A Historiography of Reconstruction in Texas:
Some Myths and Problems
EDGAR P. SNEED*
Y AND LARGE, HISTORIANS OF TEXAS RECONSTRUCTION EITHER HAVE
spoken for themselves or, worse, have spoken for their ancestors.
Down through the years, other historians have not critically tested
their original assumptions about their subject. Therefore, their schol-
arship, while rich in data, is in danger of losing substance. Reevalua-
tion, as well as new research, is mandatory to restore useful vigor to
this major field of Texas history.
Enduring value and relevance in historical literature depend upon
a work's significance for succeeding generations of historians and
readers. The historian must not speak for himself but must speak to
the continuing historical community and interested public."
A reevaluation of Reconstruction history of Texas should fit within
the context of current historiographical examination of American
Reconstruction history." The two recent books of John Hope Franklin
*Mr. Sneed is assistant professor of history at West Texas State University. Research on
this topic began in a seminar under the late H. Bailey Carroll. Subsequent research and
manuscript preparation was made possible through a generous faculty research grant
from Texas A8cI University.
'A tone of unexamined reverence for local leaders and Reconstruction attitudes of
Texas conservatives was established in the first three general post-Reconstruction histories
of Texas: Dudley Goodall Wooten (ed.), A Comprehensive History of Texas, z685-1897
(2 vols.; Dallas, 1898); Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans, edited by
Eugene C. Barker and Ernest William Winkler (5 vols.; Chicago, 1914); and Louis J.
Wortham, History of Texas: From Wdalderness to Commonwealth (5 vols.; Fort Worth,
1924). This tone has proved contagious to most Texas historians. The recently published
history of Texas Reconstruction, Ernest Wallace, Texas in Turmoil, z849-1875 (Austin,
1965), designed as popular history, proves that the contagion is not yet spent.
'William Henry Walsh, An Introduction to Philosophy of History (London, 1951)
is one contemporary attempt to investigate systematically the nature and significance of
historical thought and method. Consider also the analyses of Patrick Gardiner, The
Nature of Histo ical Explanation (London, 1952), and of Cicely Veronica Wedgwood,
Truth and Opinion (London, 1960).
"In 1940 Howard K. Beale set in motion the historiographical review of Reconstruction
with his article, "On Rewriting Reconstruction History," American Historical Review,
XLV (July, 1940), 807-827. A. A. Taylor, "Historians of the Reconstruction," Journal of
Negro History, XXIII (January, 1938), 16-34, and Francis B. Simkins, "New Viewpoints
of Southern Reconstruction," Journal of Southern History, V (February, 1939), 49-61,
made earlier appeals for reexamination. But Beale's call, having the enormous prestige
of his own reputation and the preeminence of the American Historical Review, received
a general hearing among Reconstruction scholars. Major historiographical studies have
been made by John Hope Franklin, in "Whither Reconstruction Historiography?" Jour-
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/. Accessed January 30, 2015.