into the original colony. Some of them escaped to Mexico and developed Afro-Mexican families and communities. After his death, Stephen F. Austin, a pro-slavery man, tried to convince.
Mexico to accept slavery, but Mexico made the argument that all children born of slaves are born free. Hence, many Blacks saw an opportunity for freedom by becoming Mexicans. Austin was sent to Mexico and a scheme was developed in which whites would abandon slavery in favor of an indentured servant system. Mexico soon discovers that this system was for 99 years and not seven. General Santa Anna having felt hoodwinked was ready for war. The scheme seems to have been developed by the slave owner James Morgan and William Travis. Morgan is most likely the man that created the myth that Emily West (Morgan) was a slave.
Mexican President Vicente Guerrero abolished slavery on September 15, 1829. Very few are aware that the abolition of Mexican slavery took place during the celebrations of Diez y Seis (September 16 or the Mexican Independence Day), which makes it a day for Blacks to celebrate as well. Through ethnocide and the erasure of African contributions, this holiday has been sanitized of its Black contributions. Deiz y Seiz, is as much a Black holiday as it is a Mexican holiday. Many historians believe that the abolition of slavery in Mexico (Texas) was the driving force behind the Texas-Mexico wars of 1836 and 1846. According to researchers Campbell (1989), and De Leon (1983), Anglo economic prosperity was linked to the idea that Texas should be free from Mexico to maintain and expand the institution of slavery.
Passage of the National King Holiday Legislation
In 1979 when I was a legislative aide to Senator Birch Bayh, a Democrat from Indiana, I had the extreme privilege of playing a role in the passage of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday legislation.
It all started when Senator Ted Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts, asked Bayh to attend a meeting in his office. I went with him, and when we arrived at the Senator’s office, Mrs. Coretta Scott King and Congressman John Conyers were there. Mrs. King asked the Senators to conduct a hearing on legislation to create the holiday. Conyers had attempted to hold hearings in the House of Representatives, but because of the strong southern opposition to such a holiday, he was never able to get any movement. Mrs. King and Congressman Conyers felt that holding hearings in the Senate would open up discussion, both pro and con, to a new holiday named after Dr. King.
As chairman of the Judiciary Committee and with Bayh being the ranking member, the two agreed to introduce the Bayh Bill, which was identical to the Conyers measure on the House side, and to hold two days of hearings. One of the most important functions of a staffer is to write floor statements for their bosses. The tone of the statement would also dictate the tone of the hearing. Kennedy and Bayh’s statements needed to reflect exactly why Dr. King deserved a national holiday in his name. That was a critical strategic consideration, and we knew that the statement had to reflect the universal nature of King’s work. It could not be limited to civil rights but had to encompass human rights. The message with the best expression on universal love was that portion of Dr. King’s 1963 delivery at the Lincoln Monument, “I Have a Dream,” where he articulated a world where color is no longer a factor but instead God’s love rules. No one could find fault with the message in those words. I also included in Bayh’s opening statement Dr. King’s famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” where he writes about the importance of justice over laws.
As we prepared for the hearings, we knew the first obstacle we would confront was the tremendous amount of opposition from the southern senators, both on the Judiciary Committee and with the full body of the Senate. We were not disappointed. After the Senators who supported the legislation testified, they were followed by Senator Strom Thurmond, a Republican from South Carolina, and Senator Jesse Helms, a Republican from North Carolina. They were the two leaders of the opposition to the holiday. The key resistance outside Congress was the Liberty Lobby and its spokesperson, Stanley Rittenhouse, and Julia Brown (Brown was Black).
After many members from the Congressional Black Caucus testified in favor of the legislation, Mrs. King gave a passionate speech. She told the Senators, “That more than any other man, King was committed to achieving the words set out in the Declaration of Independence, and that all men are created equal with certain inalienable rights to include the pursuit of happiness through liberty.”
Unfortunately, Mrs. King’s words did not convince Thurmond, Helms, and the entire congregation of congressmen who opposed the holiday. Thurmond was the first to testify against the legislation. He argued that the holiday would be too expensive for the government after just having Christmas and New Year’s holidays. He suggested that since Dr. King was a preacher and Black Americans are religious, just have a day of recognition on the Sunday closest to his birthday. We overcame that opposition by having the Congressional Budget Office do a cost-benefit analysis. The study’s results indicated that the money spent on the holiday would bring in significant tax revenue for the government and quickly offset the money spent on holiday salaries for government employees. With the Congressional Budget Office figures, we could effectively dispel Thurmond’s claim of the cost. And we just dismissed his ridiculous suggestion that there be an observance of King on a Sunday. At that point, Thurmond backed off.
. . . prove that King had ever attended a communist meeting, had professed any allegiance to the communist doctrine, . . .
Helms’s opposition was based on his assertion that King was influenced by communists and may have been a communist. That argument was a “no-brainer.” We asked him to prove that King had ever attended a communist meeting, had professed any allegiance to the communist doctrine, and to reconcile how an ordained minister could possibly be a communist. This ideology essentially denies the existence of God. He was unable to support his position.
Despite the excessive attacks on Dr. King and the tremendous opposition to the holiday (there had never been a bill passed honoring a civilian with a national holiday), our supporters for the King holiday never gave up. Because we were able to place it on the congressional agenda and facilitate discussion, we only had to listen to the opposition and, one by one, destroy their arguments against the holiday.
After a four-year up-and-down battle, the legislation finally passed in the United States Senate by a vote of 78 to 22 in 1983. It subsequently passed in the House of Representatives with 338 to 90. When President Ronald Reagan finally signed the bill into law on November 2, 1983, he made the following statement: “Dr. King had awakened something strong and true, a sense that true justice must be color blind and that among Black Americans, their destiny is tied up with our destiny, and their freedom is inextricably bound with our freedom; we cannot walk alone.”
The most important remarks were by Mrs. King right after Reagan spoke. She summed up the importance of King to this country, stating: “In his own life’s example, he symbolized what was right about America, what was noblest and best, what human beings have pursued since the beginning of history. He loved unconditionally. He was in constant pursuit of truth, and when he discovered it, he embraced it.”
Celebrating African Culture with Kwanzaa
Like in many societies, people celebrate traditions and holidays to recognize their culture and create unity.
Kwanzaa (from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1) was created in 1966 as a way for Black people to acknowledge the best of what it means to be African and human in the fullest sense. Kwanzaa gets its name from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza” and is rooted in first-fruit celebrations, which are found in African cultures both in ancient and modern times. The 2022 theme is “Kwanzaa, Culture and the Practice of Freedom: A Message and Model For Our Times.” Kwanzaa was not created as an alternative to religious beliefs or the observance of religious holidays, but it is celebrated by more than 30 million people of African descent worldwide.
The Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba)
Kwanzaa has seven basic symbols and values that draw on the Swahili language, one of Africa’s most widely spoken languages. The central belief is that these values are universal truths and a universal way of life. These principles, also known as Nguzo Saba, are:
Day 1 Umoja (Unity): Unity of the family, community, nation, and race
Day 2 Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): Being responsible for your conduct and behavior
Day 3 Ujima (Collective work and responsibility): Working to help one another and the community
Day 4 Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): Working to build shops and businesses. Many who celebrate Kwanzaa will actively shop from Black businesses.
Day 5 Nia (Purpose): Remembering and restoring African and African American cultures, customs, and history
Day 6 Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it
Day 7 Imani (Faith): Believing in people, families, leaders, teachers, and the righteousness of the African American struggle.
. . . Kwanzaa gets its name from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza” and is rooted in first-fruit . . .
Each day, a candle is lit to highlight that day’s principle and bring meaning into the principles with various activities, such as reciting the sayings, reciting original poetry by Black authors, or sharing a meal of African-inspired foods.
The table is decorated with the symbols of Kwanzaa, such as the Kinara (Candle Holder), Mkeka (Mat), Muhindi (corn to represent the children), Mazao (fruit to represent the harvest), and Zawadi (gifts).
One might also see the colors of the Pan-African flag, red (the struggle), black (the people), and green (the future), represented throughout the space and in the clothing worn by participants. These colors were first proclaimed to be the colors for all people of the African diaspora by Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born Black nationalist and leader of the Pan-Africanism movement, which sought to unify and connect people of African descent worldwide.
Why Celebrate Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is a chance for families and communities to come together to share a feast, honor their ancestors, and celebrate African and African American culture. The principles are great learning lessons for children based on values instead of consumerism.
On Dec. 26 at 7 pm, Melaneyes Media will host an online event to help people celebrate Kwanzaa. Through Zoom, the community is invited to honor the first day of Kwanzaa as a family and community. Event organizers will light the candle, discuss Unity, tell stories, and play games. The event is hosted by Melaneyes Media’s Aundar Ma’t and Born Logic Allah. To learn more, visit (MelaneyesMedia.com/Kwanzaa).
The results of the 2022 General Election in Texas confirmed that it is still a solidly entrenched Republican state. The Republican victories in all the state offices was staggering. The results for the six positions were as follows: 1) Governor: Gregg Abbott (R) 55% and Beto O’Rourke (D) 44%; 2) Lieutenant Governor-Dan Patrick (R) 54% and Mike Collier (D) 43%; 3) Attorney General – Ken Paxton (R) 53%, Rochelle Mercedes-Garza (D) 44%, and Mark Ash (L) 3%; 4) Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts-Glenn Hegar (R) 56%, Janet T. Dudding (D) 41%; and V. Alonzo Echevarria-Garza 3%; 5) Texas Land Commissioner-Dawn Buckingham (R) 56%, Jay Kleberg (D) 42%, and Alfred Molison (G) 2%; Texas Agriculture Commissioner-Sid Miller (R) 56% and Susan Hays (D) 44%; Texas Railroad Commissioner-Wayne Christian (R) 55%, Luke Warford (D) 41%, Jaime Andres Diez (L) 3%, and Hunter Wayne Crow (G) 1%.
In the Bexar County elections, the Democrats did much better. For the coveted position of Bexar County Judge-Peter Sakai (D) 57% and Trish DeBerry (R) 39%; Bexar County District Attorney-Joe Gonzales (D) 56% and Marc LaHood (R) 44%: Bexar County Commissioner Precinct 3-Grant Moody (R) 54% and Susan Korbel 46%; Commissioner Precinct 4-Tommy Calvert (D) 61% and Larry Rickets (R) 39%.
The Republican Party candidates also won the three open seats on the Texas Supreme Court and the three open seats on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. On both courts all nine justices are Republican.
. . . most important consideration in analyzing our system of government, the final arbiter are the people.
In the Texas State Legislature, the Republicans also dominated. In the 31 member-Senate, there are 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats. In the 150-member House of Representatives, there are 83 Republicans and 65 Democrats. With these figures, all is well in the Republican Party of Texas. They are in charge of the government’s executive, legislative and judicial branches.
They will undoubtedly make the eight legislative priorities adopted at this year’s State Republican Party Convention, the first order of business for the 150 days they will be in session. Those priorities are:
1. Protect the Elections;
2. Secure the Border and Protect Texans;
3. Bar Gender Modification of Children;
4. Stop Sexualizing Texas Kids;
5. Ban Democratic Chairs of Committees;
6. Abolish Abortion in Texas;
7. Defend Gun Rights, and
8. Parental Rights and Education Freedom.
With the kind of control, the Republicans will have as they go back into session, the Democrats are in for a very rough ride. In our democratic system of government, the majority sets the public policy issues to be debated and voted on in all legislative bodies. But in our constitutional democracy, the minority also must be given consideration in determining what is best for the people. That is true here in Texas.
Therefore, the party out of power plays a significant role in our system. They serve as a watchdog over the party in power and must be willing to challenge the decisions made in a substantive and responsive manner. Therefore, in no way are the Democrats not important, but to the contrary serve a critical role even out of power. That would be true for the Republicans if they were the minority party. The most important consideration in analyzing our system of government, the final arbiter are the people. As the Republican Party begins to consider the eight priorities mentioned above, they too must be cognizant of the Texas citizenry. If not their exercise of power could be short-lived.
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