The Yellow Rose of Texas Story is a Racist Lie

January 23, 2019

 

For generations, the Yellow Rose of Texas has been one of America's most popular myths, connected to Texas and San Antonio, ballooning over time and doing little to resemble the truth of what happened on April 21, 1836, at the battle of San Jacinto, where a new Texas Republic won its independence and the creation of a pro-slavery republic. The woman who has been traditionally connected to the story was an ordinary remarkable free black woman from the North, Emily D. West. She was never a slave nor did she have a sexual relation with General Santa Anna causing him to be defeated at the Battle of San Jacinto—all of this is white supremacist myth.  The song and the words of the “Yellow Rose” was actually a slave song sung in the cotton fields. A slave in deep South Texas lamented about a girl he loved and hence the following song was corrupted over the years: “There's a yellow rose in Texas, that I am going to see, No other darky [sic] knows her, no darky only me She cryed [sic] so when I left her it like to broke my heart, And if I ever find her, we nevermore will part. [Chorus].

          

More than 25 years later, the lyrics were changed. "Soldier" replaced "darky." And the first line of the chorus was also changed to read, "She's the sweetest little flower...." The Yellow Rose of Texas was a slave song that nothing to do with Emily Morgan (Her real name was Emily West). The earliest known version is found in Christy's Plantation Melodies. No. 2, a songbook published under the authority of Edwin Pearce Christy in Philadelphia in 1853. Christy was the founder of the racist blackface minstrel show known as the Christy's Minstrels. These racist actors presented black stereotypes and like most minstrel songs, the lyrics are written in a cross between the dialect historically spoken by African-Americans and standard American English. The song is written in the first person from the perspective of an African-American singer who refers to himself in racist terminology as a "darky," longing to return to "a yellow girl," a term used to describe a light-skinned bi-racial woman born of African-American and white ancestors. The song had nothing to do with Emily Morgan, but this was the type of buffoonery that ruled the thinking of many on the frontier, and ignorant people repeat the lie that the song was about Emily Morgan (West).

          

The Battle of San Jacinto: No mention of Emily West is made in any of the documents of that era. One must note that Emily West was not a slave or from the South, but a free black woman from New England. She was caught up in the fighting at New Washington. According to legend, Santa Anna had been caught unprepared because he was having sex with West. No contemporary accounts indicate that Santa Anna was with a woman at the time, but the story was recorded in the journal of Englishman William Bollaert in 1842, who was told the story by Sam Houston during a steamer trip.

       

After Bollaert's diary was published in 1956, racist historians began to expand the tale, with Henderson Shuffler suggesting that West fit the description of the girl in the then-popular folk song "The Yellow Rose of Texas." This false story continued to grow, with many references to West's beauty, as the legend took hold by the 1986 Texas Sesquicentennial. All of this legend is pure racist invention. Racial myth is spread to the population via educational institutions, literature, folk tales, bar room gossip, and repeated by people that have infected our educational system.

 

 

 

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