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How Slavery Built Texas


If you grew up in Texas, you were probably taught about how we fought for independence from Mexico – and later traded sovereignty for U.S. statehood. Why our Texas ancestors made those decisions, though, is sometimes glossed over. Today on Think, Krys Boyd talked with UNT history professor Andrew Torget about how slavery fueled the Texas Revolution. He is the author of “Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of Texas Borderlands 1800 – 1850.”  

The KERA Interview

Andrew Torget on …

… how much Texas valued slavery: 

“We have again this mythology about the Republic as this shinning success story, which it wasn’t. It had huge problems. But we never talk about what it actually said in its constitution, which the constitution is mostly a copy of the U.S. constitution with a few exceptions. But the big part that is different about the Republic of Texas constitution is that it enshrines slavery and it says that the Republic can never outlaw it, in no way shape or form can it challenge it, and free African Americans are not even allowed to live here. You have to leave - you can’t be here unless you get an act of congress to stay.”  

... how slavery hurt Texas:

“The Republic is announcing itself as a slaveholders republic, and it’s saying nobody can challenge slavery. But that made a huge challenge for them in the diplomatic situation they found themselves in because they need international friends, just like Mexico did in 1821. And when you declare yourself a slaveholders republic, there’s one country that’s not going to like that in any way shape or form and it’s the British, who happen to be the biggest purchaser of cotton at this time and are the leading antislavery nation in the Atlantic world. And so the Republic of Texas finds itself in a situation where they need British help, but they can’t get it because of their constitution.”  

…. what we can learn from this history:

“The Republic of Texas, one of the things it can show us is what the Confederacy had in front of itself because the Confederacy never won its war. It never got to test the idea of its nation. The Republic did win its war, and had nine whole years to test out this idea of what happens if you create a country built on cotton, an export economy, that’s also built on slave labor in a world that’s increasingly hostile to slave labor. And that is a situation that ultimately sank the Republic of Texas.”    

Copyright 2016 KERA

Samantha Guzman