Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hidden History of Texas--1920-1930--Part 7

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on Dec. 12, 2012)

Between 1920 and 1930, the number of people living in Texas increased from over 4.6 million to over 5.8 million; and the percentage of Texas residents who now lived in urban towns and cities with populations above 2,500 people increased from 34 to 41 percent. By 1930, for example, over 292,000 people lived in Houston, over 260,000 people lived in Dallas, over 231,000 people lived in San Antonio and over 163,000 people lived in Fort Worth—although the number of people living in Austin in 1930 was still less than 54,000.

But between 1920 and 1930 the percentage of farmers in Texas who were now just tenant farmers also increased to 61 percent. And in Texas during “The Roaring Twenties,” as Randolph Campbell’s Gone To Texas recalled:


“Thousands upon thousands of farmers continued to live in destructive poverty as tenants and sharecroppers. Giant corporations still wielded monopoly power because anti-trust and regulatory laws had always aimed more at `foreign’ businesses…Laws protecting children in industry…went unenforced…The doctrine of white supremacy ruled race relations, and in South Texas Anglo bosses exploited Texans of Mexican descent politically and economically…”

  Alwyn Barr’s Black Texans, for example, observed:

“…Mob violence increased in the early 1920s with the rise of the new Ku Klux Klan…Klansmen branded a black bellhop in Dallas with acid and castrated a light-skinned Negro accused of relations with a white woman. They raided the office of the Houston Informer and threatened the Dallas Express, both black papers. Hooded groups beat a black youth in Texarkana , removed two Negroes from the Denton jail to flog them, and forced black cotton pickers near Corsicana to end their strike for higher wages…”

  In addition, during the 1920s, “the new Klan, which claimed over 100,000 members in the state, proved powerful enough…to help elect Earle B. Mayfield, a Klansman, to the United States Senate from Texas,” the same book noted. According to Gone To Texas :

“The KKK arrived in Texas in September 1920 when a kleagle came to Houston and recruited 100 men into the state’s first local chapter. `The initial roster represented literally a glossary of Houston ’s Who’s Who,’ wrote one observer. The charter members were silk-stocking men from the banks, business houses, and professions…From its Houston beginning, the Klan spread rapidly across the state. In January 1922, when membership reached more than 75,000, Texas was organized as a realm of the `Invisible Empire’ under its own grand dragon, A.D. Ellis, an Episcopal priest from Beaumont . That same year women…obtained a Texas charter as the Women of the Invisible Empire of America. In June 1923, 1,500 masked and robed klanswomen held a parade through Fort Worth . Eventually male membership alone stood at approximately 150,000.”

  Some opposition to the KKK’s growing influence in Texas electoral politics began to apparently develop within Texas white power structure and political establishment circles (who then backed state-wide candidates that were able to defeat some KKK members who ran against them) by 1924. But as Merline Pitre’s In Struggle Against Jim Crow noted:

“The Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s was a viable force in Houston and throughout the state. In Texas , this vigilante group occupied a position of power and influence unequaled in any other state, giving Texas the designation of Star Klan State . Houston was dubbed as the Star Klan City …In 1921, Houston Klansmen, led by Deputy Sheriff George E. Kimbro, attacked and castrated a black dentist and beat a white lawyer who represented him. Several years later, the Klan tarred and feathered a black physician. In 1928, a Houston mob dragged a black man, accused of killing a white police officer, from his bed in a local hospital and hanged him from a bridge—a murder for which no one was ever convicted. Additionally, a Klan newspaper, Colonel Mayfield’s Weekly, circulated throughout the city.

“[In Houston ] in 1920, backed by a city ordinance, the American Legion excluded blacks from the annual Armistice Day parade. Blacks also were prohibited from voting in the municipal elections of February 1921. In 1923 and 1924, respectively, blacks were banned from standing in the same lines as whites to purchase stamps at the post office and to pay property taxes at the Harris County Courthouse. In 1925, the Electric Company excluded blacks from riding its buses, while in 1926, the Majestic Theater refused to admit blacks on weekends.”

  In 1921, Houston ’s Democratic Party also passed “a resolution allowing only whites to vote in the upcoming Democratic primary;” and in 1923 the Texas state legislature passed a law stating that “only white Democrats and none other” could vote in primary elections, according to the same book.

Between 1920 and 1930, the KKK was also visibly active on the streets of Austin, Texas. In 1921, for example, “500 white-robed and hooded Ku Klux Klansmen from Austin and San Antonio marched single file in silence up and down Congress Avenue, while thousands of spectators looked on,” according to David Humphrey’s Austin: An Illustrated History. The same book also observed:

“ Capital City Klan No. 81 was organized in 1921 and a year later had 1,500 members including the sheriff of Travis County and apparently other highly placed city and county police officials. The Klan thrived in Austin in the early and mid-1920s…In the mid-1920s the Klan even purchased a sizable piece of property off South Congress Avenue and erected a hall or `Klan haven’…”

  So, not surprisingly, Austin’s “1928 city plan recommended that East Austin be designated a `Negro district’ and that municipal services for blacks, such as schools and parks, be confined to this district” and so “thirteen-acre Rosewood Park in East Austin provided recreational facilities for blacks, but other city parks were closed to them,” according to Austin: An Illustrated History.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Concert To Free Leonard Peltier Now! In NYC's Beacon Theatre

Democratic President Obama has still not yet either pardoned or signed a clemency order that would immediately release U.S. political prisoner Leonard Peltier from the Coleman federal prison cell in Florida where he is now locked up.

But a concert to demand that Leonard Peltier now be released by the Democratic Obama Administration is being held in Manhattan on December 14, 2012 in the Beacon Theatre. And the following video of a 1995 public domain protest folk song about the Leonard Peltier Case, "Free Leonard Peltier!", indicates why his release is long overdue:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Australian Anti-War Activist Joan Coxsedge's November 25, 2012 Letter

(The following letter from Australian anti-war and Latin American solidarity activist Joan Coxsedge—who is also a former member of the Victoria state parliament--originally appeared in an Australian-Cuban solidarity group’s newsletter).

“November 25, 2012
“Dear Comrades

“Merry Christmas anyone? It helps if you take happy pills and can block out the world in these barbarous times.

“As I write, a fraught ‘truce’ has been negotiated between Hamas and Israel, a hopelessly one-sided arrangement demanding Palestinians cease firing their rockets when Hamas has no control over those who launch them. But what did Israelis agree to? Did they agree to end their ruthless air, sea and land blockade that has turned Gaza into a living hell, the most environmentally devastated piece of land in the world? Did they agree to dismantle their illegal settlements and hand back Palestinian land and their right to water? To stop targeted assassinations?

“Of course they didn’t, because in our world the ‘righteous’ can kill with impunity. An extension of the infamous Plan D carried out in the 1940s just before Israel was created. A scheme to get rid of the people of Palestine when 369 villages were attacked and people were thrown out of their houses and fled in terror. The beginning of the genocide and longest military occupation in modern times, all of it on the historical record. And still happening. Before our eyes.

“When Netanyahu decided to incinerate Ahmad Jabari with a hi-tech weapon and butcher the Palestinian women, men and children of Gaza and destroy what’s left of their dilapidated infrastructure, the White House, US Senate and House of Reps all promptly supported Netanyahu’s war crimes as an ‘exercise in self-defence’. And Obama went out of his way to congratulate Netanyahu for his ‘restraint’ and offered more money for his killing machines while his White House adviser trumpeted that ‘the White House wants the same things as Israel wants’, spelling out that superpower US is a puppet of Israel and as we’re a puppet of the US that makes us a puppet of a puppet. Netanyahu is a fascist, Washington’s fascist. Remember that, every time you hear the weasel words of successive Australian governments and from the mouths of our weasel foreign ministers.

“The sickness of America was clearly evident in its recent election, a revolting spectacle where the two presidential contenders engaged in a frantic and demeaning scramble for money. Campaign finances in the US have become so corrupted it’s not the ‘elected’ members now holding office but billionaires and their cronies. A strong warning that when big money controls the political agenda, a nominal democracy can so easily mutate into a plutocracy that can so easily mutate into fascism.

“The spectre of fascism is now creeping into parts of Europe, more immediately into Greece, buffeted by the brutal imposition of neo-liberal austerity measures, punishing working class Greeks for the sins of the criminal class that fleeced them, entrenching the wealthy and relegating the poor to subservience.

“Fascism thrives on shadows and dark places and feeds on insecurity and isn’t a word to be thrown around lightly against any person or idea we find morally repugnant. Fascism is a real word with real meaning and has horrendous consequences as we know only too well. It elevates hyper-macho posturing and the military with their martial uniforms, symbols and language and expropriates the language of the working class while deliberately obscuring the real causes of their misery, and is often supported by religious hierarchies, the capitalist class and financiers of industry.

“Back in the 1930s, minus an Internet and hi-tech paraphernalia, men and women from around the world knew these dark forces had to be stopped and en-masse they joined International Brigades and travelled to Spain without their government’s support. About 35,000 of them from 52 countries who saw what was happening in Spain and was about to happen in Italy and Germany. No conscription or apparatus of the state to tell them that democracy was threatened. Sadly they failed. Germany and Italy, given military and material support from capitalists everywhere – including from Britain and the US - gave aid to the Spanish Falangists and throttled a noble resistance, plunging Spain into a long darkness and the world into the nightmare of WW2. No-one can say whether Greece will be the ‘tipping point’ for a revival of fascism in Europe, but something should be done because the situation is getting worse with each EU demand for more austerity.

“Not great times for honest people. In 2008, Lehmann Brothers was allowed to collapse, its assets swallowed up by other giant banks while dodgy hedge funds continued to make billions. Obama and Romney’s obscenely funded election with almost identical foreign policies were in thrall to lobby groups ensuring any changes to corporate regulations remained toothless. With unemployment rising and civil unrest simmering, central banks fight for interest payments and government assets await further privatisation. Wars and economic restructuring are useful tools for their deadly games. Unless we stop them, the elites and their New World Order will survive and flourish, but we won’t, nor will our wonderful natural world.


“After all these years, the 1962 Cuban missile crisis is still debated. The standard US account blames the Russians (naturally) for an act of aggression when they began installing missile bases in Cuba, with Kennedy presented as an heroic statesman who takes us to the brink but manages to avert WW3 by sheer determination. The US version conveniently omits to mention the installation of US missile bases in Turkey and Italy the previous year, an act of aggression that destabilised the fragile balance of power. Seen in that context, it was the US not the Soviets which caused the crisis. Reason prevailed and we survived and so, thankfully, did Cuba. Viva!

"Joan Coxsedge"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

`Mother Bloor (We Are Many)'




(chorus)
"We are many, they are few"
She told the working poor
And what she learned, she wrote all down
In "The Life of Mother Bloor."

(verses)
Ella Reeve was born
In 1862
And as a child met Walt Whitman
On the ferry.
Her mother died
When she was seventeen
And at nineteen, she married.
Her husband told her of
The Molly Maguires' Trial
And nineteen innocent miners hanged.
Then she had three kids
And when two of them died
Her own life filled with pain.

She fought for the right
Of women to vote
And joined the Knights of Labor.
Then she divorced
And moved to New York
And heard Debs speak for workers in America.
She organized for
De Leon's group
But felt it ignored the daily fight.
So when she was forty
In 1901
She joined Debs' Socialists one night. (chorus)

When miners struck
In 1902
She raised money for their families.
And she organized the sale
Of "Appeal to Reason"
And spoke against child labor and lynching.
When brickmakers struck
She was there
And organized in Connecticut.
And when Upton Sinclair
Published "The Jungle"
Her research proved true his book.

She worked with Katharine
Hepburn's mother
A leader of suffragettes.
Then organized in Ohio
Where thirteen socialist mayors
Folks did elect.
She talked to miners
In West Virginia
And there met Mother Jones.
And when men attacked
The D.C. women's march
Ma Bloor marched and
Heard her sisters' moan. (chorus)

She was in Calumet,
Michigan
And saw goons kill seventy-three kids.
And when she helped
Ludlow miners
Saw Rockefeller's troops kill kids again.
She opposed World War I
And worked to free
All Wobblies who were jailed.
Then helped form
The Workers Party
After seeing why Socialists had failed.

She worked to free
Tom Mooney
And save Sacco and Vanzetti.
And on the night
Of their execution
Was arrested by Boston police.
With thousands she marched
At their funeral
And stood next to Sacco's widow
At the New York rally.
And in the Great Depression
Of the 1930s
She helped unionize industry. (chorus)

She fought against
Fascism's rise
And tried to stop a new world war.
All her life she fought
For all workers
And to free those who history books ignored.
So remember Mother Bloor
And learn from Mother Bloor
If still you are ruled by the few.
And organize like Ma Bloor
And fight like Ma Bloor
Until workers create a world that is new. (chorus)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hidden History of Texas--1890-1920--Part 6

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on May 29, 2012)

During the period between 1890 and 1920 there was much dissatisfaction among Texas workers and farmers with how capitalist society treated them. So it’s not surprising that political support for an anti-corporate electoral alternative third-party to the pro-corporate Democrats and Republicans -- the Socialist Party -- began to develop in Texas by the beginning of the 20th century. As F. Ray Marshall’s Labor in the South noted:

“The Texas Socialist Party... was a member of the radical wing of the national party. E.O. Meitzen of Hallettsville, a member of the Grange, who helped organize the Farmers’ Alliance in Fayette County, and edited a German Populist paper (Der Anzeiger) during the 1890’s, was an active Socialist, and was secretary of the Renters Union, formed by Texas Socialists around 1909. Meitzen’s activities were continued by Thomas Hickey, a lecturer for the Social-Democratic Party in the south during the early 1900’s. Hickey published a magazine, The Rebel, from Hallettsville for many years... In 1912, Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist candidate for President of the United States [got] about 9 percent of the Texas vote...”

  According to the labordallas.org website, the circulation of The Rebel “went over 20,000” before it “was suppressed by the United States government as World War I began and never was reborn.” The same Texas labor history website also recalled that Texas Socialist Party leader Meitzen “was elected County Judge in LaVaca County and... gained 11.7 percent of the votes in the governor’s race” in Texas in 1914, “was shot by a sheriff he had accused of `losing’ important records concerning county monies” that same year, and “survived the shooting and other physical assaults” before he “died in Houston in 1934.”

Dissatisfied feminist white women in Texas also began to organize during the 1890 to 1920 historical period. As Randolph Campbell’s Gone To Texas observed, in Texas the white feminist movement "stirred slightly in 1903 with formation of the Texas Equal Suffrage Association” and “suffragettes by 1916 formed 80 local chapters and claimed 9,500 members for their statewide organization.”

In Austin, the Austin Woman’s Suffrage Association was founded in 1908; and when the wife of Austin’s then-Superintendent of Schools, Jane McCallum, became the Austin Woman’s Suffrage Association’s president in 1915, this group had 80 members.

So, not surprisingly, the Texas state legislature soon passed an act in 1918 which allowed white women in Texas to also vote in Texas primary elections; and after a May 1919 referendum in Texas, white women also were given the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections, when Texas became the ninth state to ratify the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Ironically, “among those Austinites who supported the women’s voting rights movement was Adele Burleson, wife of Woodrow Wilson’s postmaster general [whose] husband urged the president to introduce racial segregation into the federal civil service,” according to David Humphrey’s Austin: An Illustrated History.

The same book also observed that former Austin Mayor A.P. Wooldridge “similarly sought to expand the rights of women while he limited those of blacks” and that “he advised a group of Austin blacks in 1919 [to] `keep out of politics’" and told them not to forget "that whites `will tolerate no idea of social equality.’”

After the Democratic Wilson Administration decided to involve the U.S. military in the European war between UK imperialism and German imperialism in 1917 -- over 197,000 people from Texas were either drafted into the military or volunteered during World War I. And according to Alwyn Barr’s Black Texans, “Negroes provided about 25 percent -- 31,000 men -- of the troops called up from Texas, though they formed only 16 percent of the state’s population” at that time.

Most draftees and volunteers from Texas served in the U.S. Army during World War I and “more than 5,000 men and 1 nurse” from Texas “died while in the service, most losing their lives in the great influenza epidemic of 1918,” according to Gone To Texas.

And the free speech rights and civil liberties of anti-war activists and dissidents in Texas who opposed U.S. military intervention in Europe during World War I were curtailed after the U.S. Congress passed its Declaration of War in 1917. According to the same book, “a special session of the... state legislature... passed espionage and sedition laws that made it a crime to criticize the U.S. government, its officials, the flag, or soldiers;” and the University of Texas regents "fired a well-known anti-war professor."

African-American soldiers who were stationed in Texas after the U.S. military entered World War I also apparently challenged the racism of the Houston police department and white supremacy in Texas in a militant way in August 1917. As Gone To Texas recalled:

“On Aug. 23, 1917, Houston police arrested a black soldier and then fired at and arrested a black military policeman who went to inquire about the first serviceman…The men still in camp... decided to march on the police station to secure the MP’s release... Gathering rifles, the soldiers... moved toward downtown Houston... killing 15 whites and wounding 12 others. Four of the soldiers also died...”

  But the U.S. Army subsequently found 110 of the African-American soldiers involved in this apparently anti-racist protest “guilty of mutiny and riot” and “19 were hanged and 63 received life sentences,” according to the same book.

The police had also “roughed up [a] black woman" on Aug. 23, 1917, according to Black Texans, and the incident “stimulated a retaliatory raid by about 150” African-American troops. So, not surprisingly, after World War I ended, African-Americans in Texas “organized an Equal Rights Association to promote democratic government and equal justice” in Texas in 1919 -- the same year that there were also anti-black race riots by some white Texans in Port Arthur and Longview (where homes of African-Americans were burned), according to the same book.

And according to Merline Pitre’s In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957:

“The Houston Riot of 1917 served as a catalyst for the establishment of the Houston chapter of the NAACP. Investigating the 1917 riot, NAACP field worker Martha Gruening found the time ripe for organizing a Houston chapter... Shortly after Gruening’s trip to Houston, M.B. Patten, a postal worker... called a meeting of the city’s leading black professionals, clergymen, and business people... Subsequently the Houston chapter of the NAACP was established on May 31, 1918... By the end of 1918, membership in the Houston branch had reached 414...”

  By 1919, according to Black Texans, 31 chapters of the NAACP existed in Texas “with 7,000 members -- over 1,000 in both Dallas and San Antonio.” Yet in Austin -- which at the time was still just the 10th-largest city in Texas -- the following incident happened in August of 1919, according to Austin: An Illustrated History:

“John Shilladay, the white executive secretary of the NAACP... journeyed to Austin in 1919 to assist with legal difficulties encountered by the NAACP’s Austin branch... At mid-morning just outside the Driskill Hotel, John Shilladay was assaulted by County Judge David Pickle, a county constable, and several other Austinites...

  And that same month Democratic Texas Governor Hobby also warned NAACP national officers that “your organization can contribute more to the advancement of both races by keeping your representatives and their propaganda out of this state than in any other way.”

Yet as late as 1910, Austin still “had virtually no public parks or playgrounds, only two paved streets, and few sidewalks, ...refuse accumulated in alleys and was dumped on the banks of the Colorado, [and] the majority of residents still relied on backyard privies in the absence of sewer lines,” according to Austin: An Illustrated History.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hidden History of Texas--1890-1920--Part 5

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on Apr. 9, 2012)

During the 1890-1920 period of Texas history a post-1900 revival of Texas labor and farmer activism developed into a worker-farmer political alliance which produced some pro-labor laws between 1900 and 1915 in Texas.

As F. Ray Marshall recalled in his 1967 book Labor in the South:

“In 1900, the railway brotherhoods and the Texas State Federation of Labor [TSFL] established the Joint Labor Legislative Board of Texas. The board formed an alliance with the Farmers’ Union, organized in 1902.

“The Texas Joint Board was instrumental in securing the passage of favorable labor legislation during the 1900-1915 period, particularly: a 1901 measure outlawing the issuance of company checks, tickets or symbols of any sort redeemable only in merchandise at company stores; a child labor law -- first adopted in 1903 and improved in 1911; a 1907 law giving railroad telegraphers an eight-hour day; an eight-hour shift for state employees and persons working on government contracts in 1911; a 1913 law establishing a 9-hour day and a 54-hour work week for women in manufacturing; anti-blacklisting and mine safety codes in 1907; apprenticeship requirements for locomotive engineers and conductors, a full crew law for passenger trains and a requirement that railroads repair their equipment in Texas shops; and workmen’s compensation for railroad workers in 1909; workmen’s compensation was extended to industrial workers in 1911; a bureau of labor statistics in 1909 to enforce protective labor legislation; and the abolition of the convict lease system in 1910.”

  But by 1915 the political clout of Texas’s labor movement had begun to decline after cooperation with insurgent Texas farmers “began to weaken in 1911 when the Farmers’ Union secured the passage of the bill -- over labor’s objections -- to establish a textile mill in the Rusk penitentiary, and in 1913 when the farmers lobbied against the railway brotherhoods' 'full crew.'" Texas’s “Farmers’ Union had [by then] been infiltrated by the anti-union Commercial Secretaries Association,” according to Labor in the South.

Formed in Rains County, Texas, in 1902, the all-white Farmers’ Educational and Cooperative Union of America (aka The Farmers’ Union) excluded Texas’ African-American farmers as members. Yet “country teachers, mechanics, physicians, ministers of the gospels and publishers” who were not farmers, but who were white, were apparently allowed to be members, according to Labor in the South.


Despite having been able to recruit about 120,000 members in Texas during its early years, by 1919 the Farmers Union had ceased to exist as a significant and influential mass-based progressive political force within the state (although it still claimed 10,000 members in Texas in 1990).

The Texas labor movement’s political clout also decreased again by 1915 after Texas State Federation of Labor leaders complained that five of the six seats on the Joint Labor Legislative Board of Texas should not still be held by railroad brotherhood representatives -- because the number of railway brotherhood members in Texas was only 16 percent of the 9,000 Texas workers who were members of the Texas State Federation of Labor-affiliated unions in 1906.

So in 1914, the leaders of Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, the Order of Railway Conductors, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen decided to end their organizational involvement in the Joint Labor Legislative Board of Texas.

But despite the legislative gains made by Texas workers between 1900 and 1915, this was also a period when dissatisfied Texas workers in the lumber industry of East Texas -- 7,958 of whom were African-Americans who worked mostly as laborers in Texas lumber industry mills -- joined lumber industry workers of adjacent Southern states in a region-wide strike. As Philip Foner recalled in his History of the Labor Movement in United States , Vol. IV: The Industrial Workers of the World 1905-1917:


“The magnificent forests of... East Texas... were literally stolen by the lumber companies from the public domain... They were handed over to the lumber kings for prices ranging from 12.5 cents to 75 cents an acre...

“Having grabbed these forests -- one company owned 87,000 acres in a single tract in Western Louisiana and Eastern Texas -- the companies proceeded to operate them as feudal domains, filling the towns with gunmen whom the authorities had commissioned as deputy sheriffs, and jailing anyone who questioned their rule...

“Following a... study in Texas, the Commission on Industrial Relations found "that in such communities, political liberty does not exist and its forms are hollow mockery... Free speech, free assembly, and a free press may be denied as they have been denied time and again, and the employer’s agent may be placed in public office to do his bidding..."
 
So, not surprisingly, according to Foner’s 1965 book:

“The first widespread revolt of the lumber workers occurred in the autumn of 1907…The lumber companies, taking advantage of the panic of 1907, issued orders to cut wages 20 percent or more, and lengthened the hours of work. Against these orders, all the lumber workers in Western Louisiana and Eastern Texas rose en masse, and in a spontaneous general strike closed hundreds of mills…”
 
Although most of the striking Texas lumber workers soon returned to work after “promises of wage increases when economic conditions improved were made” to them by lumber company managers, according to the same book, “not only were the promises not kept, but the oppression grew even worse” over the next few years.

So after dissatisfied activist workers in the U.S. lumber industry joined together to create a national industrial union of lumber industry workers, the Brotherhood of Timber Workers [B. of T.W.] in June 1911, “the B. of T.W. spread rapidly over Texas,…recruiting Negroes and white lumberjacks, mill workers, tenant and small farmers who worked in the lumber industry for parts of the year, and town craftsmen,” according to Foner’s History of the Labor Movement in the United States. The same book also described how the corporations that still controlled the lumber industry in Texas between 1890 and 1920 then chose to respond to the success that the Brotherhood of Timber Workers industrial union organizing drive in Texas was achieving in 1911:

“The union’s rapid growth had alarmed the employers. In the summer of 1911, individual mill owners began to take action against the organization, requiring all workers to sign a card declaring that they would not join the union. This caused several strikes and a number of mills shut down, discharged every Brotherhood member, and kept closed down for weeks...

“The Southern Lumber Operators’ Association was... reactivated and a secret meeting was called for July 19 [1911] at New Orleans. The meeting was attended by some 150 lumbermen from Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana... The meeting was controlled by John H. Kirby, the largest lumber operator in Texas, who... directed the activities of the organization. A one-time president of the National Association of Manufacturers, Kirby was determined to smash the Brotherhood of Timber Workers.

“The leading speech at the session was delivered by Kirby. He began by announcing that `whenever any efforts are discovered to organize unions, the mills will be closed down and will remain so until the union is killed.’ ...Arrangements were worked out between Kirby and [then-American Federation of Labor Leader Samuel] Gompers for the Southern Lumber Operators’ Association to drive its workers out of the B. of T.W., and, after that union was destroyed, to extend recognition to the A.F. of L. which would send its representatives into the lumber camps and mills to recruit the skilled, white craftsmen...

“During the next few months over 300... mills in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana were closed down, and union men were locked out of, or blacklisted from, every mill within the Association’s sphere of influence... `Good Citizens’ Protective Leagues... were organized in Eastern Texas... to break up local meetings of the Brotherhood and to intimidate its speakers and organizers... During the summer and fall of 1911 between 5,000 and 7.000 of the most active members of the Brotherhood, white and Negro, were blacklisted...”

  Yet when the mills reopened in the winter of 1912, according to Foner’s History of the Labor Movement in the United States, the not-recognized B. of T.W. union “still existed as a force after the infamous war to exterminate it [and] by May 1912, the Brotherhood had a membership of between 20,000 to 25,000 workers, about half of whom were Negroes.”
But following another general lockout throughout the lumber industry by the Southern Lumber Operators’ Association in 1912, the B. of T.W. industrial union was driven out of the lumber industry in Texas by 1920.

As Bryan Burrough’s The Big Rich observed, “before oil the greatest Texas fortunes were made in ranching and East Texas lumber, where success depended on exploiting the labor of blacks, Latinos, and poor whites [and] in the years before World War I, John Henry Kirby all but owned East Texas.”

And according to the same book:


"Kirby put together a group of Boston and New York investors and spent... 20 years buying timberlands... In 1901 he merged these interests and took control, creating the giant Kirby Lumber Company -- at one point Kirby controlled more pine acreage than any other man in the world -- and the Houston Oil Company... By the 1920s Kirby had emerged as [the] Texan’s leading businessman... He maintained suites at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York [and]... a mansion called Dixie Pines at Saranac Lake, New York.”

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Black Worker `Seasonally Adjusted' Unemployment Rate 13.2 Percent In November 2012

The official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for all Black workers in the United States was still 13.2 percent in November 2012; while the number of Black workers who still have jobs decreased by 55,000 (from 16,049,000 to 15,994,000) between October and November 2012, according to recently-released Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Black male workers over 20 years-of-age was still 13 percent in November 2012; while the unemployment rate for Black female workers over 20 years-of-age was still 11.4 percent during that same month. And the number of Black workers in the U.S. labor force decreased by 306,000 (from 18,723,000 to 18,426,000) between October and November 2012.

The official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for Black youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age was still 39.4 percent in November 2012; while the number of Black youths who have jobs decreased by 19,000 (from 450,000 to 431,000) between October and November 2012.

The official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for white youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age was still 20.2 percent in November 2012; while the official unemployment rate for white male workers over 20 years-of-age was still 6.4 percent during that same month.

For white female workers over 20 years-of-age, the official jobless rate was still 6.2 percent in November 2012; while the number of white female workers over 20 years-of-age in the U.S. labor force dropped by 73,000 (from 54,431,000 to 54,358,000) between October and November 2012. In addition, between October and November 2012 the number of white female workers over 20 years-of-age who had jobs in the United States decreased by 14,000 (from 51,022,000 to 51,008,000); and the official “seasonally adjusted” unemployment rate for all white workers in the United States (male, female and youth) was still 6.8 percent in November 2012.

The official “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Latino youth between 16 and 19 years-of-age increased from 28.9 to 30.1 percent between October and November 2012; while the number of Latino youths between 16 and 19 years-of-age with jobs decreased by 21,000 (from 755,000 to 734,000) during the same period, according to the “not seasonally adjusted” data.

According to the “seasonally adjusted” data, the official jobless rate for all Latino workers in the United States (male, female and youth) was still 10 percent in November 2012; while the total number of Latino workers in the United States (male, female and youth) in the U.S. labor force decreased by 43,000 (from 24,587,000 to 24,544,000) between October and November 2012.

According to the “not seasonally adjusted” data, the official unemployment rate for Latina female workers over 20 years-of-age jumped from 9.5 to 10.3 percent in between October and November 2012; while the number of unemployed Latina female workers over 20 years-of-age increased by 89,000 (from 938,000 to 1,027,000) during the same period. And in November 2012 the “not seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for Latino male workers over 20 years-of-age was still 7.8 percent.

Between October and November 2012, the unemployment rate for all Asian-American workers also jumped from 4.9 to 6.4 percent, according to the “not seasonally adjusted” data; while the number of unemployed Asian-American workers increased by 134,000 (from 396,000 to 530,000) during the same period.

The official “seasonally adjusted” jobless rate for all female workers in the United States over 16 years-of-age was still 7.6 percent in November 2012; while the total number of female workers over 16 years-of-age who still had jobs decreased by 36,000 (from 67,329,000 to 67,293,000) between October and November 2012. And the official unemployment rate for all male workers in the United States over 16 years-of-age was still 7.9 percent in November 2012; while the total number of male workers over 16 years-of-age who still had jobs decreased by 87,000 (from 76,055,000 to 75,968,000) between October and November 2012.

Between October and November 2012, the total number of U.S. workers who still had jobs dropped by 122,000 (from 143,384,000 to 143,262,000), according to the “seasonally adjusted” data. But, in part, because the size of the U.S. labor force decreased by 350,000 (from 155,641,000 to 155,291,000) during the same period, the official jobless rate for all U.S. workers decreased from 7.9 to 7.7 percent between October and November 2012.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December 7, 2012 press release:
“…Employment increased in retail trade, professional and business services, and health care…The unemployment rate edged down to 7.7 percent in November. The number of unemployed persons, at 12.0 million, changed little…The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 4.8 million in November. These individuals accounted for 40.1 percent of the unemployed.

“The civilian labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 63.6 percent in November…Total employment was about unchanged in November…The employment-population ratio, at 58.7 percent, changed little in November…The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 8.2 million in November, was little changed over the month. These individuals were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

“In November, 2.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force…These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey…Among the marginally attached, there were 979,000 discouraged workers in November…Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them…

“…Employment in miscellaneous store retailers decreased by 13,000…Employment in construction declined by 20,000 in November, with much of the loss occurring in construction of buildings (-11,000)…Manufacturing employment changed little over the month. Within the industry, job losses in food manufacturing (-12,000) and chemicals (-9,000) more than offset gains in motor vehicles and parts (+10,000) and wood products (+3,000). Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, and government showed little change in November…

“The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised from +148,000 to +132,000, and the change for October was revised from +171,000 to +138,000…”

 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hidden History of Texas--1890-1920--Part 4

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on Mar. 13, 2012)

It was during the 1890-1920 historical period that an oil industry first began to develop in Texas. As Randolph Campbell recalled in his book, Gone To Texas, “significant commercial production [in Texas] did not begin until 1894, when well drillers seeking water near Corsicana struck oil instead,” and “production in the Spindletop field [near Beaumont], which reached 17,500,000 barrels in 1902, created the state’s first great oil boom.”

Yet, “in spite of the major discoveries, Texas [still] stood only sixth in the nation in oil production in 1909,” according to the same book. And most people who lived in Texas did not benefit from the development of its oil industry between 1894 and 1920. As Vanity Fair magazine correspondent Bryan Burrough observed in his 2009 book, The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes:

“If Spindletop created an oil industry for Texas, little of it ended up controlled by Texans. The big money of Spindletop was initially split between groups of powerful Texas businessmen and seasoned oilmen from back east. One Texas faction was an alliance of Austin politicians and Gulf Coast attorneys led by the former governor Jim Hogg, who acquired a valuable lease on Spindletop hill for the bargain price of $180,000 in July 1901, six months after the first gush...

“The strange new infrastructure of Texas oil -- the storage tanks, the pipelines, the refineries -- was controlled by eastern interests... By 1920, two decades after Spindletop, the discovery of oil hadn’t changed Texas much... What oil was pumped from Texas fields was still largely controlled by eastern interests...”

  Between 1891 to 1895 Democratic Governor Jim “Boss” Hogg rhetorically “fought against the use of corporate funds in politics, for equalities of taxation, and for the suppression of organized lobbying,” and “demanded steps to make `corporate control of Texas’ impossible,” according to Antonia Juhasz’s 2008 book The Tyranny of Oil.

In the same book Juhasz also recalled that when Hogg was the attorney general of Texas he had written “the nation’s second antitrust law and put it to work against Standard Oil,” and “while governor, he tried to extradite [John D.] Rockefeller from New York to stand trial in Texas.” As a result, “the largely `Standard-free-zone’ established in Texas allowed for independent oil companies, such as Gulf and Texaco, to develop outside of Standard Oil’s grip in what would emerge as the most oil-rich state in the nation.”

According to The Tyranny of Oil, the financing for the drilling in the Spindletop field where oil first gushed out on January 10, 1901, “came from Pittsburgh’s Andrew and Richard Mellon,” and “the Mellon family ultimately forced everyone else out,” before merging the 1901-founded Guffey Petroleum and Gulf Refining oil firms into the Gulf Oil Corporation in 1901.

Financing for the drilling by the Texas Fuel Company (that was founded in 1901 and later changed its name to Texaco) “came from Lewis Lapham of New York, who owned U.S. Leather, the centerpiece of the leather trust, and John Gates, a Chicago financier,” as well as from a New York investment banker named Arnold Schlaet.

It was also during the 1890s that an Austin writer named William Sydney Porter -- who later, under the pen name of O. Henry, became famous in New York City as a writer of short stories with surprise endings -- briefly published a weekly newspaper in Austin called The Rolling Stone -- over 70 years before Jann Wenner started to publish his Rolling Stone magazine in the Bay Area in the late 1960s.

As University of Auburn Professor Emeritus for American Literature Eugene Current-Garcia noted in his 1993 book O.Henry: A Study of the Short Fiction:

“O. Henry and his partner... renamed their paper The Rolling Stone... It was never a commercial success, surviving only a single year with an alleged circulation peak of 1,500, but the fact that O. Henry managed to keep it going at all at times virtually single-handedly -- was a remarkable feat in itself. Each week he filled its eight pages with humorous squibs and satirical barbs on persons and events of local interest...

“The portable humor sheet quietly rolled off its last issue on Mar. 30 1895, and was soon forgotten until its creator’s worldwide fame a few decades later made of it a collector’s item... For in his... little news-sheet -- O. Henry’s first published body of work -- lay the foundation stones of his unique short fiction edifice: his themes, plots, methods and style.”

 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hidden History of Texas--1890-1920--Part 3

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on Feb. 28, 2012)

Between 1900 and 1910, in an effort to make it more difficult for dissatisfied African-American and poor white small farmers in Texas to express their discontent and their desire for radical democratic political and economic change, politicians intensified their efforts to more permanently disenfranchise African-American voters in the state and to create a poll tax in Texas.

As Alwyn Barr’s Black Texans recalled:

“White efforts to disenfranchise Negroes also stimulated the decline in the number of black voters by 1906. Negroes formed majorities in 14 counties along the coast, in the Brazos River Valley, and in Northeast Texas . They constituted 40 to 50 percent of the population in 13 other East Texas counties. Black majorities on the local level often elected Negroes to positions such as alderman, county commissioner, justice of the peace, county treasurer, tax assessor, and constable...

“The white primary... spread rapidly across East Texas in the late 1890s and early 1900s…The state Democratic executive committee in 1904 suggested white primaries to all county committees which generally accepted the idea... The legislature in 1902 passed a constitutional amendment allowing a poll tax for voting. Populists, Mexican-Americans, labor unions, and some Anglo papers opposed it... The amendment passed by 2 to 1 margin, with the support of most whites...”

  According to Merline Pitre’s In Struggle Against Jim Crow, “the Terrell Election Bills... in 1902, 1903, and 1905, respectively... provided for a poll tax requirement for voting, a first and second primary, and a voter declaration of party membership...”

And “the Terrell Election Bill of 1905, designed to disenfranchise blacks, laid the foundation for the white Democratic primary by giving the party’s executive committee the right to determine eligibility for party membership and by making it a misdemeanor to pay poll taxes for blacks.”

According to Black Texans, “the decline in Negro voter participation from about 100,000 in the 1890’s to approximately 5,000 in 1906 suggests the effectiveness of the white primary, the poll tax, and the `lily white’ thrust in the Republic party" -- in which “division between black leaders and white control of federal patronage” had, by 1906, also “opened the way to increasing white dominance of the Republican party” in Texas, as “`lily whites’ returned to the fold” of the Texas GOP.

According to the same book, “the poll tax, the Democratic white primary, and white Republican leaders combined to keep most black Texans outside the political arena and to allow little voice to those who entered it from 1904 to 1944.”

In 1900, 63 percent of employed African-Americans in Texas still “continued to labor at various forms of agriculture” and “landowners formed 31 percent of the Negro farmers, with 69 percent sharecroppers and tenants -- compared to 50 percent among white farmers,” according to Black Texans.


The same book also recalled that, in 1900, 28 percent of all employed African-Americans in Texas worked as “servants, laundresses, nurses and mid-wives, restaurant and saloon keepers, hair dressers, and barbers,” and that “by 1900 no major city” in Texas yet “claimed more than six Negro doctors,” although there were then still 23 African-American-owned weekly newspapers in Texas at that time.

And not surprisingly, given the increasing level of institutionalized and legalized white supremacy and racism that developed in Texas between 1890 and 1920, “the vast majority of Negroes in Texas found it impossible to overcome a combination of economic and racial problems which kept them at the level of sharecropping and unskilled labor as the 20th century began.”

"Black people who had been at least voters and laborers in the post-Reconstruction period found themselves virtual outsiders in Texas society of the early 20th century,” according to Black Texans.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hidden History of Texas--1890-1920--Part 2

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on Feb. 6, 2012)

In the decade before the then-Democratic Party-oriented white power structure in Texas solidified its early 20th century system of legalized racial segregation and institutionalized white supremacy and white racism, large numbers of politically dissatisfied Texas farmers of different racial backgrounds had thrown their electoral support to an alternative, populist third-party: the People’s Party of America.

Also known as the Populist Party, the People’s Party had been established in April of 1891 in Cincinnati and had held its first national convention in July 1892 in Omaha, Nebraska.

In its July 1892 Omaha Platform, the People’s Party explained why it believed that farmers and workers in Texas should vote for its 1892 presidential candidate rather than for the Democratic or Republican party presidential candidates, for example, by stating the following:

“We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the legislature, the Congress... The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled; public opinion silenced; business prostrated; our homes covered with mortgages; labor impoverished; and the land concentrating in the hands of the capitalists...

“The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind... From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes -- tramps and millionaires...

“We have witnessed for more than a quarter of a century the struggle of the two great political parties for power and plunder, while grievous wrongs have been inflicted upon the suffering people. We charge that the controlling influences dominating both these parties have permitted the existing dreadful conditions to develop without serious effort to prevent or restrain them...

“They propose to sacrifice our homes, lives and children on the altar of mammon; to destroy the multitude in order to secure corruption funds from the millionaires...

“We demand a graduated income tax... 2. Resolved. That the revenues derived from a graduated income tax should be applied to the reduction of the burden of taxation... 8. Resolved. That we favor a constitutional provision limiting the office of President and Vice-President to one term, and providing for the election of senators of the United States by a direct vote of the people. 9. Resolved. That we oppose any subsidy or national aid to any private corporation for any purpose.....”

  Although the People’s Party of America’s 1892 platform apparently also favored “further restriction of undesirable immigration” to the USA during the early 1890s U.S. economic depression, “the Populist movement was `radical’ in another way... --the inclusion of black Texans,” according to Randolph Campbell’s Gone To Texas. As the same book recalled, the 1891 People’s Party of Texas state convention “elected two African-Americans to the state executive committee” and “the Populist position on race stood in total contrast to that usually taken by the Democratic Party, which had no black leaders.”

So, not surprisingly, during the early 1890s in Texas, “Populists won over an increasing number of black voters through the [efforts of] Negro organizers such as J.B. Rayner and promises of better education, equal political and legal rights, and economic improvement in the midst of a depression” and “attracted about 35 percent of the Negro voters” in Texas in 1894, according to Alwyn Barr’s Black Texans.

By 1892, Texas “had more than 2,000 local Populist clubs and a statewide [Populist] newspaper, the Dallas Southern Mercury” and “on June 23-24,1892, a thousand Populists gathered in Dallas and nominated Thomas L. Nugent for governor,” according to Gone To Texas.

Strongly backed by white small farmers in Texas, People’s Party gubernatorial candidate Nugent won 25 percent of the vote in 1892 -- although he “received virtually no support from Mexican-Americans in South Texas ” where “the boss-rule system of politics” was pretty much able to block any Democratic voters from shifting their votes to a third-party alternative candidate.

With increasing electoral support from African-American voters in Texas in 1894, however, Nugent was able to win 36 percent of the state’s votes in the 1894 gubernatorial campaign, and “populist candidates for Texas’s seats in Congress ran strongly in 1894 [and] the party elected 22 members of the state house of representatives and 2 state senators [and] populist organizations such as the Young People’s League of Texas and local glee clubs attracted popular support,” according to Gone To Texas.

But despite the Populist third-party candidate for governor in Texas subsequently even winning 44 percent of the votes in 1896, after a significant number of People’s Party of America national leaders adopted a political strategy of fusion with the Democratic Party in other states, electoral support for the third-party Populist alternative to the state’s white supremacist Democratic Party in Texas began to decline rapidly.

In 1898, for example, the percentage of Texas voters who cast ballots for the People’s Party candidate dropped to 28 percent; and by 1900 only 6 percent of Texas voters were willing to cast their votes for the People’s Party gubernatorial candidate.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hidden History of Texas--1890-1920--Part 1

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on Jan. 24, 2012)

Between 1890 and 1920, the number of people who lived in Texas increased from 2,235,000 to 4,663,000. Yet 66 percent of Texans still lived in rural towns with populations below 2,500. But by 1920, over 100,000 people now lived in Dallas, in Fort Worth, in San Antonio, and in Houston -- although only 34,800 people yet lived in Austin and only 77,500 people in El Paso.


After 1900, “'immigrants’ from Mexico began to arrive in significant numbers for the first time since the Texas Revolution” in 1836, but “Texans of Mexican descent, `immigrants’ and native-born combined,” still “amounted to only about 10 percent of the state’s population in 1920,” according to Randolph Campbell’s Gone To Texas. According to the same book, in 1920 “most new arrivals” from Mexico “lived in South Texas and El Paso.”

Between 1890 and 1920, the number of people of African descent who lived in Texas also increased from about 448,000 to 741,000, while the number of people of Jewish background in Texas in 1920 was still only about 30,000.

By 1920, the total value of crops produced by farmers and of cattle raised on ranches in Texas was more than the total value of crops or cattle raised in any other state in the USA. Yet between 1890 and 1920 racial “segregation… became commonplace,” as well as “disfranchisement” of African-Americans, and “physical intimidation occurred regularly and too often ended in the horror of lynching,” according to Gone To Texas.

The same book recalled that “between 1890 and 1920, Texans lynched 309 men, 249 (81 percent) of whom were black,” and “lynching generally followed the accusation of an assault on a white woman and involved sickening torture as well as hanging and burning the victim.”

According to Alwyn Barr’s Black Texans, “between 300 and 500 Negroes met deaths by lynching in the late 19th century in Texas,” although after an anti-lynching law was passed by the Texas state legislature in 1897, “the rate of lynching declined from 18 per year in the 1890s to 10 per year from 1899 to 1903.”

Texas Southern University Professor of History Merline Pitre’s 1999 book, In Struggle Against Jim Crow: Lulu B. White and the NAACP, 1900-1957, also recalled that “at the dawn of the twentieth century, East Texas was notorious for lynching and was considered one of the worst regions in the state, leading the state in 1908 with 24 deaths.” The same book said that in 1910 “more than 100 blacks had been lynched in the Lone Star State,” with most of the lynchings still happening in East Texas -- which ranked third of all regions of the USA in which lynchings took place at that time.

In 1891, the Texas state legislature made racial segregation on railways in Texas mandatory and “in 1903 several Texas cities... joined a southern trend that required separate seating on streetcars,” according to Black Texans. In response, “Black leaders [in Texas] protested first before organizing boycotts which lasted several months in Houston and San Antonio.” The Texas legislature “required streetcar segregation on a statewide basis in 1907,” according to the same book.

In the view of Texas Tech University Professor of History Alwyn Barr, “this act, which brought transportation segregation to the local level where it affected large numbers of Negroes, marked a crucial stage in the development of segregation in Texas.” By 1909, railroad station waiting rooms and amusement parks in Texas were all required to be racially segregated by the Texas legislature.

According to David Humphrey’s Austin: An Illustrated History, “at the opening of the twentieth century, separation of blacks and whites already characterized many aspects of Austin’s life,” “Blacks and whites attended separate public schools as mandated by Texas law and worshipped at separate churches,” the University of Texas "admitted only whites” and “many a prominent gathering place catered to whites only, such as Scholz Beer Gardens.”

The same book also recalled that “the first quarter of the twentieth century witnessed a hardening of the lines" of racial “separation” in Austin, and that in 1906 the Austin “city council passed an ordinance requiring separate compartments for blacks and whites on streetcars.” In 1906, according to Austin: An Illustrated History, Austin’s African-American community responded in the following way:

“The Black community reacted angrily. Seeking repeal of the ordinance before it went into effect in 90 days, blacks organized a streetcar boycott that was almost completely effective within three weeks. Black domestics informed employers that they would resign rather than ride segregated trolleys. Several blacks started hack lines that provided boycotters with alternate transportation.”

  But the streetcar boycott apparently ended after Austin police "threatened to arrest `agitators’ who dissuaded blacks from riding the [now-segregated] streetcars,” according to the same book.

Although African-Americans had lived in “virtually every city neighborhood” in Austin in the early 1880s, “by 1910 black homes [in Austin] had become more concentrated on the eastern side of the city” and “other neighborhoods grew more consciously segregated,” according to Austin: An Illustrated History. The same book also noted that “Monroe Shipe openly promoted [Austin's] Hyde Park as a residential community `Exclusively For White People,’ while deed restrictions that prohibited blacks from renting or buying property provided a… decisive means to achieve the same goal.”



Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hidden History of Texas--1876-1890

(This article was originally posted on The Rag Blog on Jan. 4, 2012)

Between 1870 and 1890 the number of people who lived in Texas increased from 818,000 to 2,235,000 and most of the people residing in Texas in 1890 had previously lived in the southeastern United States.

Although the number of Texas residents who were of African descent increased from 253,000 to 488,000 during these same 20 years, the percentage of all Texas residents who were African-American decreased from 32 to 22 percent during this period. And by 1890, 125,000 people of German descent now also lived in Texas. But the number of people of Mexican descent then living in Texas was still only 105,000.

Between 1876 and 1890, most of the people who lived in Texas were also still farmers. In 1890, for example, 84 percent of Texans still lived in rural areas on about 228,000 farms.

The number of Native Americans who were able to live in Texas, however, continued to decrease between 1870 and 1890 as U.S. government “military pressure on the Indians began to intensify during the early 1870s,” and “white hunters started to inflict an equally serious blow by destroying the great buffalo herds,” according to Randolph Campbell’s Gone To Texas.

Following the summer of 1874 incursion of 5,000 U.S. Army troops, during the Red River War, into the areas of Texas where Native American tribes like the Comanche and Kiowa tribes still lived, “the way for Texans to cover the prairies and Panhandle with cattle and cowboys” was opened, and “by the mid-1870s, the success of trailing cattle to market, combined with the elimination of Indians and buffaloes from northwestern Texas, encouraged the establishment of ranches in that region,” according to the same book.

By 1890, absentee foreign investors from the UK had helped quickly transform Texas’s cattle ranching industry into one dominated by corporate ranchers who paid their Texas cowboys and ranch workers low wages. So, not surprisingly, in 1883 “a group of cowboys” had “demanded higher wages” and gone “on strike against five ranches,” according to Gone To Texas.

But, although “the Cowboy Strike” involved “as many as 300 men” and “lasted more than two months,” it failed to win higher wages primarily because the corporate “ranchers had no trouble hiring replacements,” according to the same book.

The first assembly of the Knights of Labor organization of U.S. workers was held in Texas in 1882, and by 1886 about 30,000 workers in Texas were members of the Knights of Labor. So when a Knights of Labor foreman for union activities at the Texas & Pacific railroad shops in Marshall, Texas, was fired in 1886, the Knights of Labor in Texas began its Great Southwest Strike against all of Robber Baron Jay Gould’s Southwest railroad lines.

After Gould’s Texas & Pacific railroad executives refused to negotiate with its Knights of Labor-led strikers and hired strikebreakers, Texas Rangers and Texas state militia were ordered to break the strike by state government officials. In several Texas cities during the 1880s, Knights of Labor union locals also “accepted black members,” and an African-American worker named David Black also served on the Knights of Labor’s state executive board during the 1880s, according to Alwyn Barr’s Black Texans.

Between 1876 and 1890 more and more of the people who lived in rural Texas did not own the land on which they farmed. In the 1880s, for example, “the number of Texas farms worked by landless tenants rose by more than 30,000,” according to Gone To Texas, and “most farmed as either share tenants or sharecroppers paying rent with portions of the crop they produced.”

The same book noted that “by 1890, 42 percent of all Texas farms were worked by tenants,” the percentage "continued to rise year by year,” and “Texas farmers by the tens of thousands seemed doomed to live endlessly in near poverty -- working someone else’s land.”

So in response to the increasing impoverishment and loss of land ownership experienced by Texas farmers between 1876 and 1890, many Texas farmers, not surprisingly, became politically active in farmer protest groups like the Grange (during the 1870s) and the Texas Farmers Alliance (during the 1880s).

According to John Hicks’ The Populist Revolt: A History of the Farmer’s Alliance and the People’s Party, during the 1880s the Texas Farmers Alliance “soon achieved considerable prominence throughout central and northern Texas,” and “by December 1885, the claim was made that the Alliance had about 50,000 members scattered among not less than 1,200 locals.”

At its 1886 state meeting in Cleburne, the Texas Farmers Alliance adopted resolutions which “put the Alliance on record as favoring the higher taxation of lands held for speculative purposes, the prohibition of alien landownership, the prevention of dealing in futures, so far as agricultural products were concerned, more adequate taxation of the railways, new issues of paper money” and “an interstate commerce law.”

As Gone To Texas recalled, “by 1890… many Texas farmers… thought that their desperate situation required drastic steps” and “a good many Texans had found the `New South’ an empty promise and wanted something better.”

The Texas Farmers Alliance still refused -- on white chauvinist grounds -- to allow Texas farmers of African descent to become members of that organization. So, “a southern white man, R. M. Humphrey, who had been a Baptist missionary” among African-Americans, according to The Populist Revolt, apparently joined with Texas African-American farmers in organizing and forming a Colored Farmers Alliance group in Houston in December 1886, which soon attracted many African-American farmers in Texas as members.

Between 1876 and 1890, white supremacist racist Democratic Party-oriented groups in Texas also apparently began to use both violent and legal means to deny many African-Americans their democratic right to vote and participate as equals in Texas state electoral politics. As Black Texans recalled:

“In the late 1870s white men’s parties or intimidation of Negro voters developed in the town of Navasota and in Leon, Montgomery, Colorado, DeWitt, and Washington counties. Similar events occurred in Waller, Harris, Washington, Matagorda, and Wharton counties in the 1880s.

“White Democrats in Fort Bend County organized in 1888 a club known as the Jaybirds… whippings, assaults, and killings followed… White men’s associations organized in Colorado, Matagorda, Brazoria, Grimes, Milam, and Marion counties to assure `that white supremacy must obtain.’ In Robertson County Democrats stopped black Populists from voting with rifles, pistols and baseball bats.”

  Given the role that the Democratic Party-oriented white supremacist groups played in denying democratic political rights to African-Americans in Texas between 1876 and 1890, most African-Americans in Texas, not surprisingly, supported either the Republican Party or the Greenback Party between 1876 and 1890.

During the 1880s, around 90 percent of all members of Texas’s Republican Party were African-Americans, and after the Greenback insurgent third party of the 1870s began organizing in Texas in 1877, “black delegates appeared in the earliest third-party meetings and represented 70 Greenback clubs for Negroes at the state convention in 1878,” according to Black Texans.

The same book also noted that “in addition to their economic program, Greenbackers appealed for black votes by calling for a better public school system” in Texas during the late 1870s; and the nine African-American GOP or Greenback Party candidates who were elected to the Texas state legislature during the late 1870s also (at that time) “helped defeat a poll tax measure when the Democratic majority divided on the issue.”