Lamar: The School, The Street, The Man

Lamar: The School, The Street, The Man

Do you know who Lamar was?

In Texas, there is a Lamar County and a town named Lamar. There are schools named Lamar in Dallas, Arlington, Wichita Falls, Austin, and in 24 other places. All around the state there are streets named after Lamar, in Dallas, Arlington, Austin, and who knows where else. Why?

They were all named after Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas. You probably learned that in Texas history, but like many of the historical figures we all learned about in school, you probably never learned the truth about the man Lamar was.

This year, we’ve paid a lot of attention to taking down Confederate statues and changing the names of Confederate schools and it may not have dawned on all of us. The State of Texas has long idolized awful men who were Confederates, slave owners, murderers, and human traffickers. These men were hailed as heroes, diplomats, or leaders in their era. However, 150 years later we have to come to terms with the fact that many of these men were monsters. 

Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was a monster. 

Lamar helped steal land from Native Americans. 

In the 1820s Lamar lived in Georgia and was heavily involved in helping Georgia Governor George Troup steal land from Native Americans. This was done with the Indian Springs Treaty of 1825 with Chief William McIntosh, who was subsequently murdered for his role in this treaty. 

During this time, Lamar was credited with raising a militia to fight against the federal government under the John Quincy Adams administration, who attempted to keep the Creek and Cherokee Indians on their land. 

Lamar was a rabid supporter of Governor Troup and later referred to him as a hero. However, George Troup was not a hero. He was racist and his efforts to remove Native Americans from Georgia ultimately led to the infamous Trail of Tears

The Columbus Enquirer. 

In 1828, Lamar started a newspaper called the Columbus Enquirer. It was meant to be an arm of the Troup political faction. During the time Lamar owned this paper, it was vigorous opposed to abolition. The Columbus Enquirer published stories that drove fear of Black men, especially pertaining to the rape of white women. 

He sold all of his shares to that paper in 1835 and moved to Texas.

Lamar and Republic of Texas. 

Serving as VP to Sam Houston, Lamar instrumental in implementing some of the most racist policies Texas had for that time. A 2015 article from Texas Monthly even calls him more racist than the average white man of that era. 

In 1838 he succeeded Sam Houston to become the Republic of Texas’ second president. In Edward Sebesta’s research on Lamar, he included exerts of his inaugural address. His inaugural address made it explicitly clear, that he was against Texas’ statehood, the reason being the protection of slavery. He spoke in abstract terms of how there were abolitionists in the United States and if Texas joined the Union, the institution of slavery would have been at risk. 

Lamar’s 1838 campaign of ethnic cleansing of Texas. 

What Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar was involved in during that time could not be explained as anything else but genocide. In Edward Sebesta’s research of Lamar, he cites several sources that document Lamar’s genocidal policies. The white Texas policies were meant to have Native Americans gone from Texas, whether by expulsion or extermination. Lamar uses the term “extermination” and makes it clear that he was willing to kill for the elimination of Native Americans from Texas.

Lamar and his government policies looked for pretexts to engage in violence and promote conflict with Native Americans. One of the most well-known acts of violence was the Council House Massacre. Comanche Native Americans went to San Antonio to discuss peace, a fight broke out, and 35 Native Americans were slaughtered, including women and children. 

During this time, the Texas Rangers were a paramilitary force in Texas, but Texas had little funds to pay them. So, Texas recruited Rangers with the promise of loot from Native American property. The Rangers would attack Native American settlements, kill all of the inhabitants, and then claim their belongings as their own. 

Lamar’s ethnic cleansing policies led to decades of violence and racial hatred in Texas. 

In an 1839 message to congress, Lamar asserted that “The white man and red man cannot dwell in harmony together. Nature forbids it.” Then, he urged for a race war. 

An act concerning free persons of color. 

In 1840, Lamar signed “An Act Concerning Free Persons of Color.” This act prohibited the immigration of free Blacks in Texas and ordered all free Black residents of Texas to vacate within two years or be sold to slavery. It also mandated and free Black people who entered into Texas to be enslaved for one year. After that year, if they could not post bond, they would become a slave for life. 

The 1844 letter to Georgia. 

In 1844, Lamar wrote a letter to citizens of Georgia, supporting annexation of Texas for the protection of slavery. He was scared that England was working with Mexico to force abolition in Texas. He explained that annexation would not have only been necessary to preserve slavery in Texas, but also in the entirety of the United States. 

In this 1844 letter, Lamar also paints a picture of horror if slaves are emancipated and Texas is not annexed. He says that the ruin of slavery in Texas would destroy the southern state and it would bring a reign of terror. 

Lamar was opposed to the Compromise of 1850.

The Compromise of 1850 defused political confrontations between slave and free states on the status of new territories acquired in the Mexican-American war. 

In an 1850 letter to the editor published in the Mobile Register, Lamar argued for the necessity of secession to save the slave states. Here are some exerts: 

“The south at that time conceded all that she could yield consistently with safety and honor, and received in exchange the guarantees of the constitution and the plighted faith and solemn oaths of the North. At that time, this very slavery question was one of the great vexed and agitating issues, and its adjustment was one of the foundation timbers of the Union. Its settlement — exactly as provided by the constitution — was the very consideration of that instrument, without which it would never have been formed and upon the failure of which, it would of necessity become void.”

“We shall be thrown, by the triumph of abolition, into all the horrors of a domestic and servile war — a war which will have no parallel in atrocity and cruelty, and which must leave the Southern country a bleeding victim —— a land of suffering, mourning, and desolation.

There is no uncertainty as to the consequences. The Northern States will never permit our black population to enter their country. The gates will be closed against the negroes in all abolition States. The consequence will be that when we shall be finally driven by the combined powers of corruption, harassment, and forced into the emancipation of our slaves, they will have to remain amongst us; and the impossibility of their doing this in peace and safety must be apparent to every mind. The freed slaves and the master cannot dwell together in terms of political and social equality. Such a thing would not only be rendered impossible by the recollection of their former relative positions, but it is forbidden by the laws of God and nature. It cannot be.” 

Lamar’s legacy. 

To Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar, Black people and Native Americans only existed to be expelled, exterminated, and enslaved. To Lamar, they weren’t human. He was a serial criminal in the commission of crimes against humanity. The countless landmarks and institutions named after Lamar in Texas is depraved indifference to the humanity of Native Americans, African Americans, and Latinos. 

If Texas is no longer based on white supremacy and white nationalism, it is necessary to deracialize Texas’ landscape. Ridding ourselves of honoring Lamar is a great place to start. 

Which is why many in Dallas have begun efforts to rename Lamar Street. Join the De-Racialize the Landscape – Dallas Facebook group for updates, information on scheduled protests, and to learn more about how you can help make Texas more inclusive.

Thank you to Edward H. Sebesta, researcher and academic, for his tireless work exposing the truth about Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar.

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