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By Douglas Hales

The advanced problems with race and politics in nineteenth-century Texas can be nowhere extra dramatically embodied than in 3 generations of the relatives of Norris Wright Cuney, mulatto hard work and political chief. Douglas Hales explores the birthright Cuney bought from his white plantation-owner father, Philip Cuney, and how his background performed out within the lifetime of his daughter Maud Cuney-Hare. This intergenerational learn casts mild at the adventure of race within the South earlier than Emancipation, after Reconstruction, and within the diaspora that finally led cultural leaders of African American background into the towns of the North.

Most Texas heritage books identify Norris Wright Cuney as essentially the most influential African American politicians in nineteenth-century Texas, yet they inform little approximately him past his elected positions. In The Cuneys, Douglas Hales not just fills within the information of Cuney’s existence and contributions yet locations him within the context of his family’s generations.

A politically lively plantation proprietor and slaveholder in Austin County, Philip Cuney participated within the annexation of Texas to the U.S. and supported the function of slavery and cotton within the constructing economic climate of the hot nation. filthy rich and robust, he fathered 8 slave teenagers whom he later freed and observed knowledgeable. Hales explores how and why Cuney differed from different planters of his time and place.

He then turns to the better-known Norris Wright Cuney to check how the black elite labored for political and fiscal chance within the reactionary interval that Reconstruction within the South. Cuney led the Texas Republican occasion in these turbulent years and, via his place as selection of customs at Galveston, allotted federal patronage to either white and black Texans. because the strongest African American in Texas, and arguably within the whole South, Cuney turned the point of interest of white hostility, from either Democrats and contributors of the “Lily White” faction of his personal occasion. His potent management received not just endured workplace for him but in addition a place of strength in the Republican celebration for Texas blacks at a time whilst the get together of Lincoln repudiated African americans in lots of different Southern states. From his place at the Galveston urban Council, Cuney labored tirelessly for African American schooling and challenged the domination of white hard work in the becoming unions.

Norris Wright Cuney’s daughter, Maud, who was once graced with a prestigious schooling, pursued a profitable profession within the arts as a live performance pianist, musicologist, and playwright. a pal of W. E. B. Du Bois, she turned actively all in favour of the racial uplift stream of the early 20th century. Hales illuminates her position within the highbrow and political “awakening” of black the USA that culminated within the Harlem Renaissance of the Nineteen Twenties. He adroitly explores her determination opposed to “passing” as white and her dedication to uplift.

Through those 3 individuals of a unmarried mixed-race kin, Douglas Hales offers perception into the problems, demanding situations, and strengths of people. His paintings provides a major bankruptcy to the historical past of Texas and of African americans extra broadly.

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Extra resources for A Southern Family in White and Black: The Cuneys of Texas

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He represented no special interest except his dedication to “his people” and to Galveston. His alderman career ended only after his enemies united and made his race the main issue. The manipulation of voting districts to eliminate African American representation in government represented only one form of white racism confronting black Texans. During the s and s, African Americans faced a new form through the establishment of “Jim Crow” laws. Throughout his busy life, Cuney maintained a dedication to black civil rights.

The one is dependent upon the success of the other. And that race which employs the energy and thrift, is the one which quickly realizes the meaning of the term. As it is with other members of the human family it must be with us. If we would succeed in life and place ourselves above a plane of continual helplessness we must foster a spirit of industrial as well as intellectual life. In other words we must teach our boys and girls mechanical trades; encourage commercial undertakings and recognize manly and womanly capabilities.

The beautiful island-port attracted many ambitious young black and white men. “Breezes fresh from the Gulf mingled with odors of oleander, and cape jasmine from the city gardens” counterbalanced the hustle and bustle of the fastest growing city in Texas. Under the protection of the Union Army, newly freed slaves joined a black presence in Galveston dating back to the time of Cabeza de Vaca. By , over three thousand African Americans called Galveston home. During Reconstruction, the Freedmen’s Bureau maintained its headquarters in Galveston, and the city became one of the bureau’s real successes in Texas.

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