cover image Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth

Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth

Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford. Penguin Press, $32 (416p) ISBN 978-1-984880-09-3

Journalists and “proud Texans” Burrough (Days of Rage), Tomlinson (Tomlinson Hill), and Stanford (Adios, Mofo) revisit the legend of the Alamo in this substantive yet wryly humorous history. Though “traditionalists” believe that the Alamo’s defenders sacrificed their lives in order to help defeat Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and secure Texas’s independence, the authors point out that Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and others “were fighting to form what became the single most militant slave nation in history.” Skillfully drawing on primary and secondary sources, the authors show that Stephen F. Austin, who established a colony of American settlers in Texas in the 1820s, fought to protect slavery from Mexican legislators’ desire to abolish it, and that the independence movement was focused on preserving Texas’s slave-based cotton economy. Early histories of the Alamo “suffered from the twin sins of florid romanticism and score settling” and diminished the influence of Tejano families on the region, according to the authors, who also reveal the 20th-century origins of the myth that Davy Crockett went down fighting (it was widely reported in the 1830s that he surrendered before his execution). Enriched by its breezy tone and fair-minded approach, this is an essential look at the Alamo from the perspective of today’s racial reckoning. Agent: John Silbersack, the Bent Agency. (Jun.)