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The Dance of Freedom

Texas African Americans during Reconstruction

By Barry Crouch

Publication Year: 2007

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.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: Jack and Doris Smothers Series in Texas History, Life, and Culture


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

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...


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p. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

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...

PART I. Historiography

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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...


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p. 36

PART II. Freedom

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Two. RECONSTRUCTING BLACK FAMILIES: Perspectives from the Texas Freedmen’s Bureau Records

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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...

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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...

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Four. SEEKING EQUALITY: Houston Black Women during Reconstruction

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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...

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pp. 90-91

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...

PART III. Reaction

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Five. A SPIRIT OF LAWLESSNESS: White Violence, Texas Blacks, 1865 –1868

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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...

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Six. CRISIS IN COLOR: Racial Separation in Texas during Reconstruction (Barry A. Crouch and L. J. Schultz)

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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...

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Seven. “ALL THE VILE PASSIONS”: The Texas Black Code of 1866

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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...

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Eight. THE FETTERS OF JUSTICE: Black Texans and the Penitentiary during Reconstruction

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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,,,

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pp. 181-182

The essay by Crouch and Schultz was a response to C. Vann Woodward’s revisionist view in The 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...

PART IV. Freedmen’s Bureau Agents and African American Politicians

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Nine. GUARDIAN OF THE FREEDPEOPLE: Texas Freedmen’s Bureau Agents and the Black Community

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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...

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Ten. HESITANT RECOGNITION Texas Black Politicians, 1865 –1900

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pp. 203-226

In his novel Texas (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...

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pp. 227-240

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 movement in the 1890s, black participation in the political process reached its heights during the years following the Civil War. Though not elected to the upper echelons of state government, black politicians were active...

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Twelve. A POLITICAL EDUCATION: George T. Ruby and the Texas Freedmen’s Bureau

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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...

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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...


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pp. 257-260


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pp. 261-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780292795570
E-ISBN-10: 0292795572
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292714632
Print-ISBN-10: 0292714637

Page Count: 286
Illustrations: 4 tables
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Jack and Doris Smothers Series in Texas History, Life, and Culture
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 82130159
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Dance of Freedom

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Subject Headings

  • Texas -- Politics and government -- 1865-1950.
  • African Americans -- Texas -- History -- 19th century.
  • African Americans -- Texas -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
  • Racism -- Texas -- History -- 19th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Texas -- History -- 19th century.
  • Freedmen -- Texas -- History -- 19th century.
  • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877) -- Texas.
  • Texas -- Race relations -- History -- 19th century.
  • African Americans -- Texas -- Politics and government -- 19th century.
  • Texas -- Social conditions -- 19th century.
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