Texas Insights - October 2011

Volume II, Issue 2

What’s New?

miniature portrait of Samuel Rhoads Fisher The Star of the Republic Museum is proud to present the exhibit, Fifty-nine for Freedom. The exhibit showcases the fifty-nine delegates who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence at Washington on the Brazos on March 2, 1836, as Santa Anna was approaching San Antonio. Through artifacts and documents which were owned or created by many of the 59 signers, visitors see the Independence movement from the people who helped make it happen as told in their own words. 

Artifacts and borrowed items in the exhibit include: a portrait of Sam Maverick from the Witte Museum; a miniature portrait of Samuel Rhoads Senator Hutchison viewing exhibition materials.Fisher from the Fisher family, and a green velvet hat made for Sam Houston’s 1841 inauguration, borrowed from the Sam Houston Memorial Museum. 

Fifty-nine for Freedom explores the military and political events associated with the Texas Revolution, as well as the social and cultural history of the time. The exhibit is open now, through December 23, 2011 at the Star of the Republic Museum in Washington, Texas. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.   

Energizing Texas History Workshop

Join the Region 10 Education Service Center and the Texas State Historical Association for a day of learning and fun for the annual Energizing Texas History Workshop.  The event will take place at the Hall of State at Fair Park in Dallas, on November 10, 2011. This year the topic will be on the Texas Revolution. Included as a part of the workshop, teachers will have time to explore and visit, Texas! The Exhibit, which is on display at the Hall of State in Fair Park though December 4, 2011.  The workshop is targeted toward 4th and 7th grade Texas history teachers, but all history teachers are welcomed to attend. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information.     Vis


The Portal to Texas History

The Portal to Texas History and their companion site Resources 4 Educators are proud to introduce 3 new primary source sets about daily life of Native Americans. The first set, Native Americans in Tejas: An Overview includes: newspapers, photos, and journal entries, students can use to explore daily life. The second, Native American Cultures: Pueblo and Plains, introduces the Jumano, Tigua, Tonkawa, Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa Indians. The third, Native American Cultures: Southeastern, Gulf, and Plains, introduces the Caddo, Karankawa, and Wichita Indians. Together, the sets offer over 80 primary sources for use in the classroom. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.   Visit

Featured Institution

Star of the Republic MuseumStar of the Republic Museum Logo
at Washington-on-the-Brazos

Washington-on-the-Brazos is the birthplace of Texas democracy—the place where 59 elected delegates convened to give voice to their grievances, forged a Declaration of Independence and Constitution, and brought forth a new nation: the REPUBLIC OF TEXAS. Today the Star of the Republic Museum sits on the hallowed grounds of this historic site.

The mission of the Star of the Republic Museum is to “collect and preserve the material culture of the Texas Republic and to interpret the history, cultures, diversity, and values of early Texans.” One way the museum strives to fulfill its mission is by serving the largest and most diverse audience possible, through creative educational programming and resource services.

A field trip to the museum provides an opportunity to view over 1000 artifacts representing early Texas history and heritage. The majority of the guided tours are presented to 4th and 7th grade students, although students of all ages can gain valuable insight into the life of the Texas pioneers. Tours for younger students involve more hands-on time in the Discovery Center where student exploration is the key–opportunities to dress up in period clothes, build a log cabin, card cotton, or play with old-fashioned toys abound.

The museum Students visiting the Star of the Republic Museumalso hosts the annual Brazos Valley Regional History Fair, for students in Grades 6-12. This event provides the opportunity for hundreds of local students to compete for the privilege of advancing to Texas History Day in Austin, and eventually National History Day in College Park, Maryland.

Throughout the year, special programming targets select audiences. For example, “Home School Days” in October meets the needs of a group that typically does not fit regular school tour parameters. Teacher workshops in the summer offer CPE credits to teachers in attendance. Special events, like the annual “Texas Independence Day Celebration” and “Night at the Star of the Republic Museum,” provide unique opportunities for fun-filled, educational activities.

Of course, not everyone can visit the museum in person. Online materials bring visitors from all over the world to its doorstep. Teacher resources on the museum’s website, www.starmuseum.org, include lesson plans, reading lists, curriculum materials, pre-and-post tour activity suggestions, and more. Additional online resources include information for researchers, historians and genealogists. A database of the lineage of all 59 signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence has recently been uploaded.

Snapshot of the Texas Independence websiteTeachers looking for cutting-edge materials for teaching the impact of the Texas Revolution should visit www.txindependence.org –an award-winning website developed jointly by the Star of the Republic Museum and Washington-on-the-Brazos State Park. With digital interactive and learning games based on primary sources, the website introduces the men who founded a new nation to a new generation of tech-savvy Texans.

The museum’s collection is unique and irreplaceable, and includes three dimensional artifacts, as well as prints, maps, paintings, original manuscripts, rare books, and early historic documents, primarily from the Republic period. These artifacts can also be viewed online at the University of North Texas’ Portal to Texas History.

Simply put, the Star of the Republic Museum is a one-stop site for teaching about the Republic of Texas. Whether you actually walk through the doors or you visit online, there is truly something for everyone who has an interest in Texas History!

For more information, contact Anne McGaugh, Curator of Education, Star of the Republic Museum, amcgaugh@blinn.edu

Historian's Corner

Teaching the Texas Revolution and Republic in the Twenty-First Century
By Dr. Gregg Cantrell
Erma and Ralph Lowe Chair in Texas History
Texas Christian University

Photograph of Dr. Gregg CantrellThe job of teaching the history of the Revolution and Republic in the public schools today brings to mind the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” As social studies curricula have become the latest front in the political “culture wars,” teaching an accurate version of Texas’ most legendary era while fulfilling your duty to the government that writes your paycheck may often seem like a cursed enterprise. I’m here to offer encouragement.

For decades the scholarly accounts of the 1821-1848 period deviated little from the popular version: Stephen F. Austin leads his hardy band of settlers into the underdeveloped Mexican backwater of Texas in 1821. His colonists battle hostile Indians and tame the wilderness. They remain loyal to Mexico, only to endure the rise of a dictator, Santa Anna, who forces the settlers to fight a revolution for liberty and democracy. The Alamo and Goliad martyrs give their lives for freedom, which is won when Sam Houston triumphs at San Jacinto. For the next decade, led by Houston and Mirabeau B. Lamar, the Texians battle frontier hardship to maintain their independence, with Anson Jones finally lowering the Lone Star flag as Texas enters the Union in 1846. 

In recent decades, historians have offered more balanced and nuanced versions of these events.  Works such as Paul Lack’s The Texas Revolutionary Experience, Sam Haynes’s Soldiers of Misfortune, and Gary Clayton Anderson’s The Conquest of Texas have offered “revisionist” views of the Revolution and Republic, challenging us to reexamine the heroic narrative that Texans of my generation grew up with. Others have traced the history of the “Texas Creation Myth” itself, explaining how the triumphalist narrative of the Revolution and Republic enabled twentieth century Texans to distance themselves from the experiences of defeat in the Civil War, military occupation during Reconstruction, and poverty and racism in the decades that followed. 

This welcome correction of the historical record comes at a time, however, when others are calling for a return to fundamentals in the teaching of history. This is not the place to critique the work of the State Board of Education, but it is clear that the Fourth and Seventh Grade TEKS expect teachers to cover all of the traditional topics, including the Alamo, San Jacinto, Republic-era politics, Indian wars, and so forth. Interestingly, the main difference between the 2011-2012 TEKS and the previous version is that the new TEKS are much more detailed mandating the teaching of specific historical events, developments, and personalities. For example, whereas the old Fourth Grade TEKS mentioned only three names in its section on the Revolution and Republic (Sam Houston, Mirabeau Lamar, and Anson Jones), the new edition mentions no fewer than eighteen! As a college professor, I am no expert in elementary-school pedagogy, so I won’t speculate as to whether this is good or bad, but I’ll simply point out that in the longest list of characters to be studied, the list is preceded by “such as,” suggesting that you won’t be hauled off to a torture chamber if you fail to mention Carlos Espalier by name. (I mention the unfortunate Señor Espalier because I had never heard of him until I read the new TEKS; thanks to the Handbook of Texas Online, I was quickly able to ascertain that he was a seventeen-year-old Tejano defender of the Alamo, about whom not much else is known.) 

The fact that Espalier made the new TEKS, along with nine other Tejanos or Mexicans, tells us that the State Board of Education, despite its many critics, did not simply ignore minorities in its alleged efforts to purge the curriculum of “political correctness.” Only occasionally do the new TEKS indicate a desire to prop up the heroic version of Texas history: in the new Seventh Grade TEKS, teachers are specifically instructed to teach William B. Travis’s famous letter “To the People of Texas and All Americans in the World,” and the standards specifically mention “all the heroic defenders who gave their lives” at the Alamo. Some may detect a political agenda in the new requirement that teachers instruct seventh graders on “how the establishment of the Republic of Texas brought civil, political and religious freedom to Texas.” Interesting times, indeed.

These nods to heroic history notwithstanding, only the most thin-skinned among us can be too terribly upset about what is in the new TEKS for the Revolution and Republic. Some might complain that the word “slavery” never appears in either grade’s document related to this period, and if not for Mary Maverick and poor Susanna Dickinson there would be no indication that women ever set foot on Texas soil before 1846. That the “civil, political and religious freedom” alluded to in the TEKS applied mostly to white males goes unacknowledged. But the TEKS actually give teachers considerable leeway to teach a modern, balanced version of the state’s most mythologized era. The fourth grade document instructs teachers to “describe the successes, problems, and organizations” of the Republic. The Seventh Grade TEKS call for the analysis of “the causes and events leading to Texas annexation.” Both documents mention the standard political and military events (e.g., the U.S.-Mexican War) as well as requiring the teaching of economic development, immigration, and natural resources. I don’t have a problem acknowledging the “heroism” of the Alamo defenders as long as I can also mention that many Texas slaves looked to Santa Anna’s army as an army of liberation.

Bookcover of the Comanche EmpireSo, what other sorts of topics should a twenty-first century Texas history teacher properly teach?  One of the most important things is to step outside the traditional perspective of viewing this period of Texas history exclusively through the eyes of westward-migrating, freedom-loving, Anglo-Americans. Textbooks give notoriously sanitized (and thus boring) versions of most historical events. This is where you, the teacher, come in. Ask your students to put themselves in the shoes of Mexican politicians and Tejano citizens, and ask how they would’ve handled the arrival of thousands of foreigners in a far-flung northern province of a nation weakened by a decade of revolution and fifteen years of political instability. Talk about the economic realities of Texas in the period, especially the central role that cotton and slavery played in bringing revolution, encouraging immigration, and preventing annexation for a decade. Have students think of Revolutionary-era Texas as a part of the greater “Comanche Empire” (a great book by that title, written by Pekka Hämäläinen, should be on every Texas History teacher’s summer reading list). 

Even the most romanticized topics can be approached from new directions. As students study the lives of Crockett, Travis, and Bowie, have them analyze how failed careers back in the United States (Crockett, Bowie), marital problems or tragedies (Travis, Bowie), or masculine notions of Southern honor (all three) might have influenced their decisions to fight and die at the Alamo.  Ask students to consider the 1836 Texas campaign from the standpoint of Mexican military strategy. Why did Santa Anna even bother with San Antonio, when the real source of the rebellion lay further east?  Why didn’t he wait for his artillery to batter the Alamo into submission? Why did he divide his forces and expose himself to defeat at San Jacinto? Why couldn’t the bulk of the Mexican army keep fighting after a mere fraction of that army was destroyed by Houston? Fourth or seventh grade textbooks likely don’t get into the psychology of Santa Anna or the political pressures he faced in Mexico City; as the teacher, you can.

Modern perspectives should be brought to traditional political and military events. Even fourth graders can wrestle with hard questions: Why did Mexico occupy San Antonio twice in 1840? What was Lamar’s motivation for dispatching the ill-fated Santa Fe Expedition in 1841? Why did the men of the Somervell Expedition decide to cross the Rio Grande and invade northern Mexico in 1842?  Why would President James K. Polk send an American army to the Rio Grande in 1846? Why wasn’t Mexico able to mount a more effect defense against Zachary Taylor’s army? 

Nothing in the new TEKS prohibits you from challenging your students and teaching a modern interpretation of Texas History. The resources available on the TSHA website can help point the way. We may live in “interesting times,” but the dedicated teacher can remove the “curse” from that expression and make Texas History both interesting—in the literal sense of the word—and important. 

Featured Lesson

As you plan instruction on the Texas Revolution and Republic, make sure to include, Mary Adams Maverick: A Texas Pioneer from the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and available on TeachingTexas.org. This unit of study identifies Mary Adams Maverick and her contribution to the history of Texas and the Texas Revolution.  This unit will give teachers and students an interesting look into Mary Maverick’s life, a new addition to the Texas history Dolph Briscoe Center for American History logoTEKS, while at the same time teach students to identify and distinguish between primary and secondary sources, and give teachers a method for working with primary sources in the classroom.

Texas History News

Several opportunities for Texas history educators and students are available or are on the near horizon:

The Texas State Historical Association is accepting nominations for the Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan Award.  This annual award is to recognize and honor the outstanding history teacher in Texas. This award is open to any teacher who teaches history in Texas. The winner is presented with a cash award of $5,000. For additional information, visit www.tshaonline.org.  Nomination deadline is December 16, 2011. 


Fort McKavett State Historic Site would like to invite you to join, Imprisoned on the Frontier: The 8th US Infantry at Fort McKavett, Texas. This event is a semi-immersion event in the Texas Hill Country commemorating the six months during the winter of 1861 to spring 1862 that Fort McKavett was used as a Civil War prisoner-of-war camp. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information. 

Humanities Texas is accepting nominations for the Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award. This award is open to any teacher who teaches a Texas History course. The winner is presented with a $5000 cash award and an additional $500 for their school to purchase instructional materials. Nominations deadline is December 12, 2011. For additional information, visit www.humanitiestexas.org.   


The Region VI Education Service Center in Huntsville is proud to present The Texas History Conference in January 2012. The Conference will combine experts from the fields of social studies and education, and breakout sessions will focus on Texas history, geography, government, and economics. Teachers will receive resources for immediate use in the classroom. See TeachingTexas.org for more information. 

The Casa Navarro State Historical Site is proud to present Navarro, A Children’s Opera. The opera is designed for elementary school students and will travel to various schools in Texas. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.


The San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site is proud to announce the Father of Texas Celebration 2011, to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Texas Independence.  For additional information visit TeachingTexas.org. 

The Hood’s Texas Brigade Association is proud to present the 2011 Civil War Sesquicentennial Seminar on November 11th and 12th, 2011 at the University of North Texas. Join speakers; Richard McCaslin, Donald Frazier, Tom Cutrer, Susannah Ural, and Jack Waugh; in their exploration of what was occurring in Texas in 1861, from Secession through securing the Western and Northern frontiers and the organization of Hood’s Texas Brigade. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org. 
  The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is proud to announce the release of the new Story of Texas Educator Guides. The guides will lead teachers and students through the museum experience. Each chapter of the guide will correlate with a floor or section of the museum, and will include a pre-visit introduction, lesson plans and guided activities to do while at the museum, and opportunities to extend learning in the classroom. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.  

Texas Insights is a publication of the Texas State Historical Association
in cooperation with the University of North Texas.

Texas State Historical Association
1155 Union Circle #311580
Denton, TX 76203-5017

Stephen Cure - Editor
Kim White - Associate Editor
JoNeita Kelly - Associate Editor


Bookmark and Share