A Guide to the Texas Slave Laws Collection, 1853-1856
In September 1856, the residents of Columbus, Texas, formed a vigilance committee to locally investigate rumors of a possible nation-wide slave insurrection. Supposedly, they uncovered a well-organized and well-armed slave plot to murder the white population of the town, producing a cache of guns and knives as evidence. Following the insurrection, the slaves would flee to Mexico. Furthermore, the town residents claimed that the entire Mexican population of the county was also involved in the plot. The committee whipped two slaves to death, hanged the three ringleaders, and banished all Mexicans from the county.
Source: Wish, Harvey. “The Slave Insurrection Panic of 1856.” The Journal of Southern History 5, no. 2 (May 1939), http://www.jstor.org/stable/2191583?seq=1 (accessed August 2, 2010).
A typescript compilation of newspaper articles relating to slavery in Texas comprises the Texas Slave Laws, 1853-1856. The typescript includes letters from the Columbus Vigilance Committee and articles published in the Galveston News in 1856, pertaining to their discovery of a planned slave uprising. Additionally, the typescript contains the published minutes of a Galveston public meeting in 1856, including an open letter addressed to Lorenzo Sherwood, the abolitionist state legislator from Galveston. The remainder of the typescript contains slave advertisements and fugitive slave notices from numerous towns in Texas, including Austin, Indianola, Huntsville, and Bastrop.
The collection is open for research use.
Texas Slave Laws Collection, 1853-1856, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Basic processing and cataloging of this collection was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Briscoe Center’s “History Revealed: Bringing Collections to Light project,” 2009-2011.
Detailed Description of the Papers