Most of what people think they know about Texas history is wrong, argues Bucknell University history professor Paul Barba in Country of the Cursed and the Driven: Slavery in the Texas Borderlands (U Nebraska Press, 2021). Setting out to write a book on Texas history that didn't mention The Alamo, Barba instead views the region's past through the lenses of borderlands analysis, slavery and captivity, and anti-Blackness, to paint a very different picture than the Texas of popular memory. From the sixteenth century onwards, Texas was defined by captivity and kinship, two mutually constitutive sides of the same story. In a place where no one group - Spanish, Comanche, Anglo - could easily take the upper hand of power, all sides needed unfree people to perform colonial labor and conduct diplomacy across cultures. Slavery became critical to the region's history from the earliest days of colonization, and only deepened as Texas grew into an extension of the enslaved economy of the cotton south. Rather than a land of democratic freedom, the Texas of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is defined by captivity and struggle between colonized, colonizers, and those caught in between.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.