With more than 300 RSVPs, the event hosted by the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin was shaping up to be the highlight of our virtual book tour for “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth.” But about four hours before showtime last Thursday, my co-authors, Bryan Burrough and Chris Tomlinson, and I received an email from our publisher. The Bullock had backed out, citing “increased pressure on social media.” Apparently, the state history museum was no place to discuss state history.
This isn’t how things are supposed to work, even in Texas, but the truth turned out to be even worse. The state history museum wasn’t bowing to social media pressure but to political pressure from the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who claimed credit for the kill the next day.
“As a member of the Preservation Board, I told staff to cancel this event as soon as I found out about it,” tweeted Patrick, adding, “This fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place @BullockMuseum.”
Minor umbrage compels me to defend the book as well as the museum, which currently is hosting a Jim Crow exhibition. As The Post noted in its review of our book, we “challenge the traditional view” of the Alamo saga, one popularized by Disney and John Wayne and cemented by politicians in the Texas school curriculum.
The Heroic Anglo Narrative is that in 1836, about 200 Texians (as White settlers were known, to distinguish them from Tejanos) fought a doomed battle at a Spanish mission in San Antonio against thousands of Mexican troops, buying Gen. Sam Houston enough time to defeat tyranny in the form of Mexican ruler Santa Anna and win freedom for Texas. The myth leaves much out, most notably that Texians opposed Mexican laws that would free the enslaved workers they needed to farm cotton.
Politicians barricading the figurative doors of the Alamo in defense of the myth are nothing new. In 2018, a panel reviewing the state history curriculum suggested not requiring seventh-graders to learn that those who died at the Alamo were “heroic.” Republican state political leaders, including Sen. Ted Cruz and Land Commissioner George P. Bush — the nephew and grandson of presidents and the state officeholder with oversight of the historic site — reacted as if the Alamo were once again besieged.
“Stop political correctness in our schools,” tweeted the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott. “Of course Texas schoolchildren should be taught that Alamo defenders were ‘Heroic’!”