The University of Arizona

The Subjectivity of Soul: Music and Racial Hybridity in Jim Crow Houston

Alex Nuñez


Following Reconstruction, Southern bureaucrats, governments, and community members enacted a series of policies known as Jim Crow laws, intended to subjugate the recently-emancipated African-American population back into traditional hierarchies of racial superiority, amassing a legal reinforcement of white supremacy. Houston, then a city in its infancy, was no exception. As Black Texans adjusted to these referendums, those in Houston established their own communities, institutions, and culture that aligned to the black/white racial binary thrust upon them towards the turn of the twentieth century. However, the realities of a rapidly developing Houston proved to be much more complicated than this simple black/white dichotomy. Over time, throngs of new migrants arrived in the Bayou City, such as Creoles, Tejanos, and ethnic Mexicans, which did not fit into this rigid racial structure. The infiltration of different shades and nuances of multiethnic peoples, and their interactions with Jim Crow categorizations, is the subject of Tyina Steptoe’s stunning and groundbreaking work, Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City.

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