79R5798 MAM-D

By:  Giddings                                                   H.C.R. No. 65 

WHEREAS, The celebration of Black History Month in February 2005 provides an opportunity to recognize the rich cultural heritage and significant contributions of African-Americans in the State of Texas; and WHEREAS, Black History Month is now an annual observance that began as Negro History Week in 1926 and was later renamed Black History Week; originally proposed by Carter Godwin Woodson, an African-American historian known today as the "Father of Black History," it was a time to "dramatize the achievements of the race, not to play up grievances but to demonstrate what Negroes had achieved . . ."; Woodson noted that ". . . the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in human progress and a maker of human civilization," as he chose the week in the month of February containing the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two individuals who did much to pave the way for a better life for African-Americans; and WHEREAS, In 1976, Black History Week expanded to become a monthlong event officially acknowledged by the United States government when President Gerald Ford, on February 10th of that year, urged Americans to pay ". . . tribute to Black History Month and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us"; and WHEREAS, People of African descent have a long history in Texas; in 1528, less than ten years after explorers claimed Texas in the name of King Charles I, a Moor named Estevanico accompanied the Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca on a trek across Texas; by the late 1700's some 450 people of African descent were living in Spanish Texas, and in the early 1800's many African-Americans from the South escaped across the Sabine River to freedom, often settling in East Texas, where they undertook a variety of occupations; by the close of the 18th century, they comprised approximately 15 percent of the population of Texas; and WHEREAS, In the 19th century, before emancipation, African-Americans played an enormous role in producing the state's agricultural bounty and also worked as skilled artisans; after the Civil War, many moved to urban centers and, in the years to follow, provided manpower for new industries that were established; and WHEREAS, African-American infantry and cavalry garrisoned forts in West Texas during the Indian Wars; known as "Buffalo Soldiers," they patrolled the frontier with the assistance of Seminole-Negro Indian scouts, built roads, and escorted mail carriers; Sergeant Emmanuel Stance, stationed at Fort McKavett, was the first African-American who fought in the Indian Wars to be awarded the Medal of Honor; and WHEREAS, Since the early 1800's, African-Americans have been involved in the cattle industry; one of the most famous black native-Texan cowboys was Bill Pickett, who became a Wild West rodeo performer and who is believed to have originated the bulldogging event; and WHEREAS, In the mid-20th century, African-Americans in Texas significantly advanced the civil rights movement by filing and winning lawsuits that outlawed the "white primary" and helped to integrate graduate and professional schools; in more recent years, officials such as Representatives Barbara Jordan, George "Mickey" Leland, Craig Washington, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Al Green, Texas Supreme Court Justices Wallace Jefferson and Dale Wainwright, and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Justice Morris Overstreet, Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Michael L. Williams, and others have taken their place in the public arena; and WHEREAS, Among the many notable black Texan contributors to the arts and humanities have been the musicians Blind Lemon Jefferson, Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, Scott Joplin, and Eddie Durham, historian and folklorist J. Mason Brewer, as well as artist John Biggers; and WHEREAS, African-Americans have been a significant part of the population of Texas for hundreds of years, and the celebration of Black History Month acknowledges and promotes the immeasurable benefits of a truly diverse society; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the 79th Legislature of the State of Texas, Regular Session, 2005, hereby designate the month of February 2005 as Black History Month in Texas and encourage all citizens to learn more about the history and contributions of African-Americans in the Lone Star State.