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Michael Barnes

Stephen F. Austin, African-Americans in Austin’s economy, Kelso on Texas cities and more

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di_09863_pubHISTORY: What recently rediscovered papers tell us about Stephen F. Austin. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “The large, thin sheet of ivory-colored paper folds into a neat, pocket-sized rectangle. Opened up for perusal, the printed Seal of Mexico looms over elegant cursive script, including the elaborate signature of the Mexican secretary of state. On the back of the single-page passport are darkly inked stamps for Mexico City, Veracruz and New Orleans, plus a written notice of a steamship departure from New Orleans on Aug. 22, 1835, for Brazoria, Texas. After lobbying for his Texas colonists in Mexico City — and spending time in a Mexican prison for his efforts — Stephen F. Austin returned home to the Brazos Valley. Several artifacts, including his passport and a receipt from a New Orleans bookseller — recently rediscovered in the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas — reveal some clues about his state of mind. “The receipt is a window into what he was thinking in Mexico City and into very tumultuous times,” says Brenda Gunn, director for research and collections at the Briscoe. “He’s thinking about revolution.” http://shar.es/1bcn6E

BUSINESS: The state of African-American mobility in Austin’s economy. Taken from Dan Zehr‘s story in the Statesman: “Natalie Madeira Cofield spent 12 years working in Los Angeles, New York and Washington. She knows what it’s like to live in a city with a large and vibrant African-American community. When Cofield moved to Austin in August 2011 — just 29 years old at the time — she became one of the youngest CEOs of any black chamber of commerce in the country. She understands what it’s like to be a successful, young professional in a booming Central Texas economy. But here in Austin, a city that takes pride in its reputation as a progressive and inclusive community, Cofield also knows that these two facets of her personal and professional lives don’t often overlap. “There’s no one place you can say: ‘There’s a black community center,’” said Cofield, head of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce.” http://projects.statesman.com/news/economic-mobility

LAW: What Gov.-elect Greg Abbott doesn’t get about Texas cities. Taken from John Kelso‘s column in the Statesman: “I doubt we’ll see our incoming governor dressed up like the sugar plum fairy at Eeyore’s Birthday Party anytime soon. Greg Abbott doesn’t seem the type to embrace the Austin vibe. I say this because he’s attacking the plastic grocery bag ban the city came up with to cut down on litter. See, plastic bags are like the Texas Legislature: They just won’t go away. If Washington had left a plastic grocery bag at Valley Forge, it would still be stuck to a fence, right? Abbott says city rules that restrict fracking, cutting trees in your yard or what bags stores hand out mess with our freedoms here in Texas. Or, as Patrick Henry once said, “Give me liberty or give me a plastic bag.” OK, so Patrick Henry didn’t say that, but Abbott might. All of these regulations should be the purview of the state, not cities, Abbott thinks.” http://shar.es/1bcnpH