Critical Race Theory Foes Could Get
Woke Up Call with State Museum Trip

Capitol Inside
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.



Critical Race Theory - Republicans
Get Special Session Hook with Alamo
Book Banning at State History Museum

Texas Republicans discovered critical race theory back in September when Donald Trump issued an executive order that prohibited federal spending on programs that could be associated with the concept. CRT has become an obsession for GOP lawmakers in states around the country ever since.

Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have appeared to be competing vigorously to see who can do the most to stop the spread of critical race theory in schools around the state. Abbott signed a bill last month that Republicans pitched as a CRT ban. The governor has vowed to give the state's GOP lawmakers an opportunity to get their opposition to critical race theory on the record in a special session that starts on Thursday. Abbott also has said that he expects the Legislature to revive election and bail reform measures that the Republicans had fumbled in the regular session's final week in May.

Patrick has emerged in the past week - however - as the most prominent opponent of CRT in America next to Trump. The lieutenant governor captured the spotlight from coast to coast with an impromptu banning of a new book on the Alamo from the state history museum. Patrick objects to Forget the Alamo on the grounds that it's reframing the Shrine of Texas Liberty battle in a way that reveals race to be the central issue in the birth of the Republic of Texas.

The Republicans didn't ever appear to have real grasp on critical race theory before Patrick muscled an ostensible ban through the Texas Senate after a deadline for doing so in regular session. But Patrick has given GOP allies in the House and Senate and the governor's office a real live example of critical race theory in action.

While the Republican push to restrict voting in Texas can expect top billing in the upcoming special session, CRT should be a close second at the current rate.

Abbott has indicated that the critical race theory bill that's set to become law September 1 wasn't strong enough and should receive new teeth in the Legislature's summer gathering. The biggest challenge for the Republicans won't come in terms of votes that will be unanimous if they unfold along the same exclusive party lines like they did this spring. Trying to agree on the definition on what exactly GOP lawmakers are voting to ban again could take some compromise as a subject that they never cared about until it became vogue under Trump.

Would the Republicans - for example - consider any of the following excerpts below from displays in the Bullock Texas State History Museum to be critical race theory?

A. The Constitution of 1836 officially sanctioned slavery and allowed it to grow into a major component of the Republic's economy. Free blacks were not allowed to remain in Texas. The legislature could, and did, grant exemptions, but free blacks were not considered citizens.

B. The Eleventh Legislature immediately worked to restore prewar conditions in Texas. Refusing to ratify the 13th and 14th Amendments, it denied freedmen the right to vote, hold office, sit on juries, serve in local militia, or attend public schools. It also issued a series of Black Codes that severely limited African American rights. These Black Codes included labor, vagrancy, and apprenticeship laws that mimicked the conditions of enslavement.

C. African American and white sympathizers experienced intimidation and terror led by the growing numbers of the Ku Klux Klan. Nearly 1,000 black and white Texans were murdered in racially motivated crimes between 1865 and 1868.

D. Outlawing slavery would stop immigration and cause Anglos to abandon Tejas. When he saw the proposed slavery legislation, he wrote to Austin to assure him that he was working to stop it. This letter calls the legislation "a mortal action" and warns that if they do not act swiftly, "everything will be lost." (Description on letter that Stephen F. Austin received in 1826 from José Antonio Saucedo - a former governor of the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas.)



Copyright 2003-2021 Capitol Inside