Difference between revisions of "Sul Ross"

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As is typical of white supremacists today, Ross was very public when speaking of “the negro problem” stating that he believed Caucasians to be “stronger in intelligence” than Blacks<ref>{{cite book| last = Ross | first = Governor Lawrence Sullivan | title = Education of the Colored Race. An Exhibit of What Texas, Under Democratic Rule, Has Done in the Past, and Is Now Doing for the Education and Betterment of the Colored Race | date = 1889}}</ref>.  This, combined with his virulent racism, made his a questionable choice to be named as the 8th president of Texas A&M in 1890. Understanding teachings on the A&M campus included faculty lectures on “the abomination of African citizenship” delivered mostly by former Confederate soldiers to students seen as “Keepers of the Lost Cause” dressed in uniforms of Confederate gray make the reason for choosing Ross obvious.  
 
As is typical of white supremacists today, Ross was very public when speaking of “the negro problem” stating that he believed Caucasians to be “stronger in intelligence” than Blacks<ref>{{cite book| last = Ross | first = Governor Lawrence Sullivan | title = Education of the Colored Race. An Exhibit of What Texas, Under Democratic Rule, Has Done in the Past, and Is Now Doing for the Education and Betterment of the Colored Race | date = 1889}}</ref>.  This, combined with his virulent racism, made his a questionable choice to be named as the 8th president of Texas A&M in 1890. Understanding teachings on the A&M campus included faculty lectures on “the abomination of African citizenship” delivered mostly by former Confederate soldiers to students seen as “Keepers of the Lost Cause” dressed in uniforms of Confederate gray make the reason for choosing Ross obvious.  
  
The Texas A&M of Ross’ time was unquestionably a virulently racist institution. It was under Ross that white supremacists at Texas A&M began to cloak their racist beliefs with cries of “defending tradition.” To this day, remnants of Ross’ white supremacist beliefs are displayed both in open and in secret on the Texas A&M campus and by A&M alumni. Today’s cult-like nature of Texas A&M and many of its rituals (both public and secret) that strike outsiders as odd (usually explained by A&M supporters as being '''[Aggy_turditions|“tradition”]'''), are directly tied to the white supremacist beliefs of Lawrence Sullivan Ross and the white supremacist beliefs passed on to students since the day Jefferson Davis was first chosen to lead the institution.
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The Texas A&M of Ross’ time was unquestionably a virulently racist institution. It was under Ross that white supremacists at Texas A&M began to cloak their racist beliefs with cries of “defending tradition.” To this day, remnants of Ross’ white supremacist beliefs are displayed both in open and in secret on the Texas A&M campus and by A&M alumni. Today’s cult-like nature of Texas A&M and many of its rituals (both public and secret) that strike outsiders as odd (usually explained by A&M supporters as being '''[[Aggy_turditions|"tradition"]]'''), are directly tied to the white supremacist beliefs of Lawrence Sullivan Ross and the white supremacist beliefs passed on to students since the day Jefferson Davis was first chosen to lead the institution.
  
 
Unfortunately for Black education and economic advancement, Prairie View A&M University, the Land Grant Act/ HBCU in Texas, is by Texas law a branch of Texas A&M University. The effect of this arrangement while Ross was head of Texas A&M was that as head of A&M, Ross also oversaw operations at Prairie View. He was the top administrator of both schools. To understand just how severely Ross damaged Black education and Black aspirations as a whole, one must remember that prior to the enactment of the state’s 1876 Constitution, there was de facto no public school system available to young, Black Texans. Between 1876 and 1900, when Sul Ross was at the height of his political influence, Black education in Texas desperately needed a strong, far-sighted leader. What it got was a white supremacist who was convinced Blacks were genetically “weaker in intelligence” than Whites.
 
Unfortunately for Black education and economic advancement, Prairie View A&M University, the Land Grant Act/ HBCU in Texas, is by Texas law a branch of Texas A&M University. The effect of this arrangement while Ross was head of Texas A&M was that as head of A&M, Ross also oversaw operations at Prairie View. He was the top administrator of both schools. To understand just how severely Ross damaged Black education and Black aspirations as a whole, one must remember that prior to the enactment of the state’s 1876 Constitution, there was de facto no public school system available to young, Black Texans. Between 1876 and 1900, when Sul Ross was at the height of his political influence, Black education in Texas desperately needed a strong, far-sighted leader. What it got was a white supremacist who was convinced Blacks were genetically “weaker in intelligence” than Whites.

Revision as of 13:09, 26 July 2020

Brig. Gen Lawrence Sullivan Ross, CSA (ret), 1838-1898

Lawrence Sullivan Ross
One of the most revered individuals in the history of Texas A&M is Brig. Gen. Lawrence Sullivan Ross, CSA (ret), a former “Indian killer” and Confederate general who is widely accepted as being responsible for ordering the Civil War-era cold-blooded murder of African-American troops serving in the U.S. Army who had been taken prisoner outside Yazoo City, Mississippi in February, 1964. For this reason, and many others, southern wartime papers pridefully referred to Ross as “the gallant Texas negro killer,” a name that stays with him to this day.

Sul Ross "negro killer"

Ross’s motivations for engaging in warfare against Native Americans from 1858-1861, and against the United States Constitution from 1861-1865, have been claimed by his supporters to be supremely virtuous and honorable. In reality, Ross’ motivations were clearly summed up in a 1920s era biography of Ross written by his daughter, Elizabeth “Bessie” Clarke[1]. Clarke states unequivocally that Lawrence Sullivan Ross’ military actions were driven by one ambition - to establish the supremacy of the white man. Hence, it is from his own direct flesh and blood that we know Lawrence Sullivan Ross killed people of color because was a white supremacist.

Today, many on the Texas A&M campus openly worship and venerate the memory of Sul Ross and what he stood for. To say the least, it is not a stretch to identify those who venerate, worship, or lay themselves prostrate before idols created in Ross’ image (or venerate “that which Ross stood for’) as also being white supremacists.

In 1886 Ross, the white supremacist candidate for Texas governor, prevailed in an election as corrupt as one could imagine. Ross’ election sowed the seeds of the Jim Crow era in Texas and lead directly to the disenfranchisement of Blacks at the state level until the U.S. Supreme Court mandated massive change starting in the 1950s. It was while Ross was governor that racially segregated rail cars became state law. During Ross’ governorship, Blacks were excluded from state organizations such as the State Medical Association because of a stated requirement for all applicants to be White. Public lynchings, racial cleansing, election fraud, and judicial misconduct characterized Ross’ “leadership.”

There are no credible accounts of Ross personally involved in the murder or any Black Texans after the time he gained his reputation as ‘The gallant Texas negro killer.” But whether it was intentionally not taking action to curb civil rights abuses while he was governor, or not reforming the virulently racist curriculum being taught on the Texas A&M campus while he was the institution’s highest ranking administrator, as the individual best positioned to show leadership and truly serve all Texans and when challenged to overcome his belief in the supremacy of the white man, Ross intentionally failed to rise to the challenge time and time again.

The lynchings, immolations, and other atrocities committed against Blacks by white supremacists during the 1886 Texas election so appalled the nation, the U.S. Senate initiated an investigation that produced a report of over 800 pages detailing atrocities committed to suppress Black suffrage. The 1886 Texas election was the first to result in no Black elected officials whatsoever at the state level since Blacks obtained the right to vote. Under Ross’ governorship, atrocities against Blacks by white supremacists, and racial cleansing of entire counties, because commonplace. Anti-Black terrorism, murder and apartheid defined Texas while Ross was governor.

By ensuring law enforcement and the courts were corrupt, Ross used his office to influence events far more than if he personally participated in the racial atrocities. When Blacks stood up for their rights, fellow white supremacists would cry "riot" or "insurrection," and Ross dependably called out the (white) militia to quell the “uprising.” But instances such as Black Texans being doused with kerosene in their sleep and set on fire by whites, or found hanging from trees in public spaces lead to inaction. Governor Ross, "the Black man's best friend," simply did nothing other than announce a “reward” that all knew would never be paid because, as history has well documented, the white supremacist sheriffs who dominated Texas law enforcement at the time were loath to arrest their fellow white supremacists for crimes against Black Texans. Those very few white supremacists brought to trial were overwhelmingly found not guilty by juries comprised overwhelmingly of individuals, themselves white supremacists.

In one instance in 1889, called the “Jaybird-Woodpecker War,” militant white supremacists intent on the racial cleansing of yet another majority Black population Texas county, and Black Texans faced with the hostility to Black civil rights openly practiced by Ross’ government, resorted to open gunfire. True to form, Governor Ross called out the (white) militia. Ross “negotiated a resolution” to the conflict. He claimed as governor, he lacked sufficient powers to help terrorized Blacks obtain justice. Ross insisted Blacks seeking justice had no recourse other than to rely on courts Ross knew to be run by fellow white supremacists. As an example, after the Jaybird-Woodpecker War was quelled, over 20 white supremacists were arrested. In a travesty of justice typical under Ross’ governorship, the sham trials that followed failed to result in a single conviction. Completely denied justice by a corrupt governor, and knowing if they stayed in their homes they would be killed by white supremacists, Blacks were forced from their land and a system of racial vote suppression was put in place that lasted until it was dismantled by the U.S. Supreme Court over half a century later. This scenario of government supported civil rights violations followed by racial cleansing happened repeatedly in Texas while brig. Gen Lawrence Sullivan Ross, CSA (ret) was governor of Texas.

As is typical of white supremacists today, Ross was very public when speaking of “the negro problem” stating that he believed Caucasians to be “stronger in intelligence” than Blacks[2]. This, combined with his virulent racism, made his a questionable choice to be named as the 8th president of Texas A&M in 1890. Understanding teachings on the A&M campus included faculty lectures on “the abomination of African citizenship” delivered mostly by former Confederate soldiers to students seen as “Keepers of the Lost Cause” dressed in uniforms of Confederate gray make the reason for choosing Ross obvious.

The Texas A&M of Ross’ time was unquestionably a virulently racist institution. It was under Ross that white supremacists at Texas A&M began to cloak their racist beliefs with cries of “defending tradition.” To this day, remnants of Ross’ white supremacist beliefs are displayed both in open and in secret on the Texas A&M campus and by A&M alumni. Today’s cult-like nature of Texas A&M and many of its rituals (both public and secret) that strike outsiders as odd (usually explained by A&M supporters as being "tradition"), are directly tied to the white supremacist beliefs of Lawrence Sullivan Ross and the white supremacist beliefs passed on to students since the day Jefferson Davis was first chosen to lead the institution.

Unfortunately for Black education and economic advancement, Prairie View A&M University, the Land Grant Act/ HBCU in Texas, is by Texas law a branch of Texas A&M University. The effect of this arrangement while Ross was head of Texas A&M was that as head of A&M, Ross also oversaw operations at Prairie View. He was the top administrator of both schools. To understand just how severely Ross damaged Black education and Black aspirations as a whole, one must remember that prior to the enactment of the state’s 1876 Constitution, there was de facto no public school system available to young, Black Texans. Between 1876 and 1900, when Sul Ross was at the height of his political influence, Black education in Texas desperately needed a strong, far-sighted leader. What it got was a white supremacist who was convinced Blacks were genetically “weaker in intelligence” than Whites.

By 1890, Ross’ last year as governor, there were almost 9,000 schools of all types in Texas, but only one Black high school in the entire state. Ft Worth schools reported no black students whatsoever past the eighth grade. When Ross’ term as governor ended, the state school superintendent reported relatively few Black students in history and English composition courses, and almost none in Algebra, Geometry, Philosophy or Physiology. Unquestionably, while governor Ross had no meaningful impact on Black education in Texas[3].

To cloak their white supremacist beliefs, supporters of Ross today claim he supported Prairie View. Some go so far to claim he was both individually and personally responsible for “saving Prairie View from greedy real estate speculators in the state capitol.” In reality, consistent with his white supremacist beliefs, Ross fought those wanting to drive Prairie View curriculum toward instruction in professional pursuits that could offer Black Texans economic mobility.

Educated Black professionals would have resulted in competition with Whites for well-paying jobs. Ross favored (and installed at Prairie View) a curriculum largely designed to keep Black Texans, even at the highest levels of education available to Blacks, mired in low wage and manual labor pursuits such as shoe making, carpentry, and bricklaying. In Ross’ time, Blacks saw education as “the key that would open doors which separated the slave from the freeman as well as divided poverty from wealth.”[4] By limiting the educational opportunities offer Black students at Prairie View, and by perpetuating virulent racism on the campus of Texas A&M, Brig. Gen Lawrence Sullivan Ross, CSA (Ret), the “gallant Texas negro killer,” the man who killed untold men “to establish the supremacy of the white man,” ensured that key was kept from the hands of Black Texans, depriving those students under his charge of the opportunity for a full, meaningful life.

Today’s white supremacists cloak Ross as having brought munificent wealth to Prairie View, starting in 1890. In reality, it was the U.S. Congress, through the 1890 Land Grant Act (specifically crafted to bring additional financial resources to “separate but equal” Black land grant institutions) that brought the additional financial resources to Prairie View A&M. “The gallant Texas negro killer” had little to do with the additional financial resources for Black education that white supremacists attribute to Ross’ actions.

Ross would eventually lead Texas A&M University and Prairie View A&M until early 1898 when, while on a hunting trip with friends, Ross ingested breakfast biscuits laced with rat poison. He died a few days later and is buried in Waco, Texas.

Matthew Gaines 1840-1900

Matthew Gaines, founder of Texas A&M University
Since 1918, A&M has a statue of “the gallant Texas negro killer” (L.S. Ross) in a highly prominent place on campus. For generations, there have been efforts to similarly honor Matthew Gaines, an educated former slave who was one of the first black elected officials in Texas, and the individual largely credited as the founder of Texas A&M. Gaines was an ardent supporter of public education in Texas and a visionary who fought for integration in schools nearly one hundred years before the Civil Rights Movement.

As explained by one member of a committee formed by university administrators to “consider” placing a statue of Gaines on the A&M campus, the effort was thwarted by white alumni “up in arms over the suggestion a Black man founded Texas A&M.”[5]

References

  1. Ross Family papers, Inclusive: 1846-1931, undated, Bulk: 1861-1864, 1870-1894, undated; Baylor University
  2. Ross, Governor Lawrence Sullivan (1889). Education of the Colored Race. An Exhibit of What Texas, Under Democratic Rule, Has Done in the Past, and Is Now Doing for the Education and Betterment of the Colored Race. 
  3. Rice, Lawrence Delbert (1968). The Negro in Texas 1874-1900. Doctoral Thesis. 
  4. Fine, Bernice R. (1971). Agrarian Reform and the Texas Negro Farmer 1886-1896. Master of Arts Thesis, North Texas State University. 
  5. Slattery, Patrick (2006). Deconstructing Racism One Statue at a Time: Visual Culture Wars at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin. Visual Arts Research Vol. 32, No. 2, Papers Presented at a Visual Culture Gathering November 5-7, 2004. The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. p. 28-31.