Archived Chat 3

African-American Heritage

This is the archive of our Chat held on February 14, 2001.
Topics: Traditions, history and distribution in Texas. What are the current issues facing them? Includes Buffalo Soldiers and recent archeological discoveries in Brazoria County.

edservices: Hi Ken
uhken: Hi Nancy
uhken: Hi Jeff
tpwjeff: Hello out there.
tpwjeff: Hey, Ken Pollard. Are you on line?
edservices: Ken isn't here yet, but should be soon.
edservices: He usually says, "The Buffalo has arrived."
edservices: Do I get something if I'm right??
edservices: Good morning, Sarah!
edservices: Hi, Jeff
tpwjeff: Ken- sing us a song.
itcsarah: Would the buffalo please tell me all about the Cowboys of Color Rodeos?
edservices: Wait for him to get online -- then try that!
uhken: Jeff, before we start, is Varner Hog doing another African American history event next yea. Several people have asked
tpwjeff: Yes. We are currently working on developing a schedule of all of our counties programs and it will be available soon.
uhken: OK, how do I get you to add some people's names to a mailing list?
itcsarah: Sorry, didn't realize that today we have two KENS!
edservices: Do you guys know Sarah?
uhken: I don't think so
tpwjeff: Send me their names to Varner-Hogg State Park, P.O. Box 696 West Columbia, Texas 77486 or fax them to 979-345-4412
uhken: Thanks
edservices: Good morning, Ken P!
tpwken: The Buffalo has arrived
edservices: I"m eager to get started! Let's begin with understanding a bit about Ken, Ken & Jeff and what they do
uhken: I am an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Houston. For the past 18 years I have worked in the area of the archaeology of African American culture in Texas and South Carolina
guest1: How did the 9th Cavalry get its name Buffalo Soldiers?
edservices: UHKen, what kinds of things are you finding?
edservices: Good morning, Vicki!
tpwvicki: Good Morning Everyone!
uhken: At the Levi Jordan Plantation in Brazoria County we have found literally everything you might expect from households--glasses, pots pans, buttons, etc. And we have found an interesting mix of African and European beliefs and behaviors
tpwjeff: UNKen- Are you going to develop anymore Archeological programs at the Levi Jordan Plantation?
edservices: Sarah, can you tell us what the ITC has to offer people wanting to learn about African American culture?
itcsarah: uhken: Please tell me how you find/see a belief? I can't resist asking that questions!
tpwken: we have visited with many American Indian elders and we have been told of different reasons why we were called Buffalo Soldiers. The most popular being similarity of the Black soldiers hair with that of the buffalo.
edservices: UHKen, Can you give us some examples of this?
edservices: What was the relationship like between the American Indians and the Buffalo Soldiers ?
uhken: Yes, the Board of Directors for the Plantation will be setting up programs for school age children and adults to actually do archaeology on the plantation. This is something we have done extensively in the past
uhken: Actually, I would like to set something up at the Varner-Hogg plantation as well.
itcsarah: The Institute of Texan Cultures has done much much work on the African American culture. There is a wonderful exhibit entitled "My Great-Great-Granmother Worked in the White House." We also have a display case with a buffalo soldier uniform AND then we have a wonderful interactive exhibit on the Black Seminole Indians from Brackettville and Nacimento (sp?). That is just on the exhibit floor.
edservices: Ken, you're still on the spot about how you determine beliefs from archeological finds. Inquiring minds want to know! :^)
tpwjeff: UNKen- The Varner-Hogg Staff and the Brazoria County Museum staff will put together another summer "dig" program. And I am requesting a program to find the slave cemetery ASAP.
edservices: Can you tell us about the Great Grandmother exhibit?
itcsarah: The Institute also has developed an instructional kit for teaching about "The Other Cowboys" which include cowboys of color AND women. Did you know 13 women when up the cattle trails of Texas?
guest1: Was the Buffalo Soldier located only in Texas?
uhken: Actually it requires looking closely at the full range of artifacts present and descriptions of recent human behavior. For example, the Conjurer's kit recovered from the Jordan Plantation: the set of artifacts is identical to those described for modern Conjurer's in South America.
guest1: What is a Conjurer?
itcsarah: An African American woman in Texas inherited a room filled with wonderful treasures that had come down through the family line. Her distant relative had been a servant in the White House.
edservices: Why both South America and Texas?
tpwvicki: Question #2-They were from Texas to the Dakotas.
tpwken: The relationship between the American Indians and the Buffalo Soldiers ranged from good to bad.
itcsarah: No, Buffalo Soldiers were located in several states and I know that one of the other states was Kansas.
uhken: The name Conjurer was given to people who were either doctors in their communities--the Conjurer at the jordan Plantation was likely the woman who assisted other women in giving birth, also Conjurers could help solve problems, some could cast spells to help people with their lives.
edservices: Can you tell us the difference between Levi Jordan and Varner Hogg plantations?
itcsarah: The Institute also have a traveling trunk filled with artifacts and stuff to do with students called THE OTHER COWBOYS. The trunks are rented to the schools and include a saddle that you can see how it is made, photographs of black cowboys and vacqueros, Stetson hat for kids to try, lye soap, and a bunch of horse hair horse equipment. Lots of things to learn about the other cowboys of Texas.
uhken: The two plantations were located about 15 or so miles away from one another in Brazoria County. The Varner-Hogg, I think raised cotton, and possibly a small amount of sugar. The Levi Jordan was a primarily sugar plantation wit a very large force of enslaved people--more than 145.
itcsarah: Texas had a lot of black cowboys as part of our heritage. Do you want to know about them?
edservices: Yes, Sarah, tell us more.
tpwjeff: The Plantations were in many ways similar. Basic Agricultural practices- sugar and cotton were consistent. Treatment of those who were enslaved may have varied. It appears that Levi Jordan Plantation has more research than Varner-Hogg. Our main house structures were different in architectural style and materials. V-Hoggs is brick and Jordan is made of wood.
itcsarah: A web site link you might want to check out on Black Cowboys of Texas is:
edservices: Jeff, can you tell us more about the different treatment, and how we know about this?
itcsarah: There were 35,000 cowboys that went up the trails between 1865-1885 and of those 35,000 cowboys 9,000 of them were black cowboys, 3,500 were vacqueros, and the rest (23,000) were Anglo cowboys including 13 women!
uhken: There is also a web site for the Jordan Plantation:
tpwjeff: Varner-Hogg enslaved 50-80 people at one time. Therefore our scope was smaller than Jordans. Archeology at Jordan so far appears to be the main focus- where V-Hogg is interpreted as a decorative arts museum of Miss Ima Hogg. Research is enhancing our focus.
edservices: I thought I heard that the people at Varner Hogg were more likely to have been born on this land, while at Levi Jordan, they were from Africa.
edservices: Sorry for bouncing around so much, but, Buffalo, can you tell us more about what it was like for you to learn about the Buffalo Soldiers?
uhken: No, a few of the people at Jordan MAY have been born in Africa, the vast majority were born in the American South. What happened in the construction of their beliefs and behaviors was that many Africa traditions were incorporated.
itcsarah: The black cowboys in Texas were all over the state and one black cowboy hauled freight to the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. His name was Peter Martin and he was the 7th largest cattle owner in the area which is over by Sugarland.
tpwjeff: Varner-Hogg mainly grew sugar. The Varner Plantation started in 1824 and was in fill swing in 1840s. Our current research shows little of where the enslaved came from. Only speculation, Caribbean to Texas or from S. America. So far we have found that most of the slaves came from the US.
edservices: Can you give us some examples of those traditions? Do we still see any today?
guest1: tpwken what would be the process and time frame for my students to experience your program hands on?
itcsarah: Another interesting cowboy fact is that the old cowboy ballad "Good-bye Old Paint" was written and created by black cowboy Charley Willis
edservices: Sarah, many people have the mistaken belief that all the early African Americans were slaves. What other myths can you dispel? Clearly, Mr. Martin was well to do.
tpwjeff: The Levi Jordan Web Site- Ken mentions above is outstanding. Take a look.
edservices: And/or a very hard worker!
uhken: The examples include such things as the decoration of graves, the use of African symbols to help ward off evil, the "Cosomogram" which is an African symbol for the cycle of human life. All of these and others are still found in use today.
edservices: UHKen, can we see these on your website?
uhken: I have had really good graduate and undergraduate students.
uhken: Yes, I know that a number of them are shown on the web site
tpwken: For me to learn about my ancestors was and still is inspiring. While reviewing my families slave narratives I have their spoken words to use in our educational programming.
edservices: TPW Ken, I didn't know that! Can you tell us some of what you remember??
tpwvicki: Question #4 - You would need to go to our web site ( and take a look at our different types of programs and their request times. You can also download a program request form to fill out and send in.
itcsarah: No...definitely now all African Americans in early Texas were slaves. Ben Kinclow's mother, Lisa was given her freedom, and she took Ben and his brother to Matamores to live so that the children would not be slaves. So Ben learned cowboying skills from the vacqueros in Matamores and Ft. Brown. Then after 1865 he and his mother headed back home up around Galveston area, but Ben stopped along they way and hired out with his cowboy skills.
tpwvicki: Question #4 - Sorry, I've just been informed that there is a problem downloading this form. Please call Ken Pollard at 512/912-7113 and leave your name and a fax number and he will fax you a request form.
edservices: Are there stories of how well Ben was or was not accepted as a free man? itcsarah All of the black cowboys experienced prejudice and hardtimes just surviving even after being granted freedom like everyone else. When black cowboys worked with cowboy crews they could expect to do twice as much work and get stuck riding drag in the dust.
tpwken: My African roots, when one of my ancestors was captured in Africa. My families move to Texas from Tennessee. Discussion of the Great War and the Indian Wars. And what it was like during their daily lives.
edservices: They kept a diary, then? Which one of your ancestors did this? and when did they start?
tpwjeff: Based on the interest on enslaved African-American lifeways many of our histories are based on the Ante-bellum era. There are many important stories dealing with life after the Emancipation. Sarah's programs at the Institute are great educational activities- the sharecroppers cabin, etc... Sometimes we get stuck into telling just the Plantation tale when there is 100 plus years of other African-American history.
itcsarah: As black cowboys "PROVED THEIR LOYALTY" they were accepted and trusted by their bosses (MASTERS) and Neptune Holmes even carried Shangai Pierce's bags of gold. Shangai was no dummy as no one would think the black cowboy had the money!
uhken: Much of the story of history from the Jordan Quarters actually dates from after the Civil War, and deals with the lives of people as freedmen.
edservices: Good point, Jeff. I think the recent PBS series on Jazz is one interesting example of the African American influence in the last 100 years.
uhken: Food, technology, and other areas also come to mind.
edservices: What was happening after the Civil War? Did the slaves stay on as paid workers?
tpwjeff: UHKen- more people need to know about our "total" story.
itcsarah: I have a friend from Austin who is doing his families genealogy. He has located his grandfather from a small village between Goliad and Victoria and has gotten members traced ack to Kentucky, but slaves records with frequent name changes made genealogy work for African Americans very difficult to do.
edservices: There are so many things to talk about!! My mind is whirling!! What kinds of things are most important for young kids to be thinking about / learning about the African American heritage?
uhken: A vast majority of the freedmen stayed on plantations, some left. The life of people on the plantations after the war was, in many ways just as harsh as it had been under the conditions of enslavement. In other aspects, in fact life was worse.
tpwjeff: We need better research to tell a true story about where freedmen went and what they did. One of the questions I ask my participants is "what would you do after freedom"?
edservices: Jeff, excellent question! You would mind venturing what you would do after freedom?
itcsarah: That African Americans are an integral part of every aspect of Texas History but they are going to have to dig and read and hunt to find it because it doesn't get in most textbooks. In another website, there are several articles about African Americans in Texas...and will be adding another 4 in the next six months...lots of hidden history.
tpwken: Ex Slaves were interviewed in different parts of the country during the early 1900's and many of these interviews were recorded. All I am doing is matching up the stories my family told with those found in the interviews.
uhken: Personally, I think that Sarah has hit on the most important aspect of what we are all trying to do, tell a history that history books have "forgotten".
edservices: Ken, you must feel like a detective.
itcsarah: Students should definitely be encouraged to interview and get the stories of people of color on any in depth topic because the archives of the state don't have much information from any folks except the Anglos.
edservices: Do you think things are changing, that text books will be updated?
tpwjeff: If I were freed, I would try to find my family, my friends, my home- even if it was back in Africa- but mostly I would survive.
uhken: Sometimes. Archaeology certainly takes the kind of skills one needs to be a good detective.
edservices: What are the most important pieces of this forgotten history?
uhken: I wish I thought that textbooks would be updated--maybe they will. But I tend to see a growing sense of "let it go, its over and we should move on." And maybe that is true, but I do not think so.
itcsarah: Textbooks are indeed being updated, but to get approved by the various state boards of education textbooks must be "pablum" or controversy free which translates to dull, dull, and more dull and so all the good stories get left out.
uhken: Again, in my opinion it would be looking at and presenting the fact that Africans and African Americans adapted to their conditions of life in incredibly creative ways, and we just do not give them any type of credit for that.
tpwjeff: Forgotten- Who we are and where we came from, what was it like? Sometimes history covers our horrors and distressful times. Past books sometimes protects us from these difficult times. As historians we are charged with uncovering them.
tpwken: The Community Services Education & Outreach Program has a strong genealogical base. We focus on family history and providing this documented forgotten history to communities, schools, Esc statewide. It is kind of like being a detective.
edservices: UHKen, you bring up an interesting point of adaptability. Isn't this one of the most important tools of survival?
tpwvicki: We've found that while there is a wealth of information in the state archives on the different cultures in Texas, many times there are records on the local level and with individuals that will document a person's life or a historical event.
uhken: Yes, it is. Indeed, it is how we survive as humans because we can teach what works rapidly to others.
edservices: The teaching reminds me again of Ken P talking about the stories that were handed down. Are young African American families carrying on oral traditions?
itcsarah: The issue of adaptability is a good one....especially when you are addressing Native Americans. And then compare their situation to the African Americans.
tpwken: Jeff, can you tell us the new information about Rachel?
edservices: Sarah, can you tell us more about your thoughts on this?
itcsarah: There is an African American Story Telling evening planned at THE STRAND in Galveston for 7 PM on Saturday March 3rd. It is a competition and African Americans are MASTER story tellers. I am quivering in my boots to think I'm going to get on a stage with the masters and try to tell a story!!!!
uhken: Yes, Native Americans adapted. But can you imagine the kind of reconstruction of belief and behavior that Africans had to face as they were brought to this country, placed on plantation or northern cities with peoples having different languages and cultures and trying to survive?
edservices: Wow, Sarah, you're a speaker?
edservices: UHKen, what was in them/ their character, that helped them survive?
itcsarah: The thing I keep mulling is that I don't think the Native American really did completely adapt or assimilate. On many reservations they resisted farming until the bitter end. Even today on reservations the reason they are so poor is they don't accept the current economic system
tpwjeff: Cary Cordova, Intern at UT, did a great deal of research for us detailing Rachel- enslaved at the Varner (Patton) Hogg Plantation in the 1840s-50s. She was Mistress to Columbus Patton and was known to be as free as a bird. She acted and lived like any Anglo women. Very much like Jeffersons relationship with Henning(?) This is a vital story we will tell about.
edservices: I've heard people comment that Jews and African Americans have some commonalties --having to persevere (sp?) through persecution. Do you have any reaction to this?
uhken: They were human. They could build what was needed because they had to survive. In North America, unlike areas to the South. Women and men were brought in to be enslaved. Family ties/community ties were built that keep people alive. edservices Do you think there is a message for us today in this history?
uhken: Yes! We need to teach this to children and their parents. Even when life is hard to bear and the conditions awful, life can be built. Its the part of African American history we do not teach and we can see some of the results of that.
itcsarah: I believe history does indeed repeat itself because each generation must rediscover their heritage and laws are the only thing that provide continuity through the ages...and thus the supreme court of this nation is very important as they define the laws of this land.!
tpwjeff: You can build all the monuments, houses and museums you want but if you are not telling the story of people and how people survived and who these people were you lose the point. Plant a seed. Make a audio or visual tape of your life, preserve it and give it to your kids, pass the word of who you are and teach others to do the same.
edservices: You have all given us so much to think about, and I bet for many, some new ways to be thinking.
tpwjeff: We are all part of the same whole- Tell the story and preserve it.

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