Thursday, June 14, 2007


Were the Ashworth's "Free People of Color" in Louisiana -- really Negroes? Were the "Free Blacks" of Texas from Louisiana and points East Negroes? Were Redbones Negroes?

It's a tough question to answer with any degree of certainty or accuracy.

But, if FPC and FB's were Negroes, I believe they would have been called Negroes. Neither were they slaves or indentured servants. In my opinion, the Ashworth's, (1810 Opelousas Census), Nash's, Goins and Drakes were not Negroes but they were FPC.

William Goyens, of Nacogdoches, was not a slave or an indentured servant and was in business for himself in Texas, and he was well known as a Texas patriot. I don't believe he was known as a "Free Black" in Texas, except for maybe as our Free Black, before the banning of Free Blacks -- but there was certainly a fear he could have been drawn into this ban after the fact.

The Ashworth's of Louisiana were known to be "Free People of Color," just like the Drakes, Goins, Nash's and Redbones, but not Negroes. When they entered Texas, they were not known as Negroes, and I expect they were likely dark to black but without the Negroid features (at least most of them). Since the revolution was under way, it was simply ignored as it would have been if the Mexican government had still been in power.

Remember that Mexican Texas frowned on black slavery prior to the revolution of 1835-1836. Although there were some class taboos, Mexico did not discriminate against Negroes. Also, the word Negro was Spanish and means "Black."

According to The handbook of Texas Online,,
An "act passed on February 5, 1840, which prohibited the immigration of free blacks and ordered all free black residents to vacate the Republic of Texas within two years or be sold into slavery," was to counter an earlier law, "June 5, 1837, which permitted the residence of free blacks living in Texas before the Texas Declaration of Independence."

After the passing of this February 5, 1840 Law, it was realized that it could be applied to families like the Ashworths and others who could fall under the mantle of FPC or Free Blacks.

It is also curious now that around this time, Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar was urging the "extermination or expulsion" of all Indians in Texas. Would it have gone on later to include all Mexicans in Texas at some point -- and to a degree, did it? PWas Texas headed toward a "White only" enclave?

The Ashworths were worried for good cause and so were others like William Goyens and Samuel McCullough, Jr. And there were many others.

I've often wondered why it was called the "Ashworth Act" as it did not seem to start out that way. Why not the Hardin, Goyens or the McCullough Act? The rest of the story follows.

Here is how it seems to have played out. First, petitions were presented to the Legislature in behalf of Abner and William Ashworth, David and Aaron Ashworth, and Elisha Thomas, a brother-in-law of Abner and William Ashworth for an "exemption" to the 1840 Act (the petition included their families).

Now during the process, other petitions were presented to the House in behalf of McCullough, Richardson, Hardin and William Goyens. In fact, an attempt was made to attach these bills to the Ashworth Bill but all failed.

The Ashworth Bill as it was known passed the House of Representatives on November 10, 1840 and moved to the Texas Senate without any relief for McCullough, Richardson, Hardin or William Goyens.

In the Senate, the Bill was passed in favor of the Ashworths but with one small sentence amendment that had a huge impact for all FPC or Free Blacks in Texas. The additional words were: "and all 'free persons of color' together with their families, who were residing in Texas the day of the Declaration of Independence," after the names of the original beneficiaries -- the Ashworth's. Thus, William Goyens, along with all "FPC" in Texas, benefited by the Ashworth Act.

So did the term "all free persons of color" include Negroes as well? My assumption would be that it did, provided that they were free persons. The terms "Free Blacks," and "Free People of Color" had the same meanings in Texas. Free Blacks included Free People of Color, but Free People of Color, under the legislature, appears to have included Free Negroes in Texas as well.

Gary J. Gabehart, Mishiho (Mish-eh-ho)

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