Yet Another Historian Corrects Barton

by Ryan

We long ago lost count of the number of times self-styled “historian” David Barton has been caught perpetuating historical inaccuracies or outright lies. (The man is nothing if not prodigious.) But on his radio program earlier this week, Barton delivered a doozy when discussing the Texas State Board of Education’s revision of social studies curriculum standards. Here’s what he said as he was complaining about the efforts of civil rights groups to list Tejanos among those who fought at the Alamo during the Texas Revolution:

They [“Hispanic groups”] kept insisting that we have a quota of Hispanics. For example, one of the silly things they said was, well, we want to make sure we show the Tejano leaders at the Alamo. And we pointed out – did you know there were not any Tejano leaders at the Alamo? “Yeah, but you gotta show…” No, there was only one Tejano leader, and he left before the fighting started. He was one of the guys who crossed the line. And are you sure you want to show retreating, you know? And they didn’t even know that. But they were so insistent that they be pictured everywhere even if that group had not been there at the time something happened.

Those “silly” groups don’t know their history? Or is it Barton who is “silly” and uninformed? We asked Dr. Frank de la Teja, professor and chairman of the history department at Texas State University, to weigh in on this question. In 2007 Gov. Rick Perry appointed Dr. de la Teja to serve the first-ever two-year term as the state historian of Texas. So here’s what a real historian has to say about Barton’s claim:

It would be helpful if Mr. Barton read some of the history before attempting to rebut the efforts of others.

It is true that as originally introduced, the inclusion of Tejano “leaders” at the Alamo was a poor choice of words. While 8 to 10 Tejanos did die defending the Alamo, none of them were “leaders.” The error was pointed out to various board members and the language was changed to accommodate a broader and more meaningful understanding of events.

As to the charge that Juan Seguin “crossed the line,” there is broad historical agreement that he was, as he said in his memoirs, sent out to seek assistance. In other words, he was one the messengers sent by Travis during the Mexican siege. Even the late Thomas Lindley, who is very critical of Seguin for other reasons, in his book Alamo Traces: New Evidence and New Conclusions (Republic of Texas Press, 2003), accepts that Seguin was sent out as a messenger. Seguin served in the Runaway Scrape and at the battle of San Jacinto, and he and his company were commended for their gallantry by Texian leaders Sam Houston and Edward Burleson. If Mr. Barton or anyone else is interested, they can turn to Stephen L. Hardin’s Texian Iliad: A Military History of the Texas Revolution (University of Texas Press, 1994) for a balanced coverage of Tejano participation in the Texas War of Independence as a whole. My book, A Revolution Remembered: The Memoirs and Selected Correspondence of Juan N. Seguin (2nd ed., Texas State Historical Association, 2002), offers a more detailed portrait of Seguin. In addition, for an understanding of the participation of Tejanos in the Anglo-American colonization, independence, and republic periods of Texas history they may consult a collection of essays edited by me, Tejano Leadership in Mexican and Revolutionary Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2010).

So that’s from a former Texas state historian and the head of the history department at one of the state’s largest public universities. Barton? Well, he has a radio show and was once elected vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas.

Can you guess which “expert” far-right board members turned to during their March meeting when they rejected a proposal to include the Tejanos who died in the fall of the Alamo? Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, quoted Barton almost verbatim during the discussion (even implying that Tejanos were too cowardly to fight).

Can any serious observer still maintain that the process for adopting curriculum in Texas is working?

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