Slavery & The Alamo

The comment below is quoted from an online discussion amongst Texas historians, in which, according to BH, “a big fuss was going on about the Alamo defenders being accused of being slavers.”

Here is how BH weighed in.

It’s a great introduction to understanding the way he approaches the subjects of his films — in case you needed one.

“Slavery & the Alamo story.

Slavery seems to be a taboo subject when dealing with the Alamo story. Ironically, the only male survivor of the defense of the Alamo was Joe, the black slave of Travis. Santa Anna must have understood that by freeing Joe he was sending a message to the slaves of Texas that this was truly a battle for freedom. Joe handled his freedom well according to businessman William F. Gray, but nevertheless he was quickly returned to bondage once the fight for Texas freedom from Mexico was won.

The question of the relationship of slavery to the Alamo story raises an interesting point about the way in which we practice the study of history. The standard way appears to understand the flow of history as a coherent assembly of facts. An authoritative linear narrative that makes sense of events leading ostensibly to some final conclusion. “Looking at history as if through a tube”, is the way Rice University historian Thomas McEvilley once put it. The “tube” can conveniently exclude information not useful to the ideological stance of historians interested in presenting the Alamo story as an example of white Anglo-Saxon men expanding the boundaries of freedom.

History may better be understood as a fabric that has many narratives woven through it. A more complex yet fuller experience of our past may then be presented. This understanding of history will allow not only the old heroic tales to be re-told but also enable the voices previously silenced to be heard. Slavery and the Alamo will be allowed to co-exist in our narratives for certainly they are both integral parts of the big American picture. Then we shall have to confront and makes sense of the awful truth that the defenders of freedom at the Alamo were also supporters of slavery.”

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