Picture Source

Texas, like other parts of the cotton south, was part of the vast expansion of African slavery in the decades between 1820 and 1850. Because of the booming cotton industry, American slaveholders migrated to the Mexican province of Texas in the 1820s. They established a society like those developing at the same time in Mississippi and Alabama. Tensions quickly rose between these Anglo settlers and the government of Mexico, which repeatedly attempted to outlaw slavery in Texas, because slavery was illegal in the rest of Mexico. Settlers in the region eventually rebelled from Mexico in 1836 and established the Republic of Texas. From 1836 to 1845, slaveholders from the American South poured into this new nation between the borders of the United States and Mexico to protect the institution of slavery.

When Texas became a U.S. state in 1845, slavery, like other aspects of Texas, was different than in other parts of the US. Because slaves lived on isolated plantations, ranches, and farms, owners could treat them however they chose. However, because they lived close to Mexico, where slavery was illegal, it was also more possible for slaves to escape and run to Mexico. Slave owners in Texas worked very hard to create laws that protected their rights to own other humans and to get them back when slaves ran away. –Prof. Anne Hyde

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Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“Houston Runaway Slave Ads.” Texas Runaway Slave Project. East Texas Digital Archives. Stephen F. Austin State University.

“Journal of the Proceedings of the General Council of the Republic of Texas,” January 1, 1836. Texas Slavery Project.

“Slave Population from the Census,” Texas Slavery Project.

“Ten Letters,” James Perry Papers, 1830s. Texas Slavery Project.

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Carrigan, William D., and Clive Webb. “The Lynching of Persons of Mexican Origin or Descent in the United States, 1848 to 1928.” Journal of Social History 37, no. 2 (2003): 411–38.

Hamilton, Matthew K. “‘To Preserve African Slavery’: The Secession Commissioners to Texas, 1861.” The Southwestern Historical Quarterly 114, no. 4 (2011): 354–76.

Kelley, Sean. “‘Mexico in His Head’: Slavery and the Texas-Mexico Border, 1810-1860.” Journal of Social History 37, no. 3 (2004): 709–23.

Lewis, Danny. “An Archive of Fugitive Slave Ads Sheds New Light on Lost Histories.” Smithsonian.Com (Smithsonian Magazine), May 25, 2016.

Waldstreicher, David. “Reading the Runaways: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture, and Confidence in Slavery in the Eighteenth-Century Mid-Atlantic.” The William and Mary Quarterly 56, no. 2 (1999): 243–72.