Profiles in Negritude: Remembering Samuel McCulloch Jr., a bold, impactful shadow

McCulloch soon found himself living in a country that had just banned all free blacks from living there. With the passing of the Texas Constitution in 1836, all people of African and Native American descent were denied citizenship. McCulloch petitioned the Congress of the Republic of Texas for an exemption to the law. In April, he was granted the exemption, along with the land grant that he was entitled to for his service in the Texas army.

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Sculptor Craig Campobella with his bronze statue taken in his studio Thursday 3/24/11. Photo by Tony Bullard.
Samuel McCulloch Jr. was one of those on the forefront of those battles in Texas

Negritude has been defined by Leopold Sedar Senghor as “the sum of the cultural values of the black world as they are expressed in the life, the institutions, and the works of black men and women.” Samuel McCulloch Jr. cast a bold, impactful shadow on negritude.

Blacks have been fighting for their freedom and recognition since being brought to America, as slaves. Samuel McCulloch Jr. was one of those on the forefront of those battles in Texas.

McCulloch was a free Negro soldier who became known as the first person wounded in the Texas Revolution.

Born on October 11, 1810, in Alabama, his white father, Samuel McCulloch Sr., had three daughters. There is no mention of Samuel’s mother in any official record. His father moved the family to Montgomery, Alabama in 1815, and they relocated to Jackson County, Texas on the Lavaca River in 1835. Five months after their arrival in the Texas territory of Mexico, the Texas Revolution broke out and “Samuel Jr.” took up the cause.

McCulloch joined the Matagorda Volunteer Company under the command of George M. Collinsworth, and fought in the Battle of Goliad. On October 10, 1835, McCulloch attempted to storm into the officers’ barracks and in the process took a bullet to the shoulder, which made him among the first soldiers wounded in the Texas Revolution.

The shot shattered his shoulder and affected him for the rest of his life.

By April 1836, McCulloch was able to return home, although the family was forced to flee as the advancing Mexican Army drove the Texan revolutionaries north. On July 8 of that year, McCulloch’s wound would be finally tended to by a doctor, who removed the musket ball from his shoulder.

McCulloch soon found himself living in a country that had just banned all free blacks from living there. With the passing of the Texas Constitution in 1836, all people of African and Native American descent were denied citizenship. McCulloch petitioned the Congress of the Republic of Texas for an exemption to the law. In April, he was granted the exemption, along with the land grant that he was entitled to for his service in the Texas army.

In August 1837, he married Mary Vess, a white woman. This marriage violated the Texas ban on interracial unions. The couple was never prosecuted, however. They had four sons and lived most of the remainder of their lives near Van Ormy, a town a few miles south of San Antonio.

In 1840, McCulloch and his sisters were exempted from the Ashworth Act. He lived in Texas until his death on November 2, 1893.

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