I have been reading Stephen Harrigan’s history of Texas, Big Wonderful Thing. Great read. I just finished Harrigan’s discussion of the period of Reconstruction in Texas after the Civil War. Two things struck me: first, in the Black Lives Matter era, how we are all being drawn into re-examining our country’s history of discrimination against African Americans; and second, how divided Texas was, both before and after the Civil War, on the issues of slavery and race relations.
After Lincoln’s assassination, his successor Andrew Johnson appointed Andrew Jackson Hamilton as provisional governor of Texas. Hamilton was a former Texas Congressman who opposed secession and escaped Texas during the war. A delegation was then elected in 1866 to write a new Texas constitution. The delegates refused to ratify the 13th Amendment and wrote into the constitution that Blacks would not be allowed to vote, hold office, or serve on juries. Texas voters ratified the constitution in June 1866 and elected a new governor, James Throckmorton, who fought for the South in the war. The newly elected legislature then passed laws known as “black codes” further limiting rights of African Americans. For example, a law required that all Black household servants “shall at all hours of the day or night, and on all days of the week, promptly answer all calls … to be especially civil and polite to their employer, his family and guests.” Continue reading →