H.R. No. 589

WHEREAS, The African Americans who served in the Texas Legislature and in the Constitutional Convention of 1868-1869 demonstrated great courage in a period of Texas history when racism and bigotry were far too common within the state and under the Capitol dome; and WHEREAS, Following emancipation, Black Codes and widespread violence were used to perpetuate, so far as possible, the constraints formerly imposed on African Americans by slavery; and WHEREAS, With the advent of Congressional Reconstruction in 1867, however, African American men in southern states gained the right to vote; in Texas, the first election held after the expansion of the franchise was a referendum, in February 1868, on calling a new constitutional convention; and WHEREAS, When the Constitutional Convention of 1868-1869 assembled, its 90 delegates included 10 African Americans; George Thompson Ruby, a journalist and teacher from Galveston, led one of the four blocks of Republican delegates, who collectively dominated the conclave; all of the African American delegates played an active role in committees and in presenting significant resolutions; and WHEREAS, The 12th Texas Legislature, the first legislature to meet under the Constitution of 1869, included two African American senators, George Ruby and Matthew Gaines, and 12 representatives; Richard Allen, a skilled carpenter who constructed the first bridge over Buffalo Bayou, served as chairman of the House Committee on Roads and Bridges; laws passed by this legislature included acts protecting homesteads from forced sale, creating a militia and a state police organization to control lawlessness, and establishing a public, integrated school system; and WHEREAS, With the end of Reconstruction in Texas in 1873, pressures to once again exclude African Americans from the political process began to gather force; nevertheless, African Americans continued to serve in the legislature through 1897; among them were Nathan H. Haller, who introduced a bill to establish a branch of The University of Texas for "the colored youth" of the state, and Robert L. Smith, who worked for the advancement of race relations, education, and Prairie View Normal School, and who was the last African American to serve in the legislature until 1967; and WHEREAS, African Americans who held seats in the Constitutional Convention of 1868 and in the state legislature from 1869 to the close of the 19th century included Richard Allen, Edward Anderson, Alexander Asberry, Houston A. P. Bassett, David Abner, Sr., Thomas Beck, Edward Brown, Charles W. Bryant, D. W. Burley, Walter Moses Burton, Silas Cotton, Stephen Curtis, Bird Davis, Goldstein Dupree, Robert J. Evans, Jacob E. Freeman, Matthew Gaines, Harriel G. Geiger, Melvin Goddin, Bedford A. Guy, Nathan H. Haller, Jeremiah J. Hamilton, William H. Holland, Wiley W. Johnson, Mitchell Kendall, Robert A. Kerr, Doc C. Lewis, Ralph Long, Lloyd Henry McCabe, James McWashington, Elias Mayes, David Medlock, John Mitchell, Henry Moore, Robert J. Moore, Sheppard Mullens, Edward Patton, Henry Phelps, William Reynolds, Walker E. Ripton, Meshack R. Roberts, George T. Ruby, Alonzo Sledge, Robert Lloyd Smith, Henry Sneed, James H. Stewart, James H. Washington, Benjamin O. Watrous, Allen W. Wilder, Benjamin Franklin Williams, Richard Williams, and George W. Wyatt; and WHEREAS, These men of dignity raised a united voice for freedom, equality, and respect, and their steadfast dedication to building a better state for all Texans enriches this and future generations; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives of the 79th Texas Legislature hereby pay tribute to the African American state legislators and constitutional convention delegates of 1868-1900 for their many contributions to the development of Texas and for their heroic efforts to create a more just and inclusive society in the Lone Star State. Jones of Dallas ______________________________ Speaker of the House I certify that H.R. No. 589 was adopted by the House on March 17, 2005, by a non-record vote. ______________________________ Chief Clerk of the House