Wednesday, August 31, 2022

the last book I ever read (Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth, excerpt ten)

from Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford:

In a state that was no stranger to white supremacists, few cities were as open about their racism as Dallas in the 1920s, years in which the Ku Klux Klan controlled almost every significant position in local government. Looking back decades later, D magazine termed ’20-era Dallas “the most racist city in America,” and it’s hard to argue.

It’s ironic that the newspaper that eventually brought the Dallas Klan to its knees, The Dallas Morning News, would give birth to a creation that probably did as much as any to popularize the Anglocentric myths of the Alamo. It was a comic strip, a hugely popular component of metropolitan newspapers at a time when editors triggered bidding wars to see who got to print the latest episodes of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.

The owner of the Morning News was a proponent of public education, and in 1926 an editor suggested the paper develop its own comic strip devoted to Texas history. A columnist named John Rosenfield Jr. wrote it, and the paper’s cartoonist Jack I. Patton drew it. They called it Texas History Movies—at the time, comic strips were sometimes called “movies in print.” Between October 1926 and June 1928, the paper cranked out 428 episodes, a sizable number of which were stunningly racist. Texas History Movies referred to Mexican-Americans as “greasers” and “tamale eaters,” mocked African-Americans as stupid, and called Native Americans “redskins.” One panel declared that Lipan, the name of an Apache tribe, meant “vagabone or bum.” It portrayed Texas slaves as “unwittingly happy,” as one modern reviewer puts it, and stated that all enslaved Black people were fully educated and free to change masters at will. Seriously. This was in a major Texas city in 1928.

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