The story of the African American presence in Texas history follows the familiar script written for every other southern region in the nation: slavery brought most African Americans to the state. By the mid-1800s, slavery played an important role in Texas' economic development and, in fact, enslaved African Americans comprised 30 percent of the state's population by 1860. Freedom for the African American in Texas finally arrived on June 19, 1865, known as Juneteenth, and the end of the Civil War. After secession and during reconstruction, federal intervention was required once again to ensure the protection of civil rights in Texas, ushering in an era that saw African Americans helping the Texas economy recover from the Civil War, serving in the state legislature, and helping to guide the state toward a freer, more democratic society.
Their success was short-lived, however, as segregation established a grip on the state that wouldn't be released for another 60 years. Despite what seemed like impossible odds during this period, African Americans in Texas were able to build communities and businesses, allowing economies and cultures to thrive. Today, we recognize the important contributions made by African Americans to Texas by commemorating their heritage in our museums, with our celebrations, and in our history books.