Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Forget the Alamo (and the White Supremacist History You Learned in School)

School children in Texas are required to learn about the “Heroes of the Alamo.” But that is a white supremacist myth that the so-called “Texas Revolution” was fought in defense of slavery.

Nathaniel Flakin

June 30, 2021
Facebook Twitter Share
Heroic Mexican soldiers attack white supremacist settlers. Painting from the Museo Nacional de las Intervenciones in Mexico City. (Photo: Nathaniel Flakin)

Growing up in Texas, I had to take a full year of Texas History, a sizable chunk of which was dedicated to the “Texas Revolution” of 1835–36. We were taught to “Remember the Alamo!” The names of the white men who died there were drilled into us: William B. Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie…

But they never explained what exactly the Texians were fighting for. Why were they willing to sacrifice their lives to secure independence from Mexico? The Mexican government, they said, was “oppressive” and they wanted “freedom” — but what does that mean? 

Anglo settlers were invited to the Mexican province of Tejas, as the government in Mexico City was looking to populate its northern provinces and conquer the indigenous peoples there. A condition was that settlers would speak Spanish in public. But was this rule so “oppressive” that people were willing to die over it? Especially considering that many who celebrate the Alamo today believe that immigrants to the United States should only speak English?

I only learned what the “Texians” were actually fighting for many years later. Kurt Vonnegut, in his 1990 novel, Hocus Pocus, wrote: 

I might have added, but didn’t, that the martyrs at the Alamo had died for the right to own slaves. They didn’t want to be a part of Mexico anymore because it was against the law in that country to own slaves of any kind.

Vonnegut’s passage is true. Mexico’s government had abolished slavery in 1829 and was attempting to enforce the ban in its northern province. The leaders of Mexico’s independence had tried to get rid of slavery as early as 1810. Today, this truth is well hidden. In the permanent exhibition at the Alamo today, there is only a single reference to slavery, tucked away at the bottom of a display in the back.

The “martyrs of the Alamo” were indeed fighting for “freedom” — their “freedom” to own human beings! The aid that the U.S. government provided for these settlers proves the Texan “independence” was part of a long campaign to conquer territory for slave plantations.

These Anglo separatists were, tragically, successful. It would take another 30 years and a further war to abolish slavery in the region. Juneteenth now serves as a reminder that Texas was the last place in the United States where Black people remained enslaved.

Black Lives Matter has led to a massive shift in consciousness in the United States. Millions of people are looking at the country’s history of racism, colonialism, and imperialism with new eyes. Last year, anti-racist slogans were sprayed on the Alamo Cenotaph dedicated to these enslavers. This led to mobilizations by heavily armed white supremacists. The monuments to Travis, Crockett, Bowie, and their ilk are every bit as offensive as monuments to the Confederacy.

The Alamo myth, as we know it today, was created by a Disney series from 1954–55 and a terrible movie by John Wayne from 1960. Today, in a state where Latinos almost outnumber white people, this myth serves to reinforce white supremacy. Children are taught that the Mexicans were not only bloodthirsty, but also lazy — another famous element of the story is that the Mexican army was defeated because they all took a siesta. This myth is combined with racist conspiracy theories about working-class immigrants from Mexico attempting to reconquer the territories — as if they were planning to do what the Anglo settlers had once done.

A time of great upheaval will inevitably produce great art. It can only be hoped that we will see new films and TV series about the Alamo, from the opposite perspective, showing the stories of brave Mexican soldiers fighting for liberty against the evil enslavers. The Mexican soldiers putting down the Anglo separatist revolt deserve just as much honor today as Union soldiers fighting to defeat the slaver class in the South.

This would also be a good opportunity to remember the St. Patrick’s Battalion. This unit was made of Irish immigrants who were sent to fight in the U.S. army’s war of conquest against Mexico in 1846–48. They defected, and alongside escaped slaves and other immigrants, the San Patricios fought on the Mexican side. David Rovics has a moving ballad about them.

Hopefully, kids growing up in Texas won’t have to learn these racist myths anymore. They will learn that “freedom fighter” William B. Travis was in fact an enslaver. After he was — justifiably — executed, the Mexican forces liberated Travis’s slave, a man only known to history as Joe who later escaped from bondage.

Perhaps in the not too distant future, downtown San Antonio will see new monuments dedicated to the Mexican troops fighting for liberation. And who knows? After that, maybe people will want to rename cities dedicated to enslavers like Houston and Austin.

Facebook Twitter Share

Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French. He is on the autism spectrum.

Instagram

United States

Police office crouches behind a riot shield which reads "Shelby Township Police"

BLM Leader In Court to Challenge Racist and Retaliatory Charges

A Detroit leader of the Black Lives Matter movement is set to appear in court to challenge racist and retaliatory felony charges for marching to demand the firing of a Chief of Police who called BLM protestors “subhuman” and said they belonged in “body bags”.

Somali troops stand in formation during a graduation ceremony after being trained by U.S. forces in Mogadishu on Aug. 17, 2018.

Biden Is Expanding U.S. Military Intervention in Somalia

President Biden recently approved an order to send hundreds of troops to Somalia. This move serves the interests of U.S. imperialism by taking advantage of the very political instability it helped create.

Sam Carliner

May 20, 2022
Semi-empty store shelf with a few cans of baby formula.

The Baby Formula Shortage Is a Capitalist Crisis of Social Reproduction

The baby formula shortage is a consequence of capitalism and a crisis of social reproduction. Formula should not be commodified and sold — it should be free and a basic right for all parents.

In the Latest Primaries, the Battle within the Parties Continues

Tuesday's primaries delivered wins to Trump endorsed candidates and some progressives, signaling that the fight for the parties is far from over.

Ezra Brain

May 18, 2022

MOST RECENT

People protest in support of the unionizing efforts of the Alabama Amazon workers, in Los Angeles, California, March 22, 2021.

Amazon Won’t Stop Union Busting and Firing Organizers

Amazon hasn't recognized the Amazon Labor Union and, like Starbucks, is continuing to union bust and fire organizers.

Luigi Morris

May 20, 2022
A protester waves a sign that read "unionize" near the Country Club Plaza Starbucks store where dozens of Starbucks employees and union supporters protested alleged anti-union tactics by the company Thursday, March 3, 2022.

El Paso Starbucks Workers Are Organizing in the Face of Relentless Union Busting

Starbucks’s preemptive union-busting tactics in El Paso, Texas, have backfired and inspired workers at the Fountains to unionize.

Paul Ginestá

May 20, 2022
SEIU local 721 members at a rally wearing purple and holding signs for fair wage increases.

SEIU 721, Vote No! A Better Contract Is Possible

Union leaders of SEIU 721 have reached a deal with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. But there are big problems with the proposed agreement, and the rank and file should vote against it.

Left Voice

May 20, 2022
Starbucks baristas at the 7700 Maple St. Starbucks

Starbucks Fires Worker and Union Organizer in New Orleans

Left Voice interviewed Billie Nyx, a Starbucks worker and union activist fired at the store located on Maple Street in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Left Voice

May 20, 2022