There are many Black truths in American history that have been hidden, covered up, or labeled as “fictional” and “legendary” stories as it relates to our place in history. This is one of the reasons that I have always despised the term “history”. In many cases Black history as it has been told and depicted to us, is just what the term itself says, “his-story”. In my opinion, there are several pieces of African-American history that has been untold or white-washed to represent a glorified version of the American story that others, who do not look like us wants to be told. To that regard the true history behind the song known as the, “Yellow Rose of Texas” is a reflection of what I am referring to.
To this day the, “Yellow Rose of Texas” is commonly referred to as a legend. However, I have to agree with the many Black historians and researchers who have found that the story behind the song is indeed truth and valid. During this Valentine’s edition of African-American News & Issues, I have decided to present the history behind the song, as well as convey to our readers that there has always been SOMETHING ABOUT THIS BLACKNESS that they just don’t understand. An excerpt from the, “Yellow Rose of Texas” reveals the following…
“There’s a yellow girl in Texas
That I’m going down to see;
No other darkies know her,
No darkey, only me;
She cried so when I left her
That it like to broke my heart,
And if I only find her,
We never more will part.
She’s the sweetest girl of colour
That this darkey ever knew;
Her eyes are bright as diamonds,
And sparkle like the dew.
You may talk about your
And sing of Rosa Lee,
But the yellow Rose of Texas
Beats the belles of Tennessee.”
The “Yellow Rose of Texas” stems from a story about an orphaned Mulatto woman, Emily D. West. According to the Urban Dictionary, a “mulatto” is “someone who has one White and one Black parent, or someone whose ancestors are also mixed White and Black.” Hence the term, “yellow rose” refers to Emily’s “high yellow”, complexion. As it was, she worked as an indentured servant of Colonel James Morgan, a business man who made his fortunes off of real estate and slaves in the Mexican colony.
The significance behind the story results in the fact that Emily was used as a sexual pawn, which ultimately distracted the leader of the Mexican Army, Santa Ana. Santa Ana, much like White men in that era saw the beauty in Black and could not pass up the opportunity to indulge. Little did he know, he would gravely pay for his erotic fiasco with the lovely Negro woman. Emily’s role in the most important battle of Texas’ history, served to help the state gain its independence from Mexico.
Martha Ann Turner in her book, “Yellow Rose of Texas: Her Saga and Her Song“, goes into the details surrounding the order of events that led to Emily’s correlation with being the “yellow rose”. During 1835, General Sam Houston had begun his initiation for the Texas war with hopes of gaining independence from Mexico. Colonel Morgan assisted in the efforts by supplying necessities for Houston’s soldiers, while they were stationed near the San Jacinto River. While Morgan was preparing for departure to assist at the Port of Galveston, he left Emily behind in command of loading and distributing the supplies for Houston’s soldiers. Simultaneously, General Santa Ann was making ready to launch his attack, when he was awe-stricken by the beauty of Emily. He took Emily and the supplies that were meant for Houston’s soldiers. Santa Ana was caught in a trance with Emily and was totally engulfed in her ambiance. Meanwhile, Sam Houston got word that Santa Ana was distracted and after seeing for himself, he began to wage war on the Mexican army. In doing so, he caught the Mexican army and Santa Ana off guard and Texas won its independence through this battle.
Through Emily’s heroic actions the song, “Yellow Rose of Texas” was composed in her honor. It has been said that Texas Confederate soldiers marched off to the Civil War singing its’ lyrics as a tribute to the pivotal point in Texas history and for inspiration towards winning the war against the North. Although many still choose to label the “Yellow Rose of Texas” as a legend; Emily’s actions are commemorated by the members of the Knights of the Yellow Rose of Texas each April 21 at San Jacinto.
Concluding, I thought that this would be an interesting piece for our audience to read about during this Valentine’s Day edition. We MUST Understand that the strength of Black love has always been an awesome force in American society, even when those who do not look like us choose to downplay its significance. While countless statues and memorials should be placed around Texas in honor of Emily, who in part was one of the greatest sources for Texas’ independence; it is a sad reality that the song that was composed to honor her has been labeled as a legend for so many years. Then again, this nothing new because there have always been some type of attempt to white-wash, Black folks out of American history.