Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend

University of Oklahoma Press
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If we do in fact “remember the Alamo,” it is largely thanks to one person who witnessed the final assault and survived: the commanding officer’s slave, a young man known simply as Joe. What Joe saw as the Alamo fell, recounted days later to the Texas Cabinet, has come down to us in records and newspaper reports. But who Joe was, where he came from, and what happened to him have all remained mysterious until now. In a remarkable feat of historical detective work, authors Ron J. Jackson, Jr., and Lee Spencer White have fully restored this pivotal yet elusive figure to his place in the American story.

The twenty-year-old Joe stood with his master, Lieutenant Colonel Travis, against the Mexican army in the early hours of March 6, 1836. After Travis fell, Joe watched the battle’s last moments from a hiding place. He was later taken first to Bexar and questioned by Santa Anna about the Texan army, and then to the revolutionary capitol, where he gave his testimony with evident candor.

With these few facts in hand, Jackson and White searched through plantation ledgers, journals, memoirs, slave narratives, ship logs, newspapers, letters, and court documents. Their decades-long effort has revealed the outline of Joe’s biography, alongside some startling facts: most notably, that Joe was the younger brother of the famous escaped slave and abolitionist narrator William Wells Brown, as well as the grandson of legendary trailblazer Daniel Boone. This book traces Joe’s story from his birth in Kentucky through his life in slavery—which, in a grotesque irony, resumed after he took part in the Texans’ battle for independence—to his eventual escape and disappearance into the shadows of history.

Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend recovers a true American character from obscurity and expands our view of events central to the emergence of Texas.
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About the author

Ron J. Jackson was a staff writer for The Oklahoman for fifteen years, where he won numerous awards for his reporting. He has published four articles in True West and is the author of three books, including Alamo Legacy: Descendants Remember the Alamo (Eakin Press, 1997).

Lee Spencer White is an independent researcher, preservationist, and consultant for the History Channel, Dearg Films, and the BBC.

Phil Collins is best known as a singer-songwriter for the English rock band Genesis and as a solo artist, with hits such as “In the Air Tonight” to his credit. He is also an aficionado of Alamo history and the author of The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey (State House Press, 2012).

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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Oklahoma Press
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Published on
Mar 2, 2015
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780806149592
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Historical
History / Military / General
History / United States / 19th Century
History / United States / State & Local / Southwest (AZ, NM, OK, TX)
Social Science / Discrimination & Race Relations
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
Social Science / Minority Studies
Social Science / Slavery
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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New York Times Bestseller

“A profound impact on Hurston’s literary legacy.”—New York Times

“One of the greatest writers of our time.”—Toni Morrison

“Zora Neale Hurston’s genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece.”—Alice Walker

A major literary event: a newly published work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a foreword from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade—abducted from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States.

In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States.

In 1931, Hurston returned to Plateau, the African-centric community three miles from Mobile founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo about the details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo’s past—memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilda, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War.

Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written from Hurston’s perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon masterfully illustrates the tragedy of slavery and of one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.

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