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The Dance of Freedom

Barry A. Crouch
Edited by Larry Madaras
Foreword by Arnoldo de León
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  • Book Info
    The Dance of Freedom
    Book Description:

    This anthology brings together the late Barry A. Crouch's most important articles on the African American experience in Texas during Reconstruction. Grouped topically, the essays explore what freedom meant to the newly emancipated, how white Texans reacted to the freed slaves, and how Freedmen's Bureau agents and African American politicians worked to improve the lot of ordinary African American Texans. The volume also contains Crouch's seminal review of Reconstruction historiography, "Unmanacling Texas Reconstruction: A Twenty-Year Perspective." The introductory pieces by Arnoldo De Leon and Larry Madaras recapitulate Barry Crouch's scholarly career and pay tribute to his stature in the field of Reconstruction history.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79557-0
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    Arnoldo De León

    From Barry A. Crouch, I learned that persons could be paid for something they would do for free. Crouch taught at Angelo State University during the last years of the 1960s, when I was attending there as an undergraduate. He prized teaching, whether at Angelo State or the several other universities where he worked. Equally dear to him were research and writing. After his classroom duties ended, he would spend hours working on his dissertation or preparing articles for publication. His passion infected me, and over the years I’ve come to marvel that the academy pays me as a professor...

    (pp. xi-xii)
    Larry Madaras
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Larry Madaras

    Barry Alan Crouch died suddenly on March 13, 2002, at his home in Riverdale, Maryland, after a short bout with cancer. He was sixty-one. He was born in Glendale, California, on February 26, 1941, with his twin brother, Robert. Most of his childhood was spent in Syracuse, Kansas, and later in Norwood, Colorado, where he became a football and basketball star and still holds the school record for the most points scored in one basketball game. Barry went to Mesa State College in Grand Junction and graduated from Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison with a bachelor’s degree. Quickly...


    • One “UNMANACLING” TEXAS RECONSTRUCTION: A Twenty-Year Perspective
      (pp. 3-35)

      Reconstruction historiography has gone through three discernible phases: the Dunning, the revisionist, and the postrevisionist. The oldest interpretation stressed the South’s unfortunate experience with Reconstruction, espousing the view that Radicals had forced full citizenship rights for blacks upon a conquered Southern society. The revisionist argument concentrated upon the successes of the era and the significant contributions made by Afro-Americans; it destroyed the idea that reconstruction was a time of economic rape and plunder. The postrevisionist reaction has stressed the conservatism of national and state legislators and the programs that they enacted. Additionally, the latter school has emphasized the importance of...

      (pp. 36-36)

      In the past sixteen years, a number of important general histories of Texas with up-to-date interpretations have been published. These include Robert A. Calvert, Arnoldo De León, and Gregg Cantrell,The History of Texas, 3rd ed. (Harlan Davidson, 2000); Randolph B. Campbell,Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State(Oxford, 2003); Jesus F. de la Teja, Paula Marks, and Ron Tyler,Texas: Crossroads of North America(Houghton Mifflin, 2005). See also the readings inMajor Problems in Texas History: Documents and Essays, edited by Sam W. Haynes and Cory D. Wintz (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), andThe Human...

  7. Part II FREEDOM

    • Two RECONSTRUCTING BLACK FAMILIES: Perspectives from the Texas Freedmen’s Bureau Records
      (pp. 39-53)

      Emancipation provided many former slaves with the opportunity to reunite families that had been torn apart during the period of bondage. Numerous problems arose because of the past social relationships of the ex-slaves, which now had to be resolved in the turbulent era of Reconstruction. The National Archives houses a number of excellent sources that enable us to document the family turmoil that came with freedom. This essay examines some of the information available at the archives from the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, Record Group 105, which will aid family and local history researchers in documenting the...

      (pp. 54-68)

      The prevailing system of law during the antebellum years was something that was both special and unique to white and black southerners. To whites, it was a practical tool and an institution for maintaining a stable society based on slavery. To the slaves, it was a system with which they had little formal contact but which surrounded their very beings with its regulations. Because the bondsmen were considered both persons and property, they were never entirely outside the law.¹

      Following emancipation, millions of black Americans encountered for the first time legal and social relationships that assumed they were equal with...

    • Four SEEKING EQUALITY: Houston Black Women during Reconstruction
      (pp. 69-89)

      Contradictory perceptions surround the status and role of black women both in and out of bondage. “On the one hand,” Suzanne Lebsock writes, “we have been told that black women, in slavery and afterward, were formidable people, ‘matriarchs,’ in fact.” Nevertheless, “all along, black women were dreadfully exploited.” Rarely, she concludes, “has so much power been attributed to so vulnerable a group.” A similar paradox embracing black women can be found in the works of America’s most famous African American historian. In his early writings, W. E. B. Du Bois described southern black women as tragic figures. In his later...

      (pp. 90-92)

      Barry Crouch was one of the pioneer social historians who used primary sources to study how ordinary people lived. His main focus was on the African American community in Reconstruction Texas. He mined Record Group 105 of the Texas Freedmen’s Bureau’s reports and letters to the local agents and gave a view of Reconstruction from the point of view of the newly freed slaves. Professional historians refer to this approach as history from the bottom up.

      The three essays in this selection were influenced by the iconoclastic and sprawling view Herbert Gutman presents inThe Black Family in Slavery and...


    • Five A SPIRIT OF LAWLESSNESS: White Violence, Texas Blacks, 1865–1868
      (pp. 95-117)

      Southern history, though rich and compelling, is stained by the theme of violence. Both before the Civil War and long after, violence was an accepted facet of southern society. Reconstruction, however, may have been that region’s most violent era. Blacks and whites struggled to redefine their roles within an atmosphere of bitterness, frustration, and resentment. Racial tensions, always an important characteristic of southern life, reached new extremes that appalled even contemporaries. From Paris, Texas, a year after emancipation, Mrs. L. E. Potts, a native Tennesseean, implored President Andrew Johnson to do something about the plight of the “poornegro” and...

    • Six CRISIS IN COLOR: Racial Separation in Texas during Reconstruction
      (pp. 118-133)

      As Winthrop D. Jordan has shown in his recent work, the white man’s attitude toward the black did not originate in this country in 1619. The seeds of racial bias were planted even earlier, when Englishman first encountered African. These early English concepts flourished in America, bolstering and shoring up the “peculiar institution,” and finally becoming identified as an inseparable part of it.¹ With this in mind, it hardly seems feasible that the Thirteenth Amendment would foster economic, social, or psychological conditions that would guarantee, or even encourage, mixing of the white and black races in the South. A purely...

    • Seven “ALL THE VILE PASSIONS”: The Texas Black Code of 1866
      (pp. 134-158)

      Surveying the state literature on the Civil War and Reconstruction, Randolph B. Campbell observed that Texas’s versions of the infamous black codes of 1865–1866 have been defended as models of discretion compared to those adopted in other states, but the very existence of such legislation indicates that Texans did not mean to accord blacks equality before the law.¹ Although increasing attention has been paid to Texas history during the post–Civil War years, little has focused upon the passage of the black codes, what they portended for the Reconstruction status of the Lone Star State, and whether these enactments...

    • Eight THE FETTERS OF JUSTICE: Black Texans and the Penitentiary during Reconstruction
      (pp. 159-180)

      At the 1897 National Prison Association convention, Thomas J. Goree, superintendent of the Texas penitentiary from 1877 to 1891, regaled the audience with an apocryphal tale about emancipation, blacks, and their propensity for theft. At war’s end, Goree’s mother informed her slaves they were free and that all laws now applied to them. A plantation blacksmith asked Mrs. Goree if this included “stealing.” Yes, she replied, since this violated the criminal code. The former slave artisan claimed he should have been trained as a brick mason instead of as a blacksmith because if blacks were sent to prison for theft,...

      (pp. 181-182)

      The essay by Crouch and Schultz was a response to C. Vann Woodward’s revisionist view inThe Strange Career of Jim Crow(Oxford 1955), which argued that legal segregation occurred in the 1890s, much later than historians had previously assumed. Rejecting Woodward’s interpretation, Crouch and Schultz, in one of the earliest state studies, demonstrate that segregation in Texas began immediately after the Civil War ended. This essay was Crouch’s first study of Texas Reconstruction and was based upon a careful reading of contemporary newspapers. See also James M. Smallwood, “The Woodward Thesis Revisited: Race Relations and the Development of Social...


    • Nine GUARDIAN OF THE FREEDPEOPLE: Texas Freedmen’s Bureau Agents and the Black Community
      (pp. 185-202)

      Created by Congress in March 1865, the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, supervised the transition of the slaves from bondage to freedom. The bureau was directed by a national commissioner; the office in each former Confederate state was headed by an assistant commissioner, who administered bureau operations; and field personnel (subassistant commissioners) stationed in the major cities and towns across the region conducted daily bureau business. Often ignored in the historical literature, these men who constantly interacted with the black community became the heart of the Reconstruction process. Throughout their tenure, they faced...

    • Ten HESITANT RECOGNITION: Texas Black Politicians, 1865–1900
      (pp. 203-226)

      In his novelTexas(1985), James A. Michener creates a scenario in which the governor establishes a task force to “snap” the Lone Star State “to attention regarding its history.” Instructed to compile a list of seven ethnic groups whose “different cultural inheritances” had contributed significantly to the state’s history, it was to investigate the antecedents of each group. Blacks were fifth on the task force’s agenda, described as being the “great secret of Texas history,” their background “muted” and their “contributions” to the historical development of the state denied.¹ Although writing fiction, Michener clearly recognized the absence of black...

      (pp. 227-240)

      In a recent article on the origins of early Texas Republican leadership James Alex Baggett correctly contends that in the Lone Star state a

      few Negroes held local offices of responsibility in predominantly black counties during and following Reconstruction. At the state level nine Negroes served in the 90-man constitutional convention of 1868–1869, eleven were legislators in the 120-man legislature of 1871, and thereafter the number of Negro legislators diminished.

      Unlike the experience of other Southern states during this era, “not a single Negro occupied an important executive or judicial post in Texas.”¹ With the exception of the Populist...

    • Twelve A POLITICAL EDUCATION: George T. Ruby and the Texas Freedmen’s Bureau
      (pp. 241-254)

      George T. Ruby, one of two black state senators who served during Reconstruction in Texas, has received considerable attention from historians of the post–Civil War Lone Star State. Much of the focus has been upon Ruby’s political career, the characteristics that brought him to the attention of the Republican Party, and his background. His performance in the Louisiana and Texas Freedmen’s Bureaus has been ignored, but this interlude in Ruby’s life prepared him for his entrance into local and state politics. Ruby’s sojourn in the Texas Freedmen’s Bureau provided the foundation for his later prominence in state Republican circles.¹...

      (pp. 255-256)

      Crouch believed that the Freedmen’s Bureau agents dispensed justice fairly. They treated the newly freed blacks with respect, and the former Confederates without arrogance or ill will. Working against nineteenth-century beliefs in limited government and the hostility whites felt toward their former slaves, a small number of Texas bureau agents nevertheless successfully administered the nation’s first antipoverty program. Crouch’sFreedmen’s Bureau and Black Texans(Univ. of Texas Press, 1992) takes issue with the more critical and institutional approach of William L. Richter, who sees the army and the bureau agents acting in an imperious and authoritarian manner; for Richter’s views,...

    (pp. 257-260)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 261-268)