Remember the Alamo? Actually, Texas Republicans would rather you didn't

Texas Republicans who claim to oppose "cancel culture" just banished an Alamo history event from a state museum

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published July 6, 2021 1:16PM (EDT)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images)

An event for a book that discusses the little-known impact of slavery in the 1836 Battle of the Alamo — was canceled in Texas last Thursday amid pressure from Republican state lawmakers who felt that the book was a "rewriting of history."

The event was scheduled at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, and was supposed to feature the authors of "Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of An American Myth," published last month by Penguin, as the Texas Tribune reports. About 300 people were expected to attend.

But the affair was nixed hours before its scheduled start, amid pressure from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan — all Republicans who have expressed strong opposition to the use of "critical race theory" in education system. 

Patrick, who has long been identified with the right-wing fringe of the Texas Republican Party, took personal credit for the event's cancellation, tweeting on Friday: "As a member of the Preservation Board, I told staff to cancel this event as soon as I found out about it. Like efforts to move the Cenotaph, which I also stopped, this fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place at the Bob Bullock Museum."

Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford, the book's co-authors, have responded by saying that the move was blatant political censorship, and that Texas Republicans were cracking down on speech they found distasteful. "Lt. Gov, Dan Patrick takes credit for oppressing free speech and policing thought in Texas," wrote Tomlinson on Twitter. "@BullockMuseum proves it is a propaganda outlet. As for his fact-free comment, well, a dozen people professional historians disagree." 

Penguin Random House, publisher of "Forget the Alamo," issued a statement on Friday confirming that the governor had a hand in the event's cancellation. The company wrote: "The Bullock was receiving increased pressure on social media about hosting the event, as well as to the museum's board of directors (Gov Abbott being one of them) and decided to pull out as a co-host all together."

Texas historical orthodoxy has long maintained that the Battle of the Alamo was about valiant Texas rebels fighting and dying to defending the short-lived independence of the Lone Star State from Mexican tyranny. "Forget the Alamo" challenges that characterization, reframing the conflict as at least partly about Texas' desire to preserve slavery, which Mexico had ended in 1829.

"Just as the site of the Alamo was left in ruins for decades, its story was forgotten and twisted over time, with the contributions of Tejanos — Texans of Mexican origin, who fought alongside the Anglo rebels — scrubbed from the record, and the origin of the conflict over Mexico's push to abolish slavery papered over," the publisher's official summary of the book puts it. "As uncomfortable as it may be to hear for some, celebrating the Alamo has long had an echo of celebrating whiteness."

The Austin event's cancellation comes amid a broad Republican attack against "wokeness" and critical race theory across the nation. Last month, the Texas legislature passed a bill restricting what could be taught in public school classrooms, specifically targeting the New York Times' 1619 Project, a reporting endeavor that reframes slavery as a linchpin of U.S. history.

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Alamo Books Brief Cancel Culture Dan Patrick Greg Abbott Republicans Slavery Texas U.s. History