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A Southern Family in White and Black: The Cuneys of Texas by Douglas Hales

By Douglas Hales

The complicated problems with race and politics in nineteenth-century Texas could be nowhere extra dramatically embodied than in 3 generations of the kin of Norris Wright Cuney, mulatto exertions and political chief. Douglas Hales explores the birthright Cuney obtained from his white plantation-owner father, Philip Cuney, and how his historical past performed out within the lifetime of his daughter Maud Cuney-Hare. This intergenerational examine casts gentle at the event 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 probably 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 info of Cuney’s lifestyles and contributions yet areas 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 us and supported the function of slavery and cotton within the constructing economic climate of the hot nation. prosperous and strong, he fathered 8 slave young children whom he later freed and observed trained. 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 review how the black elite labored for political and fiscal chance within the reactionary interval that Reconstruction within the South. Cuney led the Texas Republican get together in these turbulent years and, via his place as number of customs at Galveston, dispensed federal patronage to either white and black Texans. because the strongest African American in Texas, and arguably within the whole South, Cuney turned the focus of white hostility, from either Democrats and contributors of the “Lily White” faction of his personal social gathering. His powerful management gained not just persisted workplace for him but additionally a place of strength in the Republican celebration for Texas blacks at a time while 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 turning out to be unions.

Norris Wright Cuney’s daughter, Maud, who was once graced with a prestigious schooling, pursued a winning profession within the arts as a live performance pianist, musicologist, and playwright. a chum of W. E. B. Du Bois, she turned actively excited by the racial uplift move of the early 20th century. Hales illuminates her function within the highbrow and political “awakening” of black the United States that culminated within the Harlem Renaissance of the Twenties. He adroitly explores her choice opposed to “passing” as white and her dedication to uplift.

Through those 3 contributors of a unmarried mixed-race relatives, Douglas Hales offers perception into the problems, demanding situations, and strengths of people. His paintings provides a big 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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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.

At the same time, he had complete faith in the American system and optimistically believed African Americans could prevail if they worked within that system. But doing so for Cuney did not preclude leading and even manipulating the system toward a more favorable outcome. For the next ten years, Cuney would turn black labor weakness into a strength, pitting one group of whites against another to gain a permanent position for black screwmen on Galveston’s docks. The white Screwmen’s Benevolent Association (SBA) represented the most powerful union on Galveston’s docks during the s and s.

His daughter, Maud, attended Central and was among the first class of graduates. 49 Cuney fought hard for establishing black colleges. ” In  he supported the creation of Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College. Even after the creation of the school, Cuney remained critical of using of public lands to support Texas A&M while the college kept blacks from attending. His assistance in finding scholarships and other financial help became his most important contribution to Prairie View and later Paul Quinn, a private college founded by the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in .

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