Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford recently published Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth. It has a provocative title and an even more provocative argument:
Every nation needs its creation myth, and since Texas was a nation before it was a state, it’s no surprise that its myths bite deep. There’s no piece of history more important to Texans than the Battle of the Alamo, when Davy Crockett and a band of rebels went down in a blaze of glory fighting for independence from Mexico, losing the battle but setting Texas up to win the war. However, that version of events, as Forget the Alamo definitively shows, owes more to fantasy than reality. Just as the site of the Alamo was left in ruins for decades, its story was forgotten and twisted over time, with the contributions of Tejanos–Texans of Mexican origin, who fought alongside the Anglo rebels–scrubbed from the record, and the origin of the conflict over Mexico’s push to abolish slavery papered over. Forget the Alamo provocatively explains the true story of the battle against the backdrop of Texas’s struggle for independence, then shows how the sausage of myth got made in the Jim Crow South of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. As uncomfortable as it may be to hear for some, celebrating the Alamo has long had an echo of celebrating whiteness.
In the past forty-some years, waves of revisionists have come at this topic, and at times have made real progress toward a more nuanced and inclusive story that doesn’t alienate anyone. But we are not living in one of those times; the fight over the Alamo’s meaning has become more pitched than ever in the past few years, even violent, as Texas’s future begins to look more and more different from its past. It’s the perfect time for a wise and generous-spirited book that shines the bright light of the truth into a place that’s gotten awfully dark.
It turns out that the government of Texas is not happy with the book. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick canceled an event to promote the book scheduled for the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Here is a taste of Abby Livingston’s and Isabella Zou’s piece at The Texas Tribune:
A promotional event for a book examining the role slavery played leading up to the Battle of the Alamo that was scheduled at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on Thursday evening was abruptly canceled three and a half hours before it was scheduled to begin.
Authors of the book, titled “Forget the Alamo,” and the publisher, Penguin Random House, say the cancellation of the event, which had 300 RSVPs, amounts to censorship from Republican elected leaders and an overreaction to the book’s examination of racism in Texas history.
“The Bullock was receiving increased pressure on social media about hosting the event, as well as to the museum’s board of directors (Gov Abbott being one of them) and decided to pull out as a co-host all together,” Penguin Random House said in a statement.
Gov. Greg Abbott and the museum have not responded to the Tribune’s requests for comment. But Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick confirmed he called for the event to be canceled. Abbott, Patrick and other GOP leaders are board members of the State Preservation Board, which oversees the Bullock museum.
“As a member of the Preservation Board, I told staff to cancel this event as soon as I found out about it,” he wrote on Twitter.” This fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place @BullockMuseum.”
Read the rest here.
There is so much hostility to this book because it contradicts the view of Texas history that undergirds the so-called “1836 Project.” I haven’t read Forget the Alamo, but the description suggests that everything in this book runs counter to the way Governor Abbott and the majority of the Texas legislature want history taught in the state’s public schools.