Texas possesses a rich history that is a unique blending of cultures filled with a riveting collection of heroes and rogues. It is a story ripe with intrigue, one that is more complex than the history of many nations, which is only natural since Texas was once an independent nation itself. It is also a story that most Texans know only one-dimensionally, if at all.
The Birth of Texas Documentary Series, made possible by Houston Arts and Media, is an eight-part series of feature length documentaries that chronicle the journey from Spanish and Mexican Texas, along the road to Revolution, through the days of the Republic and on to statehood. The videos not only explore the complete stories of the famous military actions at the Alamo, Goliad and San Jacinto including recent breakthroughs in scholarship and archaeology, but also the roles played by Tejanos, American settlers, filibusterers, enslaved African-Americans, European immigrants and foreign governments in shaping the story of our state.
Each high-definition video, running between an hour and two hours in length, tells these stories through the voices of the top historians in Texas. The backdrop of each installment is an historic location as it appears today. Renowned author, Stephen Hardin, leads the viewer to important “tour stops”. Following each location stop is a mini-documentary in which historians discuss a related topic with the aid of period drawings and photographs, video, re-enactors, maps and tone-setting music.
With a location-based backbone, these documentaries educate adults and students about the early history of our great State of Texas. They also serve as a powerful vehicle for history tourism, motivating people to visit these hallowed locations for themselves.
The first two Birth of Texas documentaries to be completed are Spanish Texas, already an award winner within months of its release, and Houston: A Nation’s Capitol, the 2011 Platinum Remi Award winner in documentary at the WorldFest/Houston International Film Festival. The former covers all aspects of Texas under the rule of Spain: the mission and presidio system, Texas Indians, Tejanos, ranching, filibusters and pirates and the quest for an independent Mexico. The Houston title explores how one of the great American cities began as a capital on paper only, born from a rowdy gathering of tents, clapboard houses and saloons along an overgrown bayou. It also covers themes such as urban slavery, the Texas Philosophical Society, the Archives War and the human side of Sam Houston.
Other documentaries in the Birth of Texas Series will revolve around San Felipe de Austin, Washington-on-the-Brazos, the Alamo, Goliad, San Jacinto and Austin. Each will follow the same pattern of telling not only the stories of what happened there, but exploring the broader themes that existed in Texas of the early nineteenth century and grounding them in solid and recognizable historical context.
The group behind this ambitious project is Houston Arts and Media, a Texas-based non-profit dedicated to creating a variety of media to educate about our State’s history. They have won several other awards for their projects which have included the weekly Southeast Texas history TV series, Postcards from Texas, and the HAM Slices of History, a web-based video series which brings short tales from Southeast Texas history to both school children and adults. In 2010, Postcards from Texas was recognized by both the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Society Daughters of the American Revolution as the best media effort in the entire State of Texas. They are pleased to bring this expertise to the Birth of Texas Series.
The resulting DVDs will be made available for purchase by individuals, schools and libraries. A certain number will also be donated to institutions around the state. As each installment is released, it will air on local television stations in as many Texas markets as can be arranged. PBS stations are the first choice, but other local stations will be approached to bring the widest coverage possible to all areas of Texas. It is a perfect educational tool as we celebrate the 175th anniversary of Texas Independence.
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