Texas Insights May 2016

Volume VI, Issue 5
 

What’s New?

Student Program Results
The spring semester is in so many ways the culmination of numerous efforts both inside and outside the classroom. It is also the season for a variety of contests and the recognition of hard work demonstrated by thousands of students and the teachers who guided them. Numerous organizations offer opportunities for elementary and secondary students to create and share their knowledge of Texas history, geography, civics, economics, and other areas which comprise Texas studies. Please join us in commending the quality efforts demonstrated by our young people and their mentors in the programs listed below and consider these valuable programs as a way to strengthen and enrich your classroom and school programs next year.
 
The Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) offers a variety of programs with classroom and extracurricular connections. This year’s, revamped and all-digital, Texas Quiz Show state champion winner was Kaylee Bragg (pictured left with Host Charlie Hodge) from Harpool Middle School in Denton. Students from all over Texas competed by taking a series of quizzes, and the top 22 students were invited to compete in the state competition, held April 30, at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Each year the TSHA hosts a t-shirt design competition. This year’s winner, Sarah Mochama from Summitt International Preparatory High School in Arlington will see her design on every Texas student competing at National History Day this June. On April 30, results of this year’s Texas History Day state contest were announced as nearly 1200 students presented their various projects to see who would represent Texas at National History Day. Earlier this spring, TSHA’s Junior Historians program announced the results of its annual writing contest, history fair and chapter achievement awards. Last but not least, on March 4, 2016, Dr. Andrew Yox and Jim Philips were announced as the two 2016 Mary Jon and J. P. Bryan Leadership in Education Award recipients.
 
Winners of the Daughters of the Texas Revolution essay contest were decided this spring for 4th and 7th grade contestants. The state winner this year's Geography Bee was Pranay Varada from Dewitt Perry Middle School in Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD. The University Interscholastic League (UIL) had local opportunities for middle school students and a state level structure for high school students. Law-Related Education sponsors, The Texas Citizen bee, to promote essentials of American heritage, including the Constitution, and other important documents. This year’s state champion is Sam Schaff from L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, Texas.  
 
You can find information about most of the above opportunities on TeachingTexas.org. Congratulations to all the students and their teachers for a job well done!
 
 

Women's Suffrage Exhibit

Based on the book Citizens at Last: The Woman Suffrage Movement in Texas, this exhibition created by the Woman’s Collection of Texas Woman’s University Library and produced by Humanities Texas, uses archival photographs, newspapers, cartoons, cards to display the struggle for equal rights in Texas for women in the 20th century. In May, this exhibition will be on display in Del Rio at the Whitehead Memorial Museum. Learn more at TeachingTexas.org.

 

Bullock Texas State History Museum -"Totally Texas" Teacher Immersion

The Texas General Land Office, The Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Texas State Historical Association, and Austin ISD are joining forces to provide Totally Texas Immersion, a staff development workshop for new Texas history teachers, June 28-29, 2016. This content-driven workshop will prepare you for a full year of teaching our state history and geography. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org.

Featured Institution

The Texas General Land Office - Educator Resources

The Texas General Land Office has long played a key role in education across Texas. The Texas Constitution of 1876 set aside half of our state’s remaining public lands to establish a Permanent School Fund to help finance public schools. These lands generate income primarily through oil and gas revenues, effectively turning oil into textbooks for our state’s future leaders.Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, a former schoolteacher, has made education a top priority at the GLO.

Today, the agency continues to manage and earn money for Texas public schoolchildren each day in addition to providing a trove of resources for educators by way of original lesson plans, workshops, and tours of our archives for Texas teachers and their students.

Educators can enhance their lesson plans by using primary source documents found at the GLO to supplement textbooks, giving students a first-hand look at history. Our educators and archivists have developed lesson plans related to specific TEKS requirements using these primary source documents. These lesson plans are available on our website for use by educators across the state and touch on topics ranging from William Barret Travis’ famous letter sent from the Alamo to analyzing what the Mexican government required of its new settlers to Mexican Texas. 
 
In addition to online lesson plans, the GLO has produced two Texas history classes featuring Commissioner Bush and K-12 education outreach coordinator Buck Cole that were originally streamed live on YouTube. “Pioneering Principles: Why Character Matters” and “Opportunity in Texas: Land and Its Legacy in Texas History” are based off of lesson plans featured on our website and give an example of what the printed lessons look like in a classroom setting. These lessons last about half an hour and are available to stream on our education website. 
 
For educators who want to learn even more about using historic documents in the classroom, our staff travels across the state throughout the year, bringing workshops about teaching using our primary resources directly to you. These workshops include “Stories on the Land,” “Land, Lessons, and Literacy,” and “Civil War Resources.”  This year, all teachers attending a workshop will receive a “Teachers Save Texas History” badge to show our appreciation for introducing our historic documents to future generations. In addition to our statewide outreach efforts, the GLO, in conjunction with the Capitol Visitors Center, hosts an annual Primary Sources Texas workshop at the GLO every June that includes a tour of our archives, guest speakers, and opportunities to work with the GLO Archives documents and maps.
 
In an effort to better gauge how we can help educators teach Texas history, we debuted a Facebook group earlier this year especially for Texas history teachers. “Texas History Teachers – Resources from the Texas General Land Office” is a public group open to all educators who would like to learn more about our resources or provide feedback about our lesson plans and workshops. 
 
For students and teachers traveling or living in central Texas, we offer personalized tours of our historic archives at our offices in downtown Austin. Students of all ages can experience Texas history up-close and personal by viewing Stephen F. Austin’s Registro or maps in our collection dating back to 1561. These tours are a great addition to a visit to the Bullock Texas State History Museum right next door. 
 
“When teachers use our resources in their classrooms, they are saving our state's history from obscurity,” said Cole. “It's important that our stories be kept alive by using the GLO Archives in the classroom as well as saving maps and documents through our preservation and conservation efforts.” 
 
The GLO continues to look for new ways to introduce our state’s history to Texas’ future leaders whether it’s through primary source documents or by using new technologies. Learn more about educational resources at the GLO at www.txglo.org/education
 

Historian's Corner

Cottonpickers v. Cowboys: Contested Heritage 
By Kyle G. Wilkison, PhD
Professor of History
Collin College

A herd of longhorns run through Dallas’s Pioneer Park pursued by cowboys with big boots and even bigger hats, an ironic bit of statuary for a city whose fortunes derived from cotton. Yes, cotton, a crop produced--not by mounted and spurred horsemen--but by the sweat and blood of sharecropper families, often on their knees. If the blackland prairie’s gleaming urban centers from Dallas to San Antonio wish to accurately memorialize the origins of their cities’ wealth, their pioneer parks soon will have statues of Anglo, African American and Tejano children on their knees dragging heavy sacks through rows of bronze cotton plants.  

The truth about late nineteenth and early twentieth century Texas history is more interesting than the heroic cowboy myth. From before the Civil War through mid-20th century, the annual Texas cotton crop far outstripped cattle in the dollars brought into the state. The state’s population dispersal reflected this as well with density east of the 100th meridian and sparsity west of it. More than likely, if you are a multi-generational Texan, your heritage lies in the cotton patch and not in the mythic cowboy experience. 
 
Texas’ rural majority experienced a dramatic economic transformation in the 1870s and 1880s when railroads brought the international marketplace into what had been self-sufficient “island economies” in East and Central Texas. After the railroads, the population skyrocketed with Southern whites pouring in from the poorest region of the country. Over the next forty years farm prices tripled everywhere in Texas and quadrupled—or more—in the cotton-growing counties.  On the blackland prairie farms sold for six times more in 1910 than in 1870. Astonishingly, the farms themselves shrunk to half their former acreage. That’s about a 1,200 percent per acre increase in two generations.    
 
A family’s chance of making enough money from tenant farming to buy land all but disappeared.  The highest bidders came from the booming cotton-railroad towns: physicians, attorneys, and bankers.  Thus tenancy or sharecropping rates also shot up rapidly, especially in the cotton counties, from one-third in 1870 to two-thirds in 1910. (Image left, book by Dr. Kyle Wilkison's book Yeomen, Sharecroppers, and Socialist.)
 
Cash cropping replaced safety-first agriculture. Cotton growers forced legal reversal of the traditional practice of common access to the woods. The rural poor thus lost use of the free range which forced down the rate of ownership of subsistence livestock and deprived poor families of meat hogs and milk cows. Where in 1870 a third of farmers’ total family wealth had been in such livestock, by 1910 it was a tenth. 
 
Such an outcome forced tenants into the waiting arms of credit merchants to supply their subsistence. Essentially, they borrowed and paid interest on their own wages in order to live until harvest. While wise owner-operators struggled to balance subsistence with commercial production, tenants had no such choice. Landlords ordered them to plow the cotton rows up to the front porch steps making the old expectation of self-sufficiency nothing but a memory. This reality did not stop self-righteous exhortations on the benefits of self-sufficiency from pulpits and the press, however. Their social betters sought to explain the new rural poverty in terms that exonerated the system, assigning the causes to poor people’s choices.  
 
The record is replete with specific examples of the hard dealings between Texas landlords and their cotton tenants. The hardest among them allowed no garden plots, potato patches, hog pens or even chicken coops. Others demanded more of the crop. Custom designated tenants who supplied their own plow animal, tools, seed, fertilizer and line of credit as “thirds and fourths” renters. Landlords got a third of the corn and a fourth of the cotton. But times were changing in Texas and landlords began charging “bonus points” for luxuries such as proximity to a rural schoolhouse or water source, or the presence of screened windows on tenant shacks. Some landlords increased their share if that year’s price for cotton failed to give the desired rate of return on their land. One landlord explained that he "knew" what his profit "ought” to be (if he sold the land at its current value, banked the proceeds and collected interest) but cotton prices were not as predictable. (Image from UNT's Portal to Texas History archive.)
 
Other landlords squeezed their tenants by requiring that they do business with allied credit merchants.  Reputable credit merchants charged thirty percent interest while the disreputable grew their profit with fraudulent entries, counting on tenants’ social deference to prevent a challenge. 
Dishonest credit merchants were not the worst of it.  Every community had its story of the landlord who ran off his tenant and simply took the whole crop. The intimidation and abuse would begin shortly after the crop was laid by (after the pre-harvest labor was complete) with the hope that the confused and demoralized tenant would simply leave before harvest time.  White supremacy provided the ultimate leverage in such cases but running off a tenant was about profit maximization, ultimately, and was done to whites as well.  One white oral history subject recalled his destitute family fleeing the increasingly frightening abuse of a locally-powerful landlord because they had no viable alternative.  In their case, poverty trumped their whiteness.
 
Wealth increasingly concentrated at the top while the rate of absolute poverty (those completely devoid of any kind of property) increased six-fold from 1870 to 1910.  
 
Yet, even as its economic foundation collapsed, the poor majority stubbornly held to a set of values emphasizing family, work and community interdependence.  
 
The struggle to wrest a living from the physical environment continued to dominate as nothing else could.  Neighborly cooperation, the safety net woven from human relationships, had been the old ideal.  While still landowners, the yeomanry practiced a matter-of-fact communitarianism manifested in tending the sick, visiting and church-going, cooperating with seasonal work too large for one family (“hog-killing day”), and collectively pitching in to alleviate neighbors’ emergencies.  
Rural cohesiveness already contained one profound, and ultimately fatal, divide and that was the majority’s widespread belief in white supremacy.  (Image courtesy of UNT's Portal to Texas History.)
 
But the new economy started breaking down the old culture of mutuality even among Anglos. For example, church attendance in the countryside declined because sharecroppers were embarrassed about their clothing. Increasing tenancy rates further weakened the rural community's cohesiveness, taking away independence of action, and weakening family bonds by requiring geographical mobility.
These early 20th century cotton renters were the children of previously independent, landowning yeomen. They greeted their new status with bewilderment, self-doubt, resentment, and, among only a minority, political outrage. 
 
It is easy to see why Dallas chose the cowboy myth as a more usable past.  It was better for business.  As others have shown, Texas civic and business leaders of the early twentieth century consciously revised Texas public memorials away from images of the South—synonymous with poverty, racism and defeat--and embraced instead the victorious and dynamic West of heroic individualism. But we who teach history owe a first allegiance to the truth, painful or not. And, the story of the real struggle of the early twentieth century Texas rural poor is the truth. It was the reality faced by the majority of Texans, the rural Anglo, African American and Tejano working people who made up the majority of the state. Their true story of struggle may prove to be a valuable past to know about for their twenty-first century descendants.

 

Featured Lesson

As you plan instruction on Texas in the 20th century this spring, the Ruth Winegarten Foundation (and with Memorial Day lurking on the horizon) made sure to include lesson plans on influential Texas Women who fought for our country. Lesson plans such as the Tejana Military Members in World War II, geared towards seventh graders, introduces students to Tejanas (women of Spanish/Mexican origin from Texas) who undertook service to the United States of America during World Ward II. This is an invaluable resource that will enable students to gain an understanding of these military members during wartime and help them learn about the unique contributions Texas woman made as service members. Learn more at TeachingTexas.org.

 

Texas History News

Several opportunities for Texas history educators and students are available or are on the near horizon:

TSHA's Exploring Texas Workshop Series is proud to announce the dates and locations for its 2016-2017 academic year. July 26-27, 2016, Houston - Encountering Texas History Conference, October 2016, El Paso - Texas History Workshop, November 14-15, 2016, Dallas - Energizing Texas History Conference, February 6-7, 2017, Austin - Discovering Texas History Conference.  To register and learn more, go to TeachingTexas.org

 

 

Join the Dallas Holocaust Museum for the 2016 Holocaust and Human Rights Educator Conference. The three day education conference will hold multiple workshops led by the nationally-renowed organization with presentations by local survivors from July 25 to July 27, 2016. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.

 

The University of North Texas is hosting the Teaching of History Conference (TCON) focusing on REconstruction and Restorations on October 1st. Learn from professionals and scholars who are experts in Texas history. Register and learn more at TeachingTexas.org.

 

For more than a decade, Humanities Texas has partnered with the state's leading universities and cultural organizations to hold institutes and workshops supporting teachers' intellectual and professional development. To apply for summer 2016 workshops, visit TeachingTexas.org.

 

 

 

 
Join the East Texas Historical Association for their Women Ranchers in Texas Symposium on July 4 at Midwestern State University. Register at TeachingTexas.org. Stay and attend their annual New Deal Symposium the next day. This year, these two events will be held at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls on June 4, 2016. For additional information and to register, please visit TeachingTexas.org
 
 
 
The University of Texas at Austin is offering six four-day AP Summer Institutes for social studies teachers at the Thompson Conference Center on the UT main campus. Institutes begin on June 13th and will continue until July 28th, 2016. Participants will earn 30 credit hours of training.  Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information. 
 
 
 
 

Join the Institute of Texan Cultures for the Annual Texas Folk life Festival, June 10, 11, & 12, 2016  Experience the delicious cuisine, traditional dances, fine-crafted keepsakes, storytelling, and music of more than 40 ethnic groups at the biggest three-day celebration in Texas. The Texas Folk life Festival is held on the grounds of HemisFair Park in San Antonio. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org

 

The Old Red Museum will have experts on a number of conflicts at various levels of government on September 17. With lectures from Edward Countryman, Sam Haynes, Jill E. Kelly, Benajmin Johnson, and more. Earn 6 hours of CPE credit. Visit TeachingTexas.org to register.

 
 

Join Law-Related Education at one of four two-day teacher workshops, Being an American: Exploring the Ideals that Unite Us. This 12 credit hour workshop is for any secondary teacher who would like to explore materials which show the significance of America’s founding and civic values. Workshops will be held over the summer, in Victoria, Lubbock, and San Angelo. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org. 

 

Law-Related Education would like to invite you to attend an Institute on the Founding Documents. Though these institutes are designed for US government and history teachers, there is a correlation to the Texas history TEKS. Institutes will be held over the months of June, July, and August 2016 in the Houston, San Antonio and Grand Prairie areas. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.

 

Texas Insights is a publication of the Texas State Historical Association
in cooperation with The University of Texas at Austin.

Texas State Historical Association
3001 Lake Austin Blvd, Ste. 3.116
Austin, TX 78703

Stephen Cure - Editor
Caitlin McColl - Associate Editor




 

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