African American citizen soldiers in Galveston and San Antonio, Texas, 1880-1906
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The Texas Volunteer Guard, created by the Militia Law of 1879, continued to allow African Americans to serve as citizen soldiers. From 1880 to 1906 over six hundred black men faithfully served in the various state militia companies of Galveston and San Antonio; yet, their service has rarely obtained scholarly attention. Often discounted by historians as mere social clubs or deemed too few and insignificant to warrant study, these men sought not only to demonstrate their citizenship, but to improve their social status during a period of racial segregation. The differences and similarities of these groups of African American men at the grassroots level are illuminated by using the comparative method to examine socioeconomic characteristics. Furthermore, this examination demonstrates how racial attitudes remained flexible enough during this period to allow these men to participate in military-type activities. An examination of these activities, both as citizens and as soldiers, makes evident what inspired this state military service. Framed within the network of local fraternal, social, religious, educational, and political organizations, coupled with a study of previous military service, the militia companies expose the aim of these African American men to improve their social status as citizens through militia participation. The Adjutant General of Texas issued firearms, ammunition, and equipment to the respective companies of African American militiamen from these cities, and coordinated training exercises, which involved the travel of armed black men over the state’s existing railroads. Despite their segregated status, the very presence of armed, uniformed black men officially sanctioned by the Democratic-controlled government of Texas suggests that race relationships still remained flexible enough during this time for African Americans to display their citizenship and manhood through state military service. Conversely, their dissolution in 1906 reveals the termination of that flexibility and solidified their status as second-class citizens. Even though they were unsuccessful in continuing their military organization, the heroic efforts of these men deserves inclusion in the written history of the long struggle for African American civil rights in this country.
Blair, John Patrick (2007). African American citizen soldiers in Galveston and San Antonio, Texas, 1880-1906. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from