Host: Augusta Dell’Omo, Department of History Guest: Lauren Henley, Department of History
In 1885, the world’s attention was focused on a series of grisly murders that took place in the otherwise quiet town of Austin, Texas. Several African-American women were murdered in the middle of the night, leading the press to dub the unknown assailant “the Servant-Girl Annihilator.” The serial killer phenomenon was so new that some even went so far as to speculate that Jack the Ripper was the same person.
Lauren Henley describes America’s first (known) serial killer, what the events tell us about the racial history of the region and the reason why true crime fascinates so many.
Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History Guest: Ben Wright, Associate Director for Communications, Briscoe Center for American History
With America’s entry into World War One in April 1917, life immediately changed for many young Americans. Nowhere was this change more evident than on college and university campuses. The University of Texas, with its 3,000 students, was a typical example: the liberal arts were set aside in favor of military drills for young men, and nursing classes for young women.
As we near the 99th anniversary of Armistice Day, Ben Wright from UT’s Briscoe Center for American History, takes a look at World War One on our very own home front: the storied Forty Acres of the University of Texas at Austin.
Fifty years ago, on August 1, 1966, twenty-five year old student Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded at least 32 more at UT Austin. A former Marine sharpshooter, he went to the 28th-floor observation deck of the UT Tower and began shooting people on the ground as they walked by or tried to hide. A news cameraman set up a camera under the tower so the shooting was broadcast on television. Several police officers and a recently retired Air Force officer made their way to the top of the tower not knowing what they would find and, after the rampage had lasted 96 minutes, Houston McCoy and Ramiro Martinez killed the sniper. Later it was found that Whitman had killed his mother and wife in the early hours of the morning.
These events were seared into the memory of everyone living in Austin, but historians have neglected the story and, for decades, the university avoided and eventually suppressed it. A small plaque on a hard to locate rock was only erected in 2008. Why?
In Spring 2016, as the fiftieth anniversary neared, graduate students in the UT History Department’s Public History seminar led by Joan Neuberger decided to make the history of the tower shooting more widely available and accessible to the public. They examined documents in local archives and wrote a collection of historical essays on many important aspects of that day’s events, as well as on the historical context, and the aftermath. And they put these essays on a website. In this episode, Neuberger discusses the project with four of those students: Itza Carbajal, Maria Hammack, Rebecca Johnston, and John Lisle.
In the early part of the 20th century, Texas became more integrated into the United States with the arrival of the railroad. With easier connections to the country, its population began to shift away from reflecting its origins as a breakaway part of Mexico toward a more Anglo demographic, one less inclined to adapt to existing Texican culture and more inclined to view it through a lens of white racial superiority. Between 1915 and 1920, an undeclared war broke out that featured some of the worst racial violence in American history; an outbreak that’s become known as the Borderlands War.
Guest John Moran Gonzales from UT’s Department of English and Center for Mexican American Studies has curated an exhibition on the Borderlands War called “Life and Death on the Border, 1910-1920,” and tells us about this little known episode in Mexican-American history.
Host:Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past and Professor, Department of History Guest:Ben Wright, Public Information Officer, Briscoe Center for American History, UT-Austin
What role did Texas play in the American revolution? (What–Texas? It wasn’t even a state yet!) And yet, Spain and its empire–including what is now the Lone Star State, did play a role in defeating the British Empire in North America. New archival work is lending light on the ways that Spain, smarting from its loss of the Floridas to Britain in the Seven Years War, backed the American colonists’ push for independence.
Ben Wright of UT’s Briscoe Center for American History has been working with the Bexar archives and documents how Spain’s–and Texas’s–efforts to divert sources of food and funding to the American troops helped to tip the balance of power in North American forever.
In the late 17th century, Native American groups living under Spanish rule in what is now New Mexico rebelled against colonial authorities and pushed them out of their territory. In many ways, however, the events that led up to the revolt reveal a more complex relationship between Spanish and Native American than traditional histories tell. Stories of cruelty and domination are interspersed with adaptation and mutual respect, until a prolonged famine changed the balance of power.
Guest Michelle Daneri helps us understand contemporary thinking about the ways that Spanish and Native Americans exchanged ideas, knowledge, and adapted to each others’ presence in the Southwest.
The words “Mexican immigration” are usually enough to start a vibrant, politically and emotionally charged debate. Yet, the history of Mexican migration to the U.S. involves a series of ups and downs—some Mexicans were granted citizenship by treaty after their lands were annexed to the U.S., and, until the 1970s, they were considered legally white—a privilege granted to no other group. At the same time, Mexicans crossing the border every day were subjected to invasive delousing procedures, and on at least two occasions were subjected to incentivized repatriation.
Guest Miguel A. Levario from Texas Tech University (and a graduate of UT’s Department of History!) walks us through the “schizophrenic” relationship between the US and its southern neighbor and helps us ponder whether there are any new ideas to be had in the century long debate it has inspired—or any easy answers.
This episode looks at US perceptions of Mexico through map making during the US / Mexico War, in which a private publisher sold maps that were reissued annually to reflect ongoing progress in the campaign. Intended for a general, popular audience, these maps served as propaganda in aid of the conflict, but historians and military analysts alike have ignored them until recently—even though they may well have influenced the positioning of the border at the war’s end.
Guest Chloe Ireton looks at the intriguing history of maps as propaganda and the role of two publishing houses—J. Disturnell and Ensigns & Thayer—not only in rewriting the history of the Mexican-American war, but in influencing the outcome of the war even as it was still ongoing.