Critical Race Theory Foes Could Get
Woke Up Call with State Museum Trip
July 5, 2021
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick fired a major salvo last week in the newfound GOP war on critical race theory when he pulled the plug on a promotional presentation of a new book about the Alamo at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Patrick branded “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of An American Myth” in a tweet as a "fact-free rewriting" of Texas history that has no place at the state museum. The Republican state Senate president offered no evidence to support the scathing review - and he said nothing to indicate that he actually read the book or obtained his information from social media or other sources with questionable credibility.
But Patrick admitted that he'd made the call on the event the moment he heard about the program that museum officials promptly scrubbed from the calendar. So Patrick didn't have time to weigh the potential consequences of the spontaneous maneuvering like the massive favor he's done for the book's three Texas authors and the nation's largest publishing company in Penguin Random House.
Book sales have soared in the past few days - thanks to the Texas lieutenant governor - who's single-handedly put Forget the Alamo on track to be a New York Times best seller track with a number one ranking as a realistic possibility. The state history museum's institutional integrity and reputation as a credible resource may have been tarnished significantly by the Alamo book fiasco that's unfolded in the countdown to a special session where the Republicans plan to ban critical race theory for the second time in two months.
Forget the Alamo sheds new light on the major role that slavery had in the legenday battle at the Spanish mission fortress in 1835. This is a prime example of cancel culture in the increasingly monolithic view of Governor Greg Abbott, Patrick and the other GOP lawmakers in Austin. But the Republicans could face a more imposing challenge in the war on woke if they discover that the museum where Patrick banned the book event actually is a repository for critical race theory based on the way conservatives appear to define it.
The section on the Texas Revolution and the disasterous experience known as the Republic of Texas begins with a display that tells the story of a letter that Stephen F. Austin received in July 1826 with urgent message from a major political ally on legislation in the mill in Mexico City to outlaw slavery in the northern state of Coahuila y Tejas.
José Antonio Saucedo - a former governor who'd helped Austin establish an official colony in 1824 - warned that a prohibition on slavery would be devastating for Anglo immigration efforts and cotton farming as the king of the economy here at the time. Saucedo told Austin that everything they'd been building together would be lost with a law that banned the enslavement of Black people as the backbone of Texas agriculture.
While there were countless factors at play, visitors at the Bullock museum could get the immediate impression that the Texas battle for independence from Mexico began the moment the Mexican politician's words sunk in.
"The Constitution of 1836 officially sanctioned slavery and allowed it to grow into a major component of the Republic's economy," according to a state museum display. "Free blacks were not allowed to remain in Texas. The legislature could, and did, grant exemptions, but free blacks were not considered citizens."
This exhibit notes that the Texas population in 1836 contained "roughly 30,000 Anglo Americans, 3,500 Tejanos, 14,200 Indians, 5,000 enslaved African Americans, and a small number of free blacks."
A state history museum tour reveals that the Republic of Texas turned out to be a monumental bust. Texans voted to join the United States with the first opportunity that they had at the polls the year after the battles at the Alamo, Goliad and San Jacinto.
Texas had to be dragged stubbornly into a world without slavery after the Civil War based on the museum's portrait of the Reconstruction period here. "Voters approved the constitution and elected a legislature that was Unionist in name, but Confederate in practice," a separate museum display explains.
Bullock museum visitors can learn there how Texas refused to ratify but was forced to recognize the 13th and 14th Amendments that promised "basic rights" to male slaves who'd been freed. "Texas seemed poised to re-join the Union with only minor advancements for its newly free African American population," according to another exhibit.
Texas lawmakers voted in regular session in 1866 to institute "black codes" that "severely limited African American rights" with "labor, vagrancy and apprenticeship laws that mimicked the conditions of enslavement."
Republicans who fear critical race theory and plan to ban it again in Texas this month appear to favor the version of the Alamo that John Wayne portrayed in the 1960 movie that he directed with himself cast in the lead part as Colonel Davy Crockett. That is the way the landmark's history was depicted in the public schools in Texas for decades.
Crockett rounded up a group of men to travel from Tennessee to Tejas to die for freedom and liberty. The King of the Wild Frontier went down in a blaze of glory swinging Ol' Betsy out on the front steps of the Alamo. But not before the official commander William Barret Travis drew a line in the sand that his fellow warriors could cross if they were cowards and wanted to run from General Santa Anna and the Mexican army that was coming to kill them all.
That is the version that Patrick and everyone else in his generation learned to love at the movies when we were kids and unconcerned about Hollywood liberties.