AUSTIN, Texas — The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the American Civil Liberties Union and the SMU Dedman School of Law First Amendment Clinic sent a letter today to the Bullock Texas State History Museum’s director and its governing board to demand that the museum reschedule a discussion of the book “Forget the Alamo” after the event was abruptly cancelled July 1.
“Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth” is co-authored by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford. The book questions the traditional narrative of the Battle of the Alamo by emphasizing that the 1836 battle stemmed from Mexico’s efforts to abolish slavery. It also discusses how teaching and discussions about the history of the Alamo ignore “that the entrenched, made-for-Hollywood story of the Alamo was created in the mid-twentieth century as a product of the Jim Crow era in Texas.”
The sudden cancellation violates the First Amendment by suppressing free speech. The book discussion was cancelled four hours prior to the event, even though the Bullock Museum had invited the authors to speak about the book in March. The next day, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — co-vice chair of the Texas State Preservation Board that governs the museum — tweeted that he had directed museum staff to cancel the event because he disagreed with the authors’ assessment of the history of the Alamo.
“The Bullock Museum’s cancellation of the ‘Forget the Alamo’ event is an unconstitutional and authoritarian effort to suppress the ideas that Texas history and the contemporary understanding of that history are grounded in white supremacy,” said Kate Huddleston, attorney with the ACLU of Texas. “Banning a book or book event because it challenges an elected official’s version of history is an act of state-sponsored censorship.
“This is an essential moment for freedom of thought in Texas, and with the cancellation of the ‘Forget the Alamo’ book discussion, state leadership could not be clearer about what ideas they will and will not seek to ban in Texas. Government officials cannot suppress speech because they disagree with the speaker’s position on the history of the Alamo or any other topic.”
The event cancellation at Patrick’s direction is yet another recent example of state officials trying to suppress viewpoints it finds unpleasant. On Thursday, the Texas Senate will debate S.B. 3, which seeks to erase education about the history of white supremacy from teaching requirements.
The ACLU of Texas, the ACLU and the SMU Dedman School of Law First Amendment Clinic, along with Burrough and Tomlinson, are requesting that the museum reschedule the canceled book event on the same virtual platform to remedy the First Amendment violation as swiftly as possible. The letter also calls for any rescheduled event to receive the same level of publicity, and that people who pre-registered for the book discussion receive a notification of the new event.