Gorman, John William (2019-08). The Crucible of Freedom: Reconstruction Violence in Texas, 1865-1868. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • This study examines racial violence in Texas during Reconstruction between the years 1865 and 1868. All incidences of violence were extracted from the Freedmen's Bureau records and organized into a data set by month and year. Statistical tables were created tabulating regional and state levels of violence between 1866 and 1868. The records reveal that violence in Texas possessed a minimum threshold that was economic and labor related, and spikes in violence resulted from the influence of political events on the inflamed white population of Texas. White Texans were predisposed towards violence due to the presence of federal troops, the activities of the Freedmen's Bureau, the forced transition to a free wage labor system, and the challenges to white supremacy. This study reveals that violence was more widespread than previously thought. Urban areas of the state were as prone to violence as were the more agricultural regions. No part of the state east of the Colorado River was immune from violence. Freedmen were just as likely to experience violence in North Texas as they were in Central or East Texas. Second, despite the assertions of revisionist scholars that political violence has been overemphasized, political factors do account for a significant percentage of the spikes in violence committed against the freedmen. This increase was seen in the months leading up to the 1866 elections, the period immediately following the passage of the Third Reconstruction Act and Governor Throckmorton's removal from office in July 1867, in the months immediately preceding and following the February 1868 elections, and during the summer when the state's Constitutional Convention was in session. The story that unfolds was one of a struggle to define a new relationship between the two races. However, any new definition would challenge the basic precepts of white supremacy. White Texans outwardly resented the arrival of federal troops, Bureau agents, and Republican politicians, and openly resisted the policies of Reconstruction. Black Texans, as the most visible symbol of this new dynamic in Texas, suffered tremendous hardships and violence as a result.

publication date

  • August 2019