People of African descent have been inextricably linked to the history of the land now known as Texas since the earliest days of colonization
African American life after Texas Independence was shaped by new and existing legal constraints, enslavement, and violence. Free blacks struggled with new laws banning them from residence in the state, while the majority of black Texans remained enslaved.
The Texas Constitution of 1836 gave more protection to slaveholders while further controlling the lives of enslaved people through new slave codes. The Texas Legislature passed increasingly restrictive laws governing the lives of free blacks, including a law banishing all free black people from the Republic of Texas.
Texas’s enslaved population grew rapidly: while there were 30,000 enslaved people in Texas in 1845, the census lists 58,161 enslaved African Americans in 1850. The number had increased to 182,566 by 1860.
Most enslaved people in Texas were brought by white families from the southern United States. Some enslaved people came through the domestic slave trade, which was centered in New Orleans. A smaller number of enslaved people were brought via the international slave trade.
Most enslaved African Americans in Texas were forced into labor field in the production of cotton, corn, and sugar, though some lived and worked on large plantations or in urban areas where they engaged in more skilled forms of labor as cooks, blacksmiths, and carpenters. While there were no large-scale slave insurrections in Texas, enslaved people resisted in a variety of ways, the most common being running away. Enslaved people made personal connections, and established family relationships wherever possible despite the odds, which was made more difficult by the changing nature of Texas and its white population.