Ethnic Groups in Texas


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Texas, being the second largest state in the United States, has a very large and ethnically varied population. Since 1850, Texas has had more of a population growth in every decade than that of the entire population of the United States. Texas' population is growing older as the people of the post World War II reach their middle ages. It's estimated that the people over the age of 64 in Texas will more than double by the year 2020 in Texas. Four out of every ten Texans are either African American or Hispanic with the remainder predominately white. There are a small but very rapidly growing number of Asians and fewer than 70,000 Native Americans. The diverse set of ethnic groups in Texas causes a big impact on laws and legislature in Texas.
By 1800, Anglo settlements began to appear in East Texas. Although the first Anglos that immigrated to Texas were of English ancestry, some were Scottish, Irish, or Welsh. Additional immigrants to Texas included French, Scandinavian, and Eastern European peoples, with a few Italians and Greeks scattered about. It has been estimated that as many as 24,000 German immigrants settled in the Hill Country by 1860. Most of these people opposed slavery and as a result, fourteen counties in Central Texas voted 40 percent of higher against secession in 1861. Although the population growth of Anglo Americans declined during the Civil War and Reconstruction, it picked back up in the 1870's. Although the 2000 census says Anglos compose 52 percent, population projections show that this will most likely decline and the percentage of other groups will increase.
From 1836, when Texas became independent from Mexico, to 1900 there was little to no immigration from Mexico to Texas. Latinos primarily remained in areas such as Goliad, Laredo, and San Antonio. In South Texas, they were the primary population even though many Anglos were beginning to settle there after the Mexican War of 1846-1848. During the Civil War, however, Latinos moved west to displace Native Americans from their land. The rise of commercial agriculture created a need for seasonal laborers in the twentieth century. Many Latinos picked cotton, fruits and vegetables, or worked as ranch hands or shepherds. Latinos saw an improvement in wages and working conditions after World War II because they became more skilled and had more managerial, sales, and clerical professions.

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In the second half of the twentieth century, the Latinos' population surged because of high birth rates and surges of both legal and illegal immigration from Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Islands. In 2000, Texas' population was nearly one-third Latino with 76 percent of those Latino's being from Mexico. Immigration from Mexico is continued to continue and the political influence in Texas is increasing. In 1984 Raul Gonzalez was elected to the Texas Supreme court making him the first Latino to win a statewide office. Latino elected officials skyrocketed. By 2003, the number of Latino elected officials in Texas reached 2,200. Organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project have worked to increase voter registration and turnout among Latinos in recent years. In 2003, six Latinos represented Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives, while 37 served in the Texas Legislature.
The first African Americans entered Texas as slaves of Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century. About the time slavery was abolished in Mexico, Anglos began to bring a greater number of black slaves to Texas. By 1847, African Americans accounted for one-fourth of the states population. During Reconstruction, there was a small wave of freemen migration to Texas and they often resided in "freedman towns." Black labor also contributed significantly to the economic development of Texas cities and helped make Texas a more industrialized society. In 2000, Texas had 2.4 million African Americans, which was more than 11 percent of the state's population. It is one of the more slowly increasing ethnic groups but recently a significant number of African Americans that have immigrated to the US are settling in Texas for a higher standard of living and better wages. Their political influence has also greatly increased. In 1972, Barbara Jordan became the first African American since Reconstruction to represent Texas in congress and Morris Overstreet became the first African American to win a statewide election in 1992. Today, African American Texans hold a number of local, statewide, as well as national offices and Ron Kirk in 2002 became the first Black Texan to be nominated by a major party for a U.S. Senate seat. Although he was unsuccessful, two African Americans represented Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003, along with 16 serving in the Texas Legislature.
Few people in Texas are aware that Texas is home to one of the largest Asian American populations in the United States. Most have come from Southeast Asia but more and more today are American born. They are, however, fairly newcomers to Texas compared to the other larger ethnic groups. Most of these Asian Americans settle in Texas' large urban centers such as Dallas and Houston and although many of them are unskilled laborers, about half of them entered the country with a college degree.
Relatively few Texans today are known as Native Americans, but there are a number of counties, cities and towns, and other places have names that tell us that Native Americans were here first such. The word tejas, which means friendly, is the word Texas came from. Before 1900, members of more than 50 tribes roamed the prairies or had settlements within the territory that became Texas. When the first Spaniards arrived in Texas the number of Native Americans ranged from 30,000 to 150,000. In 1856, after much Anglo-Indian warfare, the number dropped drastically to about 12,000. In 2,000 they were numbered at less than 70,000 and most reside in cities and towns with a variety of jobs and professions. Only a few Native Americans live on Texas reservations.
Since Texas became part of the Union, the Rio Grande boundary with Mexico has brought up many controversies. Controlling illegal immigrants into Texas from Mexico has been very difficult. Although these people supply Texas employers with cheap labor, some compete with US citizens for jobs and require expensive social services. In response to the political pressure about immigration issues, the US Congress enacted into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. It was designed to restrain the flow of illegal immigrants into the US by penalizing employers who hire illegal aliens. In 1994, Texas joined the other states in suing the federal government to recover various costs incurred from illegal immigration and in 1996 illegal immigration was hot issue with politicians. Before the November election, the US Congress enacted the Immigration Control and Financial Responsibility Act of 1996. The law increased the number of border control officers, increased penalties for immigrant smuggling and sped up the deportation of illegal aliens. Despite the number of laws passed to forbid illegal immigration, many illegal immigrants still come to Texas for a better life and better wages and employers are willing to risk the consequences for hard work for cheap wages.


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