Annette Gordon-Reed’s Surprising Memories of Texas


She didn’t understand then, but as she got older she realized how the breaking of the color line could be seen as a threat on both sides. Her parents’ decision to send her to a white school was interpreted by some black families as a vote of no confidence in the black school. And the integration project, as a whole, has undermined the solidarity, although imposed from the outside, felt within the black community. Integration involved both teachers and students; Gordon-Reed’s mother was assigned to the previously White Conroe High School. The experience there was not the same. “My mother confessed later in life that although she enjoyed all of her students, she had become a teacher ‘to teach black students.’ “I can’t talk to them like I used to anymore,” she said. What she meant was that it was harder to speak to black students in class and speak openly about their shared mission of advancing the black community. “

The seventh grade history class was very traditional when Gordon-Reed took it. “I cannot say for sure that slavery was never mentioned,” she wrote. But he received nothing like the attention he deserved. “Of course, I didn’t need school to tell me black people had been enslaved in Texas.” Juneteenth informed him of this every summer, and his parents and grandparents referred to slavery. Black children too. “A common line when another child – often a sibling – insisted that you do something for them that you didn’t want to do was, ‘The time of slavery is over. “

A staple of Texas history classes was the story of Cynthia ann parker, a white girl stolen by the Comanches on the Texas border and adopted into the tribe. She had a son, Quanah, who became the last great warlord of the Comanches. Gordon-Reed initially accepted the story as just being told, but the more she thought about it, as a black woman and a woman, the more complicated it became. “It seemed to me that so many bad things were wrapped up in this one story,” she wrote. She learned that the land the Comanches were defending against the Whites was land they had taken from other Indians. She discovered that the Indians held slaves, some for this reason siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War. As for the kidnapping itself: “No matter how much sympathy we have for a besieged people struggling for their very existence, there is no way to minimize the problem of kidnapping girls into wives. “

Gordon-Reed never lost his affection for Texas, even after he left. “When I was asked, as I have been so many times, to explain what I love about Texas, given everything I know about what happened there – and there always happening – the best answer I can give is this is where my first family and connections were, “she writes.” Love does not require taking an uncritical stance towards the objects of one’s affections. In truth, it often requires the opposite.We cannot truly serve the hopes we have for places – and people, including us – without a lucid assessment of their (and our) strengths and weaknesses.

The Juneteenth ritual in the Gordon House has evolved over time. His grandmother added tamales to the menu. Young Gordon-Reed joined the women in the long preparation. “Those hours seemed endless to me when I was a child, but they were actually fleeting,” she says. “This ritual was appropriate, and so Texan. People of African descent and, to be honest, of European descent, celebrating the end of slavery in Texas with dishes learned in slavery and a favorite dish of ancient Mesoamerican Indians who linked Texas to its Mexican past; so much Texas history brought together for this special day.

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