Black people in Spanish Texas

Painting of Estevanico by Sarin Images/Granger

 

By FREDERICK HARRELL

The Dallas Examiner

 

Did you know that African Americans had ties with Spanish Texas for many centuries?

The enslavement of Africans in the Americans began in 1619. By 1930, Africans were enslaved in almost every part of the Southern region, including New Spain, which began in 1462. New Spain is now known as Mexico and Central America.

Arriving in 1528, people of African descent were among the group of Spanish settlers who came to Texas to begin a new life in the Americas. The population included Spaniards, Africans both enslaved and free, and people of mixed-race – some of which were considered “Afro-Mexicans.” Enslavement under the Spaniards was a bit different than under colonial White people at this time. Under the Spanish rule, Africans who were enslaved had the right to buy their freedom, protest and switch masters if treated poorly. Even being considered low on the “castas” racial categorization system of Spanish Texas, Black and mixed-race people were still able to climb the ranks of classification through gaining wealth and notoriety within the population.

The first person of African descent known to have settled in Spanish Texas was Estevanico, also known as Esteban. Born in Moracco, it is unclear when he traveled to Spain and was enslaved by Andres Dorantes de Carranza. Although he was a slave, Estevanico was able to travel with Carranza as a member of the Panfilo de Narvaez expedition. This expedition would lead Esteban and Carranza into Texas in 1528.

When Mexico fought and won their independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican government gradually outlawed slavery in both their country and parts of Texas. This victory would prove to be short lived for the enslaved in Texas, as the Anglo settlers ensured slavery was still active in the state. Although Blacks and mixed folks were freed from Spanish control, they had to endure more harsh treatment from an entirely different group of people until the Emancipation Proclamation gave everyone freedom in 1863, though enslaved African Americans didn’t learn of their freedom until 1865.

 

Source: TSHAOnline.com and Britanica.com

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