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On Sept. 17, the Texas General Land Office (GLO) will host its seventh annual “Save Texas History” Symposium at the Menger Hotel, giving San Antonio history buffs a chance to learn all they can about the history of the Alamo.
The theme for this year’s symposium is “The Alamo, Keystone of Texas History: Past, Present, and Future.” Historians from around the country will give presentations on all aspects of the Alamo, from when it was a Spanish-colonial Mission, to when it was the site of the most famous battle of the Texas Revolution, all the way to modern day preservation efforts.
Kim Barker, a preservation planner and GLO project manager, manages preservation and deferred maintenance for the Alamo Complex. In a phone interview with the Rivard Report Tuesday, Barker said that she will participate in a panel about the historic preservation efforts that are currently underway at the Alamo.
“My work mainly focuses on updating systems at the Alamo,” she explained. “It can be anything from the mechanical systems that need updating, making sure drainage issues are fixed when it rains, bringing everything up to code, and ensuring public safety to the people who visit the Alamo.”
Barker will be a member of a three-person panel that will discuss the ongoing work of preserving the Alamo complex as well as the challenges that arise in the process. Other members of the panel are Chris Hutson, principal at Hutson/Gallagher, an architecture firm that has worked on various projects at the Alamo complex since 2014, and Alamo Complex Management conservator Pamela Jary Rosser, who boasts 25 years of experience and specializes in Spanish-colonial finishes.
Lee Spencer White is a preservationist and historian who can trace her lineage to a defender of the Alamo. At the symposium, she will speak about Joe, a slave who belonged to William B. Travis, who was one of the few survivors of the Battle of the Alamo. Joe was captured and questioned by General Santa Anna and went on to give his account of the battle to the Texas government.
“It’s difficult to put together a biography of slaves,” White told the Rivard Report. “It took a lot of tenacity and a lot of luck.”
White said that Joe’s brother, William Wells Brown, an abolitionist writer who kept records of Joe’s story, is the only reason historians know anything about him.
“This is the culmination of 11 years of intense research,” White said. “Me and my research partner (Ron Jackson Jr.) have traveled through five states and parts of Mexico digging up everything we can on Joe.”
Andrew Torget, an associate professor of history at the University of North Texas, will speak on the efforts to transplant the plantation-style cotton farming industry to Mexican Texas in the 1820s and ’30s and will further elaborate on how those efforts altered Texas history.
Torget will focus on the clash between U.S. American farmers and Mexican officials who disagreed on the role and use of slavery on cotton farms. This dispute would ultimately lead to violent clashes between the two parties, which contributed to Texans instigating a rebellion against Mexico.
“This is a factor that you don’t hear much (about) in Texas history classes,” Torget said. “This provides a new frame to look at Texas history.”
Torget’s talk is based on his latest book, Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850. A battleground tour at the Alamo will follow after the symposium.
After the tour, the Witte Museum will host a Save Texas History reception, where attendees will have the opportunity to observe the museum’s Mapping Texas exhibition, which features 40 maps and documents from the GLO, the Witte, and the private collection of Frank and Carol Holcomb.
The symposium will run from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Individual tickets cost $75 and can be purchased here.
Top Image: The Seventh Annual Save Texas History Symposium will take place in San Antonio. Photo Courtesy of The Texas General Land Office.