African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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Mother, aunts, grandmother & great-grandfather Navasota, TX & Grimes, TX 1870s Great-grandfather from Beaumont, TX; rest of family born in CA Traditional story passed down over generations

Since I was a child (in the 1970s), I'd heard the stories of an ancestor that was a politician in TX, but that was all I knew. In 2004, after my grandmother died, my cousin and I were searching through a treasure chest and discovered two things: a picture of this ancestor and my great-grandfather's 1971 date book. In the date book, my great-grandfather listed his descents on one page and his ancestors on the next, but in no recognizable order. In bold letters he wrote "THOMAS R. BECK." I decided at that moment to search the internet for "THOMAS R. BECK, Texas Legislator" and low & behold, I found numerous web sites detailing Beck and 54 other African American who served in the Texas State Legislature during Reconstruction. There is also another picture displayed of him on internet, about 10-15 years younger, and it sits in a Texas court house to this day. I also found that in 1992, President Clinton honored these men for their contribution to Texas History. The internet displays an excerpt from a book entitled "Through Many Dangers, Toils & Snares: The Black Leadership of Texas, 1868-1900" by Dr. Merline Petrie, that summarizes the life of Thomas Beck.

He was born the son of a slave mother and white slave owner. After the war, he represented Walker, Madison, and Grimes counties in the Texas House of Representatives during the Fourteenth, Sixteenth and Seventeenth Legislatures. He successfully sponsored a bill designed to prevent individuals from employing children without their parents' consent and expressed interest in legislation that would fund Prairie View State Normal School (now Prairie View A&M University). I spoke with Dr. Pitre and discovered that part of her research came from a distant relative of mine who's last name is "Beck." He and I eventually made contact and now I've come to know many relatives in TX I didn't know I had. It turns out that he has put together a very impressive and comprehensive family tree that spans 30 years of research.


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