Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend
Foreword by Phil Collins
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
350 Pages | 6 x 9 | 15 b&w illus., 5 maps
If we do in fact “remember the Alamo,” it is largely thanks to one person who witnessed the final assault and survived: the commanding officer’s slave, a young man known simply as Joe. What Joe saw as the Alamo fell, recounted days later to the Texas Cabinet, has come down to us in records and newspaper reports. But who Joe was, where he came from, and what happened to him have all remained mysterious until now. In a remarkable feat of historical detective work, authors Ron J. Jackson, Jr., and Lee Spencer White have fully restored this pivotal yet elusive figure to his place in the American story.
The twenty-year-old Joe stood with his master, Lieutenant Colonel Travis, against the Mexican army in the early hours of March 6, 1836. After Travis fell, Joe watched the battle’s last moments from a hiding place. He was later taken first to Bexar and questioned by Santa Anna about the Texan army, and then to the revolutionary capitol, where he gave his testimony with evident candor.
With these few facts in hand, Jackson and White searched through plantation ledgers, journals, memoirs, slave narratives, ship logs, newspapers, letters, and court documents. Their decades-long effort has revealed the outline of Joe’s biography, alongside some startling facts: most notably, that Joe was the younger brother of the famous escaped slave and abolitionist narrator William Wells Brown, as well as the grandson of legendary trailblazer Daniel Boone. This book traces Joe’s story from his birth in Kentucky through his life in slavery—which, in a grotesque irony, resumed after he took part in the Texans’ battle for independence—to his eventual escape and disappearance into the shadows of history.
Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend recovers a true American character from obscurity and expands our view of events central to the emergence of Texas.
Ron J. Jackson was a staff writer for The Oklahoman for fifteen years, where he won numerous awards for his reporting. He has published four articles in True West and is the author of three books, including Alamo Legacy: Descendants Remember the Alamo (Eakin Press, 1997).
Lee Spencer White is an independent researcher, preservationist, and consultant for the History Channel, Dearg Films, and the BBC.
Phil Collins is best known as a singer-songwriter for the English rock band Genesis and as a solo artist, with hits such as “In the Air Tonight” to his credit. He is also an aficionado of Alamo history and the author of The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector’s Journey (State House Press, 2012).
“The stunning discovery that Joe—the slave of Alamo commander William Barret Travis—was the brother of the abolitionist William Wells Brown has opened an entirely new chapter in the history of Texas. Now their two stories are blended into a fascinating narrative that puts the experienced lives of slaves squarely within the story of the Alamo and the Texas Revolution.”—James E. Crisp author of Sleuthing the Alamo: Davy Crockett’s Last Stand and other Mysteries of the Texas Revolution
“This is an amazing piece of historical detective work. The authors have solved the mystery of Joe’s life, before and after the Alamo, and have woven their findings into a most entertaining tale.”—William Groneman, author of Eyewitness to the Alamo and David Crockett: Hero of the Common Man
“In this fascinating example of the historian as detective, the authors have tracked down the incredible story of an Alamo survivor and key witness—the slave owned by Lieutenant Colonel Travis and known to history only as Joe. In unraveling the tortured history of Joe and his family, the authors not only present the story of this Alamo hero for the first time but also illuminate the important role slavery played in American society, westward expansion, and the origins of the Texas Revolution. This is a magnificent work.”—Paul Andrew Hutton, author of Phil Sheridan and His Army
“The writing in Joe, the Slave Who Became an Alamo Legend is unique and strong, the shared knowledge is deep and fascinating and the overall impact is brilliant.”—Michael Blake, author of Dances with Wolves
“Ron J. Jackson, Jr., an accomplished journalist, and Lee Spencer White, founder of the Alamo Defenders Descendants Association, provide an engaging account of Joe’s remarkable life, rescuing him from the dustbin of history… The authors are to be commended for resurrecting the story of this important, but neglected, Alamo legend. Students of the Texas Revolutionary era or early nineteenth-century slavery will want to add this intriguing book to their collection.”—Central Texas Studies: Journal of the Central Texas Historical Association Volume 1 and Volume 2
2017 - Nonfiction Award of Merit, Philosophical Society of Texas - Winner
2016 - Indie Fab Book of the Year Awards, Biography, Foreword Reviews - Short-listed
2016 - Indie Fab Book of the Year Awards, History, Foreword Reviews - Short-listed
2016 - Oklahoma Book Awards, Non-fiction, Oklahoma Center for the Book - Short-listed