Houston Ship Channel

The development of industries, primarily in urban areas, stimulated the growth of Texas towns in the late nineteenth century. The number of Texans living in urban centers grew from 115,396 in 1880 to 454,926 in 1900.

Churches provided a degree of stability in a changing world. One major area of church activity continued to be support for education through several denominational colleges. The state also opened the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) in 1876 and the University of Texas in 1883.

Churches and schools also sponsored such social events as picnics and concerts. Fraternal organizations as well as local cultural and social clubs provided opportunities for relaxation. Women's groups began to appear. Recreation became more organized in urban areas, as baseball, circuses, and theaters joined hunting and horse racing. Artists and writers also contributed to the leisure enjoyments of Texans.

The two largest racial minorities in Texas, blacks and Hispanics, developed partially separate social communities during the late nineteenth century, partly because of Anglo-American discrimination, which produced segregation in some activities and lack of opportunity in others. Black Texans formed their own churches to control their own religious activities. They attended segregated public schools that generally received less funding than those for whites. Black Texans formed their own fraternal and social groups and continued to celebrate emancipation each June 19 (Juneteenth). Segregation existed in most railroads, ships, and theaters, and blacks faced exclusion from most hotels and restaurants. They also received uneven justice as exclusion from juries became common.

Hispanic Texans increased in number, through immigration and Mexican birth in Texas. Mexican Texans formed a majority in the region between San Antonio and the Rio Grande, where they had some political power. They maintained their culture through Spanish-language newspapers, observance of Mexican holidays, and the formation of mutual-aid societies. Some owned ranches or operated small businesses.

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century industry made limited advances in Texas, including the opening of the first Texas oilfield. The beginnings of a more complex urban society and culture had appeared. Blacks and Mexican Americans achieved some progress in education and economic status, but there was widespread discrimination in public accommodations and treatment under the law. While most women remained in family roles, an increasing number entered the work force or joined church and reform societies. In every area of activity Texans joined the national trend toward organization as a means of meeting problems and shaping their society.

Source: Houston Ship Channel
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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