Friday, August 26, 2016

The Los Angeles Plaza

Estrada, William David The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.
            William David Estrada’s nativity to Los Angeles gives him a particularly keen insight into the history of the Plaza and Los Angeles. He has served in various curator positions throughout the city and is currently the Curator of History at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. His work, The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space, provides an in-depth account of the history of the Plaza and Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Plaza explores changes in spatial and social dimensions over several centuries and shows how these changes reflect the more encompassing story of the city of Los Angeles.
            Thematically and chronologically arranged, Estrada begins The Los Angeles Plaza with a detailed history of the Plaza area prior to colonial rule and up through 1821. He describes early poblador attempts to settle the pueblo and their struggles to seamlessly intermingle the native Indian population with the incoming settlers. Also, Estrada explores the spatial and structural plans of the grid-plan plaza. A major event that Estrada credits as symbolizing the Plaza’s early social and cultural history is the mounting conflict between early missions and the establishment of a civic church. As the civic church grew in authority in the pueblo, the Plaza became the undisputed center of Mexican California.[1]
            Next, Estrada examines the changes that took place in the Plaza area and Los Angeles following Mexican independence from Spain. Southern California experienced a significant expansion of agriculture, notably cattle ranching and farming, along with the growth of private ranchos and an export economy in hides, soaps, and tallow. Los Angeles grew to become the unmatched center of Mexican society in Southern California, with the Plaza at its heart. With the election of Pío Pico of Los Angeles the Plaza came to represent the growing importance of Los Angeles as the focus of social and political life in Alta California. Los Angeleno residents began to exhibit a social prestige because of their residence in the Plaza area. This time period also saw the settlement and acculturation of foreigners from the United States and Europe. Chinese immigration began as early as 1850 and the expansion of Los Angeles would grow to depend on Chinese labor. Estrada proclaims that the changes taking place in Los Angeles indicate that the city was on its way to becoming an American City.
            Indeed, the third chapter, entitled “From Cuidad to City,” defines the urban growth that would permanently alter the landscape of Los Angeles and the Plaza area. Estrada contends that “the 1870s signaled the beginning of several cultural, technological, demographic, and economic transformations that further defined Los Angeles as an emerging American city, and they were most reflected by the changes at the Plaza.”[2] Railroads were the harbinger of the urban-industrial growth experience by Los Angeles and the surrounding Southern California area. Due to exponential population growth, what emerged was a new social landscape segmented along racial and class lines.
            This time period brought more changes to the landscape of the Plaza. Urban and residential development began to move away from the centralized location of the Plaza in Los Angeles. The deteriorating condition of the Plaza area led to the first preservation effort with aims to create a garden park space. In addition, Mexican residents living in the Plaza area began to change the architecture of housing from the established adobe-style to Italianate or Victorian-style housing, in what Estrada points to as a way for Mexicans to adapt to the changing cultural landscape.
            The Los Angeles Plaza depicts the new imagination of the Plaza in the early twentieth century that led to the reclamation of the space by immigrants from differing cultural backgrounds. Estrada argues that the melting-pot of cultures brought new meaning and greater cultural vibrancy to the Plaza. People of all cultural backgrounds used the Plaza and surrounding area for commercial and leisure activities. The new cultural offerings connected recent immigrants to their distant homelands as a sort of psychological survival. The Plaza offered immigrants a place of interaction beyond their homes and workplaces, and increasingly, was the space for radical free speech and an as a rallying place for politics. Additionally, in part because of its central location, throughout World War I the Plaza was known as an important space for revolutionary activities.
            No other example characterizes the commercial-tourist use of the Plaza better than the opening of chapter six. Estrada uncovered a scene from a 1952 film where a recently unemployed Mexican man refuses the only job he can find: portraying a caricature of himself as a sleeping Mexican man underneath a tree near the Plaza. This example paves the way for the efforts to contest then-accepted historical narratives over public pageantry, mural art, and community preservation.
            For Estrada, the distortion of the local history of the Plaza is personal, and the latter half of The Los Angeles Plaza explores the efforts to fight that distortion. The transformation of Olvera Street into a colorful tourist site attempted to hide its historical realities. When exiled Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueros was commissioned to paint a mural, expectations were of an exotic jungle scene. However, when the mural was unveiled “all anticipations of an artwork depicting Southern California as an idyllic land of perpetual sunshine, the missions, and the open shop were instantly shattered.”[3] Ameríca Tropical instead depicted the scene of a crucified Indian amid fallen pyramids, armed revolutionaries, and a bald eagle symbolizing Yankee imperialism. Estrada points out that Ameríca Tropical serves to explain how underlying forms of protest can clarify our understanding of the Plaza as an arena for the continued fight over historical narratives. The concealment of the mural a short time later proves how white contemporary Plaza residents attempted to distort the history of the area.
            No story of the Plaza would be complete without mentioning Christine Sterling and her efforts to expand the Plaza and control the interpretive landscape. Largely due to Sterling’s efforts, the Plaza became the property of the state of California and a designated State historic Park and State Historic Landmark. Despite other shortcomings, Sterling was a defender of the Mexican community. The Latinization of the Plaza and Los Angeles in general brought redemptive meaning to Southern California. Estrada notes the Chicano and Chicana Movement as evidence of greater involvement among Mexican Americans in politics and activism.
The several biographical sketches and personal memories of Plaza occupants such as Karl Yoneda, Meyer Baylin, Christine Sterling, and the homeless Luis, does much to enhance the intimate feel of The Los Angeles Plaza. Without these aspects, Estrada would have fallen short of a true investigation of the Plaza. Estrada is particularly adept at storytelling, and his prose animates history of the Plaza and Los Angeles within the pages of The Los Angeles Plaza.

            Today, the Plaza is a varied mixture of historical, physical, and cultural resources that have fostered as much by myth and current politics as by actual history. The symbolic heart of Los Angeles still remains the Plaza, especially as the population of Mexican Americans continues to grow. As Los Angeles deals with the privatization of its downtown space supplanting traditional streets and spaces, the city will continue to wrestling with the ongoing issues of modernization and interpretation of history.  

[1]William David Estrada, The Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and Contested Space (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008), 40.
[2]Estrada, The Los Angeles Plaza, 81.
[3]Estrada, The Los Angeles Plaza, 210. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Contagious Divides

Shah, Nayan Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Berkley: University of California Press, 2001.
            Nayan Shah is a leading expert in Asian American studies and serves as professor at the University of California. His work, Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown explores how race, citizenship, and public health combined to illustrate the differences between the culture of Chinese immigrants and white norms in public-health knowledge and policy in San Francisco. Shah discusses how this knowledge impacted social lives, politics, and cultural expression. Contagious Divides investigates what it meant to be a citizen of Chinese race in nineteenth and twentieth-century San Francisco.
            Shah begins with the mapping of Chinatown as an immigrant enclave by investigations of health authorities. These investigations provided descriptions of filthy and unsanitary living conditions. The results of the health investigations led to descriptions that would found the body of “knowledge” that Chinese immigrants and their unhygienic habits were the source of epidemic diseases. Chinese social behavior was pointed to as the cultural cause of medical menaces. Chinese immigrants were compared to farm animals and depicted as inhuman and inferior. At the beginning of Chinese settlement in San Francisco Chinese immigrants were considered more animalistic than citizens. The health mapping of Chinatown cemented the relationship between Chinese race and place.
            Contagious Divides next addresses the domestic sphere of Chinese culture. In a chapter entitled “The Dangers of Queer Domesticity,” Shah brings to life the perception white Americans had of Chinese homes. Most American domestic relations consisted of a heterosexual couple and children. However, in Chinatown Chinese men were mostly bachelors and the few Chinese female immigrants there were all considered syphilitic prostitutes. Gender roles, household numbers, spatial arrangements, and a lack of perceived family structure was seen as not only different from American domestic norms, but also as a threat to the racial order and national power. Another space credited with being a place of Chinese degradation were opium dens. Considered by Americans to be semipublic resorts that would seduce white tourists, opium dens generated an inappropriate sociability with Chinese immigrants that created an atmosphere responsible for destroying the morals, manhood, and health of white Americans. Because of their queer domesticity and morally loose social practices, Chinese immigrants were not considered citizens.
            According to Shah, the struggle for respectable domesticity and American cultural citizenship rested on the shoulders of Chinese women. Chinese immigrants were thought to intentionally infect whites with diseases using their best weapon: Chinese female prostitutes. White Americans viewed this racial war as being raged by mercenary prostitutes who would infect young white boys with syphilis. Dr. Mary Sawtelle blamed Chinese women alone for the syphilis pandemic on the Pacific Coast.[1] To many white Americans like Dr. Sawtelle, Chinese prostitutes embodied syphilis.
            Hygiene was considered to be women’s nature and responsibility. This gendered asymmetry led white women in San Francisco to train Chinese women in the tenets of middle-class domesticity and conversion to Christianity. Americans associated hygiene with civilization and whiteness in the materiality of furnishings, decorations, and odors. To be considered a citizen, one would need to be clean, white, and Christian.
            Shah argues that the bubonic plague crisis in Chinatown was a pivotal moment in the establishment of public health power. Amidst bouts of bubonic plague and other epidemic diseases, San Francisco employed quarantines on Chinatown. City health authorities believed contamination could be separated along racial lines. In Chinatown, whites could come and go, but those of Chinese race were expected to remain quarantined. The filth and overcrowding associated with Chinatown was believed to incubate bubonic plague. City health officials responded with the quarantine, disinfection, treatment, and inoculation of all residents of Chinatown. Epidemic logic justified the extraordinary invention of mass quarantine, the mobilization of resources, and the disruption of daily life in Chinatown.
            The Chinese response to the quarantine and the eventual inoculation campaign is interesting. Shah points out three general Chinese reactions: refusal to believe there was an epidemic disease, belief in a disease other than bubonic plague, and the assumption that the cause of the epidemic was from injections of bubonic plague into Chinese residents of Chinatown. The multiple quarantines imposed on Chinatown produced Chinese economic repercussions, protests, and boycotts. Chinese immigrants also exhibited intra-race discrimination when they would treat violently any fellow Chinatown resident who sought out the care of white doctors for illnesses. Combined with the multiple epidemics, quarantines, and the destruction after the 1906 earthquake, the health response in San Francisco ultimately led to the sanitary surveillance and management of Chinatown that would later expand throughout the United States. White property owners and elite Chinese merchants developed plans to rebuild Chinatown in a sanitary manner as an enclave and tourist destination. Sanitary management proved that Chinese immigrants could be viewed as citizen subjects if they abided by prescribed hygiene and sanitary requirements.
            Contagious Divides also surveys the politics of American/Chinese labor and their respective standards of living. White Americans felt economically threatened by Chinese laborers for jobs, health, and the American way of life. Additionally, the Chinese medical menace was believed to be a threat to white households and livelihoods. Consumer campaigns began to link the white American security of workplaces with that of white domestic spaces. For instance, the buy-the-union-label campaigns in the first decade of the twentieth century discouraged the purchase and use of Chinese cigars in order to keep Chinese diseases out of American homes and to enact an economic boycott on Chinese cigar manufacturing. In doing so, the American standard of living would be upheld, white worker’s families, livelihoods, homes, and health would be protected.
            As San Francisco began to expect epidemic diseases to enter its city, Chinese immigrant-medical inspections were thought to be more important than ever. Initial quarantine and rigorous health inspections would serve as the defense against epidemic diseases. San Francisco turned medical inspections into a screening process for the fitness of future citizens. For example, the diagnosis of a bacterial disease in a prospective Chinese immigrant linked disability with the immigrant’s potential fitness for employment. Health officials considered the medical inspections to be not just about stopping the spread of epidemic diseases, but as a way to develop a certain criteria to determine the long-term consequences of citizenship. The health inspections answered the question, “What kind of citizen would the immigrant be?”
One outstanding aspect of Contagious Divides is the chronicling of poetry left by detained Chinese immigrants on Angel Island. The poetry reveals the realities of Chinese detainment and gave the detainees a platform from which to record their experiences. At the time, health officials discounted Chinese poetry and satire reports because it was presumed that the immigrants could know nothing and were in essence not fit for citizenship.
In order for Chinese immigrants to fully be integrated into American society, Chinese conduct and living spaces would need to be standardized according to American practices. “The imperatives of health cemented the relationship between conduct and citizenship.”[2] Middle-class domesticity would be the standard immigrants were held against, including adult male responsibility, female domestic caretaking, and reproduction that was legitimized by marriage.
As the twentieth century wore on, Chinatown residents experienced a dramatic shift in the way they were perceived by Americans. Shah writes, “They went from being reviled and demonized at the turn of the century to being considered deserving and worthy of assistance in the mid-twentieth century.”[3] Finally, the result of decades of public health reform would signify that Chinese immigrants were to be considered citizens.
Contagious Divides conclusively investigates how race, health, and citizenship in nineteenth and twentieth century America provided a foundation for Chinese Americans to reform social conditions of the community and become American citizens. Through the efforts of public health reform and the lens of American domestic norms, Chinese immigrants dispelled the long-held belief of their supposed inhumanity and animalistic characteristics.

[1]Nayan Shah, Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown (Berkley: University of California Press, 2001), 107.
[2]Shah, Contagious Divides, 204.
[3]Shah, Contagious Divides, 225.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

History 5377 - The American West

Book Review: The White Scourge by Neil Foley

Book Review: Migra! by Kelly Lytle Hernandez

Book Review: Contagious Divides by Nayan Shah

Book Review: The Los Angeles Plaza by William David Estrada

Migra! by Kelly Lytle Hernandez

Hernández, Kelly Lytle. Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010).
A leading American historian of race, policing, immigration, and incarceration in the United States, Kelly Lytle Hernández’s Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol tells the story of how Mexican immigrant workers emerged as the primary target of the United States Border Patrol and how, in the process, the United States Border Patrol shaped the history of race in the United States. Migra! also explores social history, including the dynamics of Anglo-American nativism, the power of national security, and labor-control interests of capitalistic development in the American southwest. In short, Migra! explains the intricate relationships United States Border Patrol officers faced within a developing system of immigration law enforcement.

Migra! is divided into three parts, with part one focusing on the highly regional and local period of Border Patrol operations from 1924-1941. Prior to the establishment of the United States Border Patrol, the United States-Mexico border marked a political boundary that migrant Mexican workers needed to cross for seasonal labor. With the founding of the Border Patrol in 1924, its first generation of officers were tasked with the prevention of unlawful entry by aliens into the United States. There were many methods of unlawful entry and many classes of people explicitly prohibited from entering into the United States. To compound the growing problems faced by the Border Patrol, they would have to operate on limited funds. According to one Border Patrol officer from the early years, officers merely “walked around looking wise.”1

Hernández provides an interesting sketch of the officers of the Border Patrol. Most were local men who had come of age in the United States-Mexico borderlands. Many were integrated into the borderlands communities and familiar with its people, customs, and traditions. Unlike the agri-businessmen who profited from Mexican migrant labor, early Border Patrol officers were neither elite members of borderland communities nor active participants in the core economies. These working-class white men vigorously opposed unrestricted Mexican immigration and interpreted immigrants as labor competition. United States Border Patrol officers fostered collaborative relationships with farmers and ranchers as a social and political law enforcement tactic. Hernández contends that United States Border Patrol officers had no training and little supervision. Officers would patrol the political boundary, known as line watches, between the two nations. These line watches were ineffective because of the size of their jurisdictions and the sheer size of the borderlands between Mexico and the United States. Soon it became clear to Border Patrol officers that most illegal migrant activity developed in the greater borderlands regions than along the boundary between Mexico and the United States. “Instead of enforcing the boundary between the US and Mexico, BP officers patrolled backcountry trails and conducted traffic stops on borderland roadways to capture unsanctioned Mexican immigrants as they travelled from the border to their final destination.” American citizens of Mexican descent. In addition, Border Patrol officers would use selective immigration law enforcement in exchange for respect.

Migra! is not simply focused on United States Border Patrol history, but the shared history of a bilateral attempt at controlling migration between Mexico and the United States. With the establishment of the United States Border Patrol and the tightening of American immigration control, Mexican officers were forced to patrol emigration. Hernández explains the three main benefits behind Mexican emigration. Emigration to the United States provided an economic opportunity for Mexicans. In postwar Mexico, Mexican laborers suffered low wages and poverty. Emigration was seen as the only option for many Mexican citizens. Next, with many poor laborers emigrating to the United States, the rural countryside was drained of citizens, thus avoiding potential political rebellions. Finally, Mexican labor officials saw emigration as a way to remake Mexican society. Those who crossed the border into the United States for seasonal labor work would learn cultural and economic lessons that could be shared upon their return to Mexico.

Part two of Migra! focuses on the nationalization of the United States Border Patrol during and after World War II. Due to the perceived threat of emigrants from any nation, Border Patrol resources were amplified and law enforcement personnel was diverted toward the Mexican and United States borderlands. With increased patrol of the borderlands, many Mexican migrants were unable to cross the border for seasonal work. This created a shortage of Mexican labor that United States agri-businessmen could not afford. The Bracero Program would serve as a binational program to manage the cross-border migration of Mexican laborers. 4 United States labor officials approached the Mexican Department of Migration about a controlled and managed system of legal migration. The Bracero Program offered Mexicans the opportunity to legally work in the United States. Braceros were healthy, landless, and surplus male agricultural workers from areas in Mexico not experiencing a labor shortage. Braceros met the labor need to American agribusinessmen, but Hernández counters that the Bracero Program was a system of labor exploitation, a project of masculinity and modernization, and a site of gendered resistance. The United States Border Patrol built upon the opportunities provided by the Bracero Program to gain greater control over unsanctioned border crossings. United States Border Patrol officers and Mexican Border Patrol officers instituted a close working relationship to transform the permeable US-Mexican border into a clear boundary. According to Hernández, the Mexico-United States boundary was now seen as a bridge that linked rather than divided.

In part three of Migra!, Hernández explains that the bilateral migration control between Mexican and United States Border Patrolmen created economic problems for American agri-businessmen. Farmers and ranchers rebelled against their loss of influence over migration control. With new Border Patrol officers who were not the “good ol’ boys” of the past United States Border Patrol, the relationship between officers and farmers was marked by tension. Farmers expected cooperation instead of interference from United States Border Patrol officers. The officers were too effective, too inflexible, and too unconcerned with the farmers’ position to turn a blind eye to immigration law 5 enforcement. Farmers in south Texas likened their plight to Southern slave owners’ struggles against Northern aggressors during the Civil War-era. Finally, Hernández details how the United States Border Patrol was about to fight back against farmers’ rebellions to restore control, goodwill, friendship, and legitimacy in the borderlands community.

Turning toward crime control in a momentous shift in the development of the United States Border Patrol, the Border Patrol won the support of Texas and stabilized its position in the Mexico-United States borderlands. With the held of law enforcement strategies such as Operation Wetback and Operation Cloud Burst, the United States Border Patrol triumphed through negotiation, compromise, and retreat. Migra! provides an in-depth study of United States immigration law enforcement. It explains the cross-border dimensions of migration control, and details the Border Patrols growth in the borderlands. Border Patrol policies are shown as intrinsically embedded in the expansion of federal law enforcement in the twentieth century. Hernández concludes that the United States Border Patrol’s rise evolved according to economic demands and nativist anxieties, but also operated according to individual interests and community investments of Border Patrol officers.

Migra! is essential reading for understanding the foundation that the United States Border Patrol was built upon. However, Migra! is short-sighted in that it will not provide readers with an explanation of the current situation in the Mexico-United States borderlands. This is the only downfall in this magnificently written and impeccably researched book.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Scourge of Whiteness

Foley, Neil. The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1997).

Holding degrees in American Culture, English and American Literature, and English, Neil Foley specializes in the evolving components of race and social identity located in what he calls the Borderlands: Mexico and the American West. The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture bridges the gap between the narratives of two Borderlands histories, that of African-Americans and southern history, and that of Mexican-Americans and southwestern history. Looking at Texas, and specifically the area from Dallas in the north, Corpus Christi in the south, San Antonio in the west, and Houston in the east, Foley analyzes how Mexicans, blacks, and poor whites maneuvered and coped with the racial space in this Borderlands province of cotton culture during the first half of the twentieth century. 

To Foley, this area of central Texas provides an exceptional example of Borderlands interactions because of the nature of cotton culture there as compared to plantation farming in other parts of the South. Cotton farming in central Texas relied on mostly white share tenants, and mostly black or Mexican sharecroppers. Migrant Mexican labor was also used to harvest crops. These three standards produced complex configurations as Mexicans began competing with blacks for more work and both of those races competed with whites for tenancy.

Although a southern state, Foley considers Texas “the west” of “the south.” Exposed to relationships between blacks and whites, The White Scourge begins with identifying how Mexicans created a division in the black/white dichotomy of southern race relations. The foundation of the tripartite race relation began with the Texas Revolution and War with Mexico. Whites held their positions of power and supremacy, blacks maintained their dominion with none of the same constitutional protections given to whites, and Mexicans existed in a brown area known as nonwhite. Owing to the implementation of barbed wire fences and railroads, the rise of the cotton culture in central Texas created a unique convergence of the three races.

The difference of the racial classes created a problem with poor whites. Foley calls the poorest whites “the white scourge.” These white sharecroppers competed with blacks and Mexicans economically and were marked as substandard whites whose reproductive fertility threatened Nordic whiteness. Black sharecroppers were viewed generally the same as when they were enslaved: racially inferior and firmly situated in their natural economic condition. Mexicans, in their non-whiteness, were thought to make ideal seasonal laborers because of their supposed docility and nomadic nature. Foley reasons that Mexicans walking the color line in Texas society probably preferred sharecropping and tenant farming to the economic conditions in Mexico. 

After 1910 brown became the new color menace in Texas. Driven deeper into Texas by railroad work, white farmers increasingly relied on Mexican labor. Labor needs prevented immigration restrictions because the dependence on Mexican labor outweighed white worries of Mexican radicalization and mongrelization in the southwest. 

Foley next examines the complex land-tenure arrangements that shaped race, class, and gender identities of owners, renters, sharecroppers, and wage hands. The scourge of whiteness were to remain firmly entrenched at the bottom of the racial and economic hierarchy. Farm ownership and land tenure, which proved to be essentially out of reach for the majority of poor whites, defined the boundaries of yeoman-hood and served as the blueprint for a prosperous white family. However, Foley points to other significant problems for poor whites: “extortionate credit merchants, bankers, landlords, boll-weevil infestations, soil depletion, low cotton prices, flood, and droughts.” These issues ensured that poor whites would remain tenants, barely superior to blacks and Mexicans. 

The narrative of Texas cotton culture would not be complete without mentioning the Socialist Party in Texas and Tom Hickey. Foley discusses the efforts of the Socialist party to organize Anglo and Mexican tenant farmers. Landless tenants and Texas Socialists demanded occupancy and use of tillable land held by absentee landlords. In order to force the sale of land not being tilled but owned by the absentee landlords, Socialists proposed a land tax that would in effect force the landowners to sell their tillable land. The underlying theme of the Socialists, however, was white supremacy and a positive endorsement of the color line. For his part, Hickey tried to incorporate Lost Cause and Old South ideology into Socialist thought.

The White Scourge provides a recounting of scientific management of farm workers in the twentieth century. Large-scale cotton ranches became the intersection between race and agricultural technology. Foley highlights the 200,000-acre Taft Ranch as an example of scientific management. Operated as a corporation by farm managers, in addition to oversight and management of the agricultural decisions, Taft Ranch managers controlled many aspects of workers’ lives; housing, stores, children’s schools, churches, and electoral votes. Workers were often organized according to scientific principles that would increase profits and proficiency. Scientific management revolutionized the employment and management of the multiracial agricultural workforce in central Texas. Another excellent book on corporate communities similar to Taft Ranch is Smeltertown: Making and Remembering a Southwest Border Community by Monica Perales. Instead of a corporate-owned farm community, Smeltertown tells the story of a corporate-owned smelter town near El Paso, Texas, where citizens also struggled with company-owned churches and stores and a lack of upward mobility. 

The scourge of whiteness simply could not compete with corporate ranches and scientific management. Foley says, “The growth of corporate cotton ranches in Texas had rendered obsolete the notion of rising up from farm laborer to farm owner.”

As these scientific changes took place, white families became tenants and sharecroppers. Women on farms experienced manually challenging and difficult lives. Many, as a result of their position in the social hierarchy, worked in the field alongside men more and more, even though the domestic duties usually accorded to women never lessened. Men began working with new technological farm implements, while women continued to use the most rudimentary tools associated with domestic work. Foley also examines the changes on the horizon for women as the automobile became more affordable for lower-class citizens. For women, their social geography could be briefly changed because the automobile was now able to carry them away from their farms and duties. Often relying on legal testimony of disgruntled tenants and sharecroppers, Foley paints a shockingly laborious existence of the daily lives of sharecroppers and tenants. 

Foley points to New Deal acreage-reduction programs as the reason behind the displacement of tenant families throughout the South. As well, the advancements in farm equipment technology drove others out of the South. Unlike what many consider to be the reason behind the flight of “Dust Bowlers” for California, Foley does not put as much blame on dust and soil depletion. Instead, Foley contends that mechanization had already begun the process, with drought, windstorms, and grasshoppers compounding the problem. Together, New Deal plans and mechanization created a surplus of tenants and croppers. There were too many jobless and too few jobs in the South. 

The first half of the twentieth century saw the immigration of Mexicans into the black-and-white cotton economy of central Texas. The established cotton culture was upended along racial and class lines. Slowly, white skin color did not carry the same economic power as it had following the Civil War and Reconstruction. With a triumvirate of races, the farm order of the South and Southwest would never be the same. The White Scourge is essential reading for anyone attempting to understand the racial and economic history of central Texas.

As the great-granddaughter of Texas sharecroppers, The White Scourge was at its most interesting when documenting the lives of poor white, black, and Mexican women. Foley’s parallel of men’s farming equipment upgrades compared to the lack of advancement of women’s comparative tools of the trade was appalling. “While men traded in their hoes for expensive steel plows, farm women continued to haul water from the wells in pails.” Particularly touching was the correspondence from Mrs. M. M. Clayton to President Herbert Hoover of her despair of having little to show after thirty-nine years of marriage and farming. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

John M Fulgham

birth: January 17, 1871
location: Texas
death: December 7, 1888
location: Texas

father: Marquis de Lafayette Fulgham
mother: Catherine Smith

1880 census


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Alfons Parmentier

Alfons Parmentier

birth: August 289, 1886
location: Belgium
death: January 7, 1967
location: Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois


spouse: Maria Vandeburg
spouse: Floreta Murcez
spouse: Caroline E.

Naturalization record - 1919

U.S. Passport application: 1923

1930 census

1940 census

World War II draft card


children with Maria Vandeburg:

Robert Purdon Parmentier

children with Floreta Murcez:

Frank Parmentier
Albert Parmentier

Dylan Taylor's great-great-grandfather

Alfons Parmentier - WWII draft card

The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Draft Registration Cards for Fourth Registration for Illinois, 04/27/1942 - 04/27/1942; NAI Number: 623284; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System; Record Group Number: 147

Alfons Parmentier - 1930 census

1930 census
location: Moline, Rock Island County, Illinois
date: April 7, 1930

A Permentier  head  male  white  43  married  age @ 1st marriage: 37  Belgium  janitor at Elk's Club  owns own home valued at $2,500  immigration year: 1908  mother language: French
Florda H Permentier  wife  female  white  37  married  age @ 1st marriage: 30  Holland
Frank Permentier  son  male  white  6 4/12  single  Illinois
Albert Permentier  son  male  white  4 8/12  single  Illinois

"United States Census, 1930", database with images, FamilySearch( : 8 December 2015), A Permentier, 1930.

Alfons Parmentier - 1940 census

1940 census
location: Moline, Rock Island County, Illinois
date: April 9, 1940

Alphonse Parmentier  head  male  white  53  married  Belgium  janitor @ private club  owns own home, valued at $2,000
Caroline Parmentier  wife  female  white  47  married  Iowa
Albert Parmentier  son  male  white  14  single  Illinois
Adalou Parmentier  step-daughter  female  white  12  single  Wisconsin

"United States Census, 1940," database with images, FamilySearch( : 17 May 2014), Alphonse Parmenteer, Ward 7, Moline, Moline Township, Rock Island, Illinois, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 81-60, sheet 61B, family , NARA digital publication T627 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012), roll 875.

Alfons Parmentier - 1919 Naturalization Record

"Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950," database with images,FamilySearch ( : 12 December 2014), Alfons Parmenter, 1919; citing Moline, Illinois, NARA microfilm publication M1285 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 142; FHL microfilm 1,432,142.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Alfons Parmentier - U.S. Passport application 1923

"United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925," database with images, FamilySearch( : 4 September 2015), Alfons Parmentier, 1923; citing Passport Application, Illinois, United States, source certificate #255789, Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925, 2196, NARA microfilm publications M1490 and M1372 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,728,340.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Henry Clay Smith

birth: 1820
location: Louisiana
death: 1891
location: Bezer, Smith County, Mississippi

father: Tobias Smith
mother: Rebeca Narcissus Bankston

spouse: unknown
spouse: Eliza Jane Garner

1870 census


children with unknown:

children with Eliza Jane Garner:

Laura Smith - 1866
UNA Smith - 1868
Mary Adalia Smith - 1870
Peter Lesley Smith - 1871

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Warren J Morris and Francis Baker - marriage

location: Pike County, Georgia
date: March 28, 1844

Dodd, Jordan. Georgia Marriages to 1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1997.                    

Warren J Morris - 1880 census

1880 census
location: Van Zandt County, Texas
date: June 12-13, 1880

W J Morris  white  male  61  married  farmer  Georgia
Francis Morris  white  female  54  wife  married  housekeeping  South Carolina
William J Morris  white  male  32  son  single  works on farm  Georgia
G V Morris  white  female  15  daughter  single  at home  Texas
S S Morris  white  female  10  daughter  single  at home  Texas
J T Williams  white  male  30  grandson  single  works on farm  Texas

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 25 May 2016), W J Morris, Precinct 5, Van Zandt, Texas, United States; citing enumeration district ED 123, sheet 108D, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 1330; FHL microfilm 1,255,330.

Mildred Adams - 1850 census

1850 census
location: Smith County, Texas
date: November 7, 1850

Mildred Adams  59  female  $1000  North Carolina
David L Adams  15  male  Georgia
Warren J Morris  29  male  teacher  $1000  Georgia
Frances Morris  23  female  North Carolina
Elizabeth Morris  5  female  Georgia
Thomas B Morris  3  male  Georgia
William J Morris  1  male  Georgia

"United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 25 May 2016), Warren G Morris in household of Mildred Adams, Smith county, part of, Smith, Texas, United States; citing family 388, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Oscar Otilla Morris

birth: February 25, 1882
location: Texas
death: October 2, 1966

father: Joseph Lumpkin Morris
mother: Mary Alice James

spouse: Margaret Rowan

1900 census

1910 census

1920 census

1930 census

1940 census


children with Margaret Rowan:

Millicent Arlene Morris - 1905
Retta Ilene Morris - 1905
Earl Silas Morris - 1911
Lillian Morris - 1914
Joy B Morris - 1916
Oscar H Morris - 1920

Georgia Ann Morris Honnicutt

birth: December 21, 1879
location: Texas
death: February 21, 1952
location: Texas

father: Joseph Lumpkin Morris
mother: Mary Alice James

spouse: Virgil A Bobbitt
spouse: Hunnicutt

1880 census

1900 census

1910 census

1920 census

1930 census

1940 census


children with Virgil A Bobbitt:

Dove Rena Bobbitt - 1899
Deno O Bobbitt - 1901
Velmer A Bobbitt - 1904
Milam Bobbitt - 1907
Opal Bobbitt - 1909

Daniel Hopson and Josephine Celcer marriage

location: Henderson County, Texas
date: September 8, 1923

"Texas, County Marriage Records, 1837-1977," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 24 May 2016), Don Hopson and Josephine Celcer, 08 Sep 1923, Marriage; citing Henderson, Texas, United States, Citing county clerk offices, Texas; FHL microfilm 1,481,022.

Monday, May 23, 2016

John J Robbins

birth: 1854
death: 1894

father: John Wells Robbins
mother: Frances Elizabeth Weaver

spouse: Mary Anna Jackson

1860 census

1870 census

marriage to Mary Anna Jackson - 1879

1880 census


children with Mary Anna Jackson:

Wilma Robbins - 1880
Click Estell Robbins - 1882
Flectra M Robbins - 1884
John Thomas Robbins - 1886
Henry Montgomery Robbins - 1891
Annie Cynthia Robbins - 1893
John Jackson Robbins - 1894

Robbins - 1870 cesus

1870 census
location: Smith County, Texas
date: August 30, 1870

Francis Robbins  female  white  keeping house  $1000, $400  Alabama
Mary Robbins  20  female  white  at home  Texas
Nancy Robbins  18  female  white  at home  Texas
John Robbins  16  male  white  farm labor  Texas
Martha Robbins  15  female  white  at home  Texas
Texas Robbins  14  female  white  at home  Texas
Alice Robbins  12  female  white  at home  Texas
Josephine Robbins  9  female  white  Texas
Cornelia Robbins  7  female  white  Texas
Henry Turner  22  male  white  farm labor  Louisiana
James Turner  1  male  white  Texas
Isaac Abbs  21  male  black  farm labor  Texas

"United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 23 May 2016), John Robbins in household of Francis Robbins, Texas, United States; citing p. 81, family 558, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 553,104.

John J Robbins - 1880 census

1880 census
location: Smith County, Texas
date: August 10 1880

J J Robbins  white  male  26  married  farmer
Anna Robbins  white  female  18  wife  married  keeping house
W C James  white  male  18  boarder  single  farm labor

"United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 23 May 2016), J J Robbins, Precinct 2, Smith, Texas, United States; citing enumeration district ED 96, sheet 157D, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 1326; FHL microfilm 1,255,326.

John J Robbins and Mary Anna Jackson marriage

location: Smith County, Texas
date: December 18, 1879

"Texas, County Marriage Records, 1837-1977," database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 23 May 2016), J J Robbins and Anna Jackson, 18 Dec 1879, Marriage; citing Smith, Texas, United States, Citing county clerk offices, Texas; FHL microfilm 1,853,162.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

H.M. Rounsavall - death

Arch Nichols and Russell Williams were wandering around in Leagueville, near the pipeline. They heard a shot coming from across from Ruth Horton's house. They ran up there and Johnnie Hopson had shot H.M. Rounsavall. H.M. had fired a shot at Johnnie, and Johnnie grabbed a shot gun. H.M. had grabbed the barrel and Johnnie fired, shooting off H.M.'s finger tips and into his stomach.

Dr. Horton came around to see about H.M. and told Homer: "I can probably fix your fingers up but I can't do anything about the stomach. You had better get to a hospital."

Sel Smith had a studabaker and Arch and Sel loaded H.M. up and headed to a hospital.

Highway 175 wasn't in existence, but there was a sandy road that ran through to Jacksonville. However, given the time of year, August, cars couldn't make the trip through. So, they had to drive around through Tyler to Jacksonville. On the way through Tyler they had a flat tire. Sel had a jub of moonshine in the car and during the tire change asked H.M. if he needed a drink. H.M. said, "I believe I do and you know how I like it." It was understood that H.M. wanted the moonshine straight-up and not cut with water.

After the tire change the studabaker made it to Jacksonville. H.M. was in the elevator headed to the fourth floor where surgery could take place when he died.

as re-told by my Grandad, May 22, 2016 before church. We sat in the utility room and talked about Genealogy, various people in the community, and how my work at school was going.