April 21, 2020

Free Blacks in Texas were Mostly Ruined



In the 1830, the Mexican government offered freedom, equality, and full rights to blacks that managed to escape the slaver army of Sam Houston. Many free blacks contributed their time and loyalty to Sam Houston only to be betrayed once Mexico was defeated. After Mexico was defeated free blacks were expelled from the state of Texas or returned to slavery. There were a few exceptions. According to the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), “Samuel McCulloch (McCullough, McCullock), Jr., free black soldier in the Texas Revolution, was born in the Abbeville District of South Carolina on October 11, 1810. He moved with his white father, Samuel McCulloch, Sr., to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1815. In May 1835 Samuel McCulloch, Sr., describing himself as a single man, moved to Texas with his son and three daughters, Jane, Harriet, and Mahaly. The family settled on the Lavaca River in what is now Jackson County. Samuel McCulloch, Jr., and his sisters were considered free blacks.” 


Ironically, Sam McCulloch was one of the only blacks honored by the slave owners for fighting for his own enslavement. Blacks that fought for the Texas revolution were indeed fighting for their own slavery as Mexico had abolished slavery. Blacks that would bend to the will of whites were sometimes rewarded, but in the case of Sam McCulloch this was a rare exception.  According to the Texas State Historical Association, “McCulloch became eligible for bounty land by an act of the Texas Congress approved December 18, 1837, which entitled persons permanently disabled in the service of Texas to one-league grants.” McCulloch dodged the bullet, because many other blacks that fought for the slave owners would be ruined by passage of laws in the 1840s that prevented blacks from being Texas citizens. “On December 7, 1850, he located two thirds of his league on Frio Road and the south bank of the Medina River, fourteen miles to the southwest of San Antonio. McCulloch sold a third of his bounty land to John Twohig on October 22, 1851. In 1852 he moved with his family to the region of present-day Von Ormy, in Bexar County, where he lived as a farmer and cattleman.” 


Perhaps Sam McCulloch was allowed this pleasure because he had married a white woman before the laws against interracial marriage had gone into effect, or because he was a willing participant of the slave owners in their fight with Mexico, after Mexico abolished slavery. Sam McCulloch is considered a sell-out to slave owning interests and even fought the Comanche so that Native American land could be stolen by landless mercenaries from pro-slavery states. After 1843, free blacks were placed on the same status as slaves. At any time, a free black person could be returned to slavery despite any previous law in Texas. There was always the danger of free blacks being kidnapped by slave hunters from Louisiana and other slave holding states. Blacks that had been given free land by the Mexicans were removed from those lands and sold into slavery. Some land owned by blacks, given by Santa Anna after he free them from Texas settlers, was given to blacks that obeyed white control.


Free blacks had no real existence of being free as the threat of being returned to slavery never ended. According to historian Randolph Campbell, “On the day they were given the right to remain permanently [in Texas, only to see themselves deprived of all of their rights on February 5, 1840 . . . .” One must understand why Sam McCulloch was afforded what other blacks could never attain. The psychology of white supremacy and that of the slave owners was a tortured mental illness. On the one hand, slave owners wanted to reward blacks that fought for them, to protect the institution of slavery as Sam McCulloch did, but on the other hand did not want to see blacks with freedom or more material benefits than the lowest white. In their twisted way of thinking, Texas slave owners saw blacks as loyal, and fruitful, while at the same time seeing them as savages, thieves, liars and traitors to the cause of white supremacy. This twisted psychology was always at work when slave owners in Texas were trying to figure out what to do with free blacks. 


Anytime those blacks were elevated in Texas, during slavery, it was always at the risk of that benefit being taken away. Anytime blacks were given land, it could always be taken away by Texas slave owners, and anytime blacks were honored during slavery it was because they were doing the dirty work of the slave owners. They never want to talk about the slaves that escaped from slavery by running away from Sam Houston and going to Mexico.



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