Know Your History: Republican Texas State Senator Matthew Gaines
During these times when voting rights of African Americans and other people of color are under attack, we want to continue to highlight those “forgotten” pioneers who fought hard to make sure our “political” voices were heard. For this week’s “Know Your History” we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Gaines – a former slave, community leader, minister, and Republican Texas State Senator – who made valuable contributions towards the establishment of free public education in the state of Texas.
Gaines was born on August 4, 1840, near Alexandria, Louisiana to a female slave owned by the Martin Despallier family. Gaines taught himself to read from a white boy who smuggled in books. This boy may have been young Blaz Philipe Despallier, who lived on the estate and who would later become the sole heir of Alamo hero Charles Despallier, his uncle. After being sold from the Despallier family, Gaines escaped from his new owner in Louisiana to Arkansas, and eventually made it to New Orleans, where he was captured and returned to his master. In 1859, Gaines was sold to Christopher Columbus Hearne, where he remained until 1863 when he tried to flee to Mexico. He was caught again and was forced to work as a runaway slave in Fredericksburg, Texas until the end of the civil war.
After the 1863 emancipation was finally officially announced in Texas on June 19, 1865, Gaines settled in Washington County, where he established himself as a leader of the freedmen, both as a Baptist preacher and a politician.
In 1869, Gaines was elected as a Senator of Texas’s 16th district in the Twelfth Texas Legislature. He gained a reputation for being a guardian of the newly won rights of the African-Texans. Throughout his term, he addressed the issues of public education, prison reform, the protection of black voters, and tenant farming reformation. Gaines actively supported the forward movement that established the first public school system for all Texans and assisted in allowing Texas to take advantage of the federal Grant College Act, also known as the Morrill Act.
In 1870, Gaines played a strategic role in passing the Militia Bill, which created a state police force to combat lawlessness and to protect against voter intimidation. Gaines was elected to a six-year term to the Senate, but only served four years. In a politically motivated trial he was convicted of bigamy in 1873. Despite the charge being overturned on appeal, his seat was challenged by Seth Shepard and he was removed from office on the grounds of being a convicted felon. In 1875, he was arrested for making a civil rights speech in Giddings. He told his audience that “in the eyes of God, Blacks are as good as whites; they should have pride and hold their heads up even in troubled times.” Gaines continued to be active in politics and made his political views known in conventions, public gatherings, and from his pulpit.
Gaines died in Giddings, Texas, on June 11, 1900.
In 1998, activists on the campus of Texas A&M University suggested Gaines should have his statue displayed prominently. The project was abandoned in the wake of the Aggie Bonfire tragedy in 1999. However, 19 years later, Texas A&M students and other supporters pushed yet again for the establishment of a statue of Matthew Gaines on the Texas A&M College Station campus. On June 19, 2020, the donation goal of the “Matthew Gaines Initiative” was surpassed. A statue of Gaines is set to be unveiled and dedicated on November 19, 2021. In 2016, Lori Bartley, who claimed to be his great-granddaughter, ran unsuccessfully for US Congress against Sheila Jackson Lee.
October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit www.edwardsforhouston.com
As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.
Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.