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“Joe the Slave” Myths and Racist Lies

Today, just like in the past, Blacks and the general public were expected to go along with the Alamo worship and the “Joe the Slave” story. We now have fictitious stories being bandied around the Alamo showing “Joe the Slave'' with a gun and a uniform on. Slaves were not allowed to carry guns, but telling lies holds the day. This image has been opposed by many in the Black community as total fiction. This falsehood is typical of racist storytellers as they try to find Black people that will support them and their hatred. It was a way to steer people away from the fact that free Black Mexican troops fought with Santa Anna, and the knowledge of Mexico’s Black president who abolished slavery. The same old Alamo lies and whitewashing of Black history is still being told by those who lead the Alamo Trust Board. The Black and progressive community salutes Deborah Omowale Jarmon of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum for telling the true story of slavery at the Alamo. Joe was a slave in Kentucky as a child and learned to fear the “Negro whip “of an overseer named Grove Cook. The lies in the Alamo movie with John Wayne helped to hide these horrors of slavery. Joe would eventually be separated from his mother and siblings and sold to another slave owner. In 1829, Joe was sold to Isaac Mansfield. He would eventually be sold “downriver” and eventually to the scoundrel William …

Today, just like in the past, Blacks and the general public were expected to go along with the Alamo worship and the “Joe the Slave” story. We now have fictitious stories being bandied around the Alamo showing “Joe the Slave” with a gun and a uniform on. Slaves were not allowed to carry guns, but telling lies holds the day. This image has been opposed by many in the Black community as total fiction. This falsehood is typical of racist storytellers as they try to find Black people that will support them and their hatred. It was a way to steer people away from the fact that free Black Mexican troops fought with Santa Anna, and the knowledge of Mexico’s Black president who abolished slavery. The same old Alamo lies and whitewashing of Black history is still being told by those who lead the Alamo Trust Board. The Black and progressive community salutes Deborah Omowale Jarmon of the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum for telling the true story of slavery at the Alamo.

Joe was a slave in Kentucky as a child and learned to fear the “Negro whip “of an overseer named Grove Cook. The lies in the Alamo movie with John Wayne helped to hide these horrors of slavery. Joe would eventually be separated from his mother and siblings and sold to another slave owner. In 1829, Joe was sold to Isaac Mansfield. He would eventually be sold “downriver” and eventually to the scoundrel William Travis. Joe’s family would never know what happened to Joe, and Joe was deprived of knowing what had happened to them. This was the ghastly system of American slavery. Eventually, Joe was sold to Travis between 1834 and 1835. Travis was a slave owner and lawyer who sued Mexico for the return of runaway slaves. Mexico would not obey these racist legal tactics of Travis. Travis was no hero to say the least, as he routinely bought slaves or hired them out to other slave owners. 

According to the research in Todd Hansen’s book, The Alamo Reader, the attack on the Alamo was “so sudden that the fort only had time to discharge four of the eighteen cannons.” Also, many other researchers have pointed out that all of the fighting within the walls took place in the dark and not at sunrise, lasting only 20 to 30 minutes, and as a result, half of the 300 Mexican soldiers killed died by friendly fire. There were reports that Mexican troops were inside the mission before a single shot was fired. This was verified by Travis’ slave, Joe, who according to Tucker’s research, said that before any artillery fire could be accomplished, Mexican troops were already inside the walls before any cannon on the north wall could be used. Historical documents reveal that the attack came at the north wall, and not at the front of the Alamo façade.         

 Dr. Phillip Thomas Tucker (2020) in Silenced Revelation About an Icon: Suicide of the Alamo’s Commander, William Barret Travis documents went even further. Some of Joe’s account of what happened at the Alamo is quite suspect as he was expected to say whatever white people wanted him to say. This enslaved man, known as “Joe,” embellished the account as enslaved people were expected to articulate whatever white people wanted them to say under punishment of the lash or death. In fact, “Joe” was returned to slavery and was not treated like someone who fought at the Alamo. After white slave owners finished putting words in his mouth, a reward was issued for his return to slavery.

Of course, it would be an offense to white supremacy to give Joe the surname of Travis, but moving beyond the poison of racist thought, Joe should have a last name, and Joe Boone or Joe Travis makes more sense than “Joe the Slave.” Joe Travis would be his third or fourth last name. It is an insult to continually refer to Travis’ slave as “Joe the Slave.” His name was Joe Travis in 1834, but Alamo historians in later years tried to hide this fact by simply calling him “Joe the Slave.” Slavery was the reason for the fight with Mexico. The story of the Alamo is perhaps the greatest hoax played on Americans. A newspaper ad appeared for Joe’s capture in the Telegraph and Texas Register one year after the Alamo. Joe’s mother was the offspring of Daniel Boone, most likely from being raped, and Joe’s brother was a famous abolitionist named William Wells Brown. William Brown wrote a slave narrative in 1848 in Boston after he escaped to Canada. The sad story of Joe Travis (or Boone) was typical of those who were the victims of American slavery. It seems to me that to respect the life of an enslaved Black man, the term “Joe the slave” should be discontinued. Of course, Joe Travis would upset Alamo diehards in general at the exposure of William Travis as a racist instead of a patriot. 

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