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Essay on The Texas Myth Analysis

“The Texas Myth” in history has been created by many Anglo historians in hopes of creating and perpetuating a history that supports the Anglo cause of expansion during early Texas history. Many of the early Texas historians such as Webb, Dobie, Haley, and Webber have provided many historical accounts as told from the Anglo perspective. However, new historians such as Volanto, Goldman and Ginn have provided new perspectives that have begun to challenge the traditionalist views of history.

With different views of history, we can then begin to understand how other cultures have contributed to the creation of the Texan Identity and help in moving away from the Myth. Earlie historians began to change perspectives in which the used to write about certain groups. A good example of this is David J Webber and his extensive research and writing about the borderlands studies about Texas and Mexicans. He became the most important exponent of borderlands studies of the last half century. Webber was from the suburbs of New York and could provide an outsider view of the Mexican, Tejano and Anglo in relation to how they contributed to the creation of Texas and how the cultures were affected.

In the Texas case, more than anyone before him, Weber integrated an interpretation of the Tejano’s motives and behaviors into story lines previously dominated almost exclusively by a struggle between Anglo American settlers and the Mexican national government. When comparing the writings of Webber and other early historians, most historians have vilified the Mexicans because of the actions against Anglos. Much interest in the Spanish impact on the early natives and environment. On the other hand, in telling the story of America’s Spanish origins, I try not to cast the Spaniards as the villains so often portrayed by Joe B Franz approached Texas history primarily from the business perspective. His writing focused more on the impact of business on Texas as well as how certain business were impacted by Texas.

For Frantz and his generation of western historians, the history of West was basically a story of “settlement” by miners, ranchers, railroad, builders, and farmers. They utilized a model of successive western Anglo migration outlined before the turn of the twentieth century by Fredrick Jackson. 4 Franz wrote about history as relative to business which is different from what many historians wrote about. Another example of is Pekka Hamalainen and the extensive writings about the Native American history in early Texas. At the heart of New Indian History was-and is a simple shift in perspective with immense implications.

Instead of observing things from colonial frontiers outward, the traditional defaults position of historical inquiry, the revisionist scholars placed themselves in Indian country to look how Native people saw and shaped historical developments. 5 When we look at the writing of many early Texas history writers, we can see that most have a common way of perpetuation the Myth. Historian Walter Webb was Anglo, brought up on ranches around many ranch hands. Webb published history on the Texas Rangers that primarily supported the ideal of heroic leaders and contributors to Texas.

The Great Plains as the single most significant work in US History written during the first half of the twentieth century. Webb’s epic study of The Texas Rangers: A century of Frontier Defense still stands as a landmark in the lore and literature of Texas. 6 Webb admittedly constructed a narrative woven around a single fabric – the heroic deeds of the Anglo Texans heroes. In so doing, he failed to acknowledge a more diverse and multicolored weave of Texas history. 7 Frank Dobie and Haley were also very similar in early childhood life. Raised in rural areas and exposed to ranch life with Anglo influences, most of their writing are from he Anglo perspective.

Dobie took over his uncle’s ranch in 1918. That was where enlightenment struck him and his ideas for folklore and writing Legends of Texas. 8 Like Dobie, Haley was born in Belton Texas, grew up working on ranches as cowhand, and spoke to many ranchers, cowboys. His research approach was to gather information via conversations with people that were on the ranches like hands and helpers. 9 Joe Franz however wrote about Texas History differently in that he wrote about what was happening at the time rather than taking the standard Anglo influenced approach in writing.

He did not emphasize, but did not overlook, motives of greed, revenge, and restlessness. Nor did he ignore the dismal fate of Indians and buffalo, nor the senseless acts of violence, nor the foolishness or Custer, nor the disaster brought by overstocked ranges. The settlement of the West that concluded in the 1890 with the fencing of the open range, he thought had an accidental quality as opportunities for exploitation revealed themselves. 10 Like Franz, Webber wrote as an outsider describing history from other than an Anglo perspective.

David demonstrated a great sensitivity for presenting the peoples and institutions of the region on their own terms. Abandoning the standard interpretations of lazy superstitious Mexicans who stood in the way of progress, he presented a complex analysis of political, economic, and environmental circumstances that Mexican frontiersmen were eager to overcome. 11 The identity and perspective approaches of Volanto, Goldman and Ginn has moved history in a new direction by challenging traditional ways of writing history. Kay Goldman, is an excellent example of writing from another perspective.

Goldman writes about nineteenth-century Jewish immigrants and the assimilation to German Texan identity. The traditional myth and memory of Texas is populated with Anglo European men; however, more current Texas histories accept a pluralist description of the population of Texas and recognized that various immigrant groups not only shape current Texas but also contributed to the early development of Texas. 12 His approach was to show that many cultures have come together to impact the Texas Identity and challenge traditional views on immigrants in Texas.

German culture strongly influenced Texas culture, it proves that these Jewish immigrants assimilated as equal into Texas and even helped create the Texas identity developing in the state during the 19th century. They claimed their German Identity while living in Texas and became Americans while also creating Texas society13 One of the greatest examples of challenges to the Texian Myth has been by Jody Edward Ginn and his essay on the Texas Rangers and the myth and memory. Her extensive research shows that the history of the Rangers was primarily devolved from conversations and memories of individuals.

Myth and memory have often been intermixed with many of the available historical facts, along with both remembering and forgetting of many aspects of Texas Rangers history14 His essay provides accurate information rather than the romantic history that typically has supported the idea of the Texas Rangers. Their depiction in both the Anglo-centric traditionalist academic hysterography and through popular media- as the prototypical pioneer-patriot archetype charged with leading the advance of Anglo-American democracy in fulfillment of Manifest destiny in Texas15 Keith Volanto provides a perspective that is from the agricultural impact on Texas.

He combines multiple approaches to move beyond standard administrative histories to describe the Agricultural Adjustment Administrations (AAA) efforts to aid Texas cotton farmers in the Great Depresion. 16 He also identifies that most historical writings were from a topdown approach that was from the perspective of affluent Anglos in Texas culture. The contributions of Volanto, Goldman an Ginn help in driving Texas History into new direction yet as Volanto points out, Texas historians continue to produce countless biographies of the states elite Anglo political leaders. 7

These three authors have helped in challenging the way historians write history. Many of the early Texas historians provided writings that was from the Anglo perspective and southern rural point of view. Many of them relied on oral histories and memories to develop tales that were not quite history. New historians such as Volanto, Goldman and Ginn have begun to challenge the traditional views on early Texas history in their writings.

While the myth has been challenged, we still have historians today that are strongly supporting the traditional view of early Texas political figures. Volanto, Goldman and Ginn have provided new perspectives that have begun to challenge the traditionalist views of history. With different views of history, we can then begin to understand how other cultures have contributed to the creation of the Texan identity and help in moving away from the Myth.

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