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Texas Domestic Slave Trade Project

Description: 
This is a project developed through the generous support from the Humanities Media Project at The University of Texas at Austin's College of Liberal Arts, the African and African Diaspora Studies Department, and the Department of History. This website offers a digital visual history of Matagorda County by photographing archival documents and historical sites in the region. It expands on contemporary understandings of slavery in Texas during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by highlighting Matagorda as a dominant city (and eponymous county) for commerce, as well as a primary entry point for enslaved people in early Texas history. When appropriate, it also emphasizes Bay City, the county seat founded in 1894 situated between Caney Creek and the Colorado River. The county’s unique position stretching towards the Gulf of Mexico and along major waterways headed inland mark Matagorda as necessarily crucial to slave trading in Texas. Not only does this project position Matagorda centrally within historical narratives of slavery in Texas, but it relies on everyday artifacts — contemporary maps, memorabilia, paraphernalia, oral tradition, and even the reconstruction of historical routes via photographic documentation — to showcase the continuity between the past and present in this region. By documenting history through written texts, cultural remnants, and intangible memories, conversations, and reflections, the researchers involved in this study constantly commit themselves to pushing the boundaries of what is knowable through various historical records. Through such probing they hope to shed light on an oft overlooked time period and region in Texas history. Ultimately, then, this website illuminates the lasting legacy of slavery in the region and provides valuable information available to historians, researchers, and students.
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