Why today would we want to look at this compilation assembled twenty-five
years ago? We still use this work because the words of the 1930s interviewees of
the W.P.A. Federal Writers' Project remain as fresh and clear as when Tyler and
Murphy found them. The personal remembrances from the actual former slaves
make this book important.
We know of slavery primarily from the perspective of the whites-the people
who kept most written records. They tell us about slavery. The elderly black
Texans who shared their remembrances with the field workers from the W.P.A.
Federal Writers' Project, however, knew about slavery from the inside out. They
had been there, and many of them bore the physical scars from their days in
In re-reading this fine study, I only regretted that the new printing failed to
include a new forward reviewing the intervening twenty-five years of scholarship
on Texas black history and on the W.P.A. slave narratives. Such an update could
have better directed readers to more recent works in these important areas. This
situation, however, does not detract from the importance of this study.
The Slave Narratives of Texas remains as pertinent to readers today as it was a
quarter century ago. This is not a book about slavery; this is a book about what it
was like to be a slave. As such it is recommended reading for anyone, young or
old, who genuinely wants to learn what life in Texas was like in the past.
Texas Heritage Museum, Hill College T. LINDSAY BAKER
Crown Jewel of Texas: The Story of San Antonio's River. By Lewis F. Fisher. (San
Antonio: Maverick Publishing Company, 1997. Pp. x+117. Illustrations,
preface, chronology, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN o-9651507-1-2.
This history of the San Antonio River will replace the older work, The San
Antonio River, by Mary Ann Noonan Guerra. Fisher tells us the story of the river
that Frederick Law Olmsted described in 1856 as flowing pure as crystal but was
"cluttered with refuse and shunned as an eyesore" (p. 7), fifty years later. The
fragile nature of the river that was fed from springs flowing from the Edwards
Aquifer became quickly apparent shortly after the turn of the century when the
river all but stopped flowing. This led to an extensive debate as to whether to
bury it or save it. The most significant early event was the formation of the San
Antonio River Improvement Association in 1911, which led Mayor Callaghan to
approve the installation of a pump at an abandoned artesian well to feed water
into the river, a practice that continues to the present.
The great flood of 1921 led to another debate on whether to save it or pave it.
The decision to save it led to the construction of the Olmos Dam, which assisted
in saving the downtown in the flood of 1998, and an extensive beautification
project that resulted in the river walk, the "Crown Jewel of Texas"-the most vis-
ited tourist attraction in the state.
Fisher worked extensively with various primary and secondary sources to reveal
the give and take of urban politics between business and conservation groups.
The cover is extremely attractive and leads one to expect similar quality of illus-
trations in the text, but unfortunately the photos in particular in the text are all
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed November 24, 2014.