Bullock Museum's 'Forget The Alamo' Discussion Canceled Amid Backlash
The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum backed out of an event Thursday featuring the authors of Forget the Alamo, a book that challenges misconceptions about the historic Texas landmark. The event had sparked backlash from conservatives and the museum’s board, according to media reports.
The virtual discussion was supposed to take place in partnership with the Writers' League of Texas. It was one of the “On the Craft of Writing” talks the organization hosts throughout the year and was advertised as a conversation that would “examine how the authors approached crafting a book that takes a revisionist pen to an historical moment that is so indelibly imprinted on our collective consciousness.”
The authors were told hours before the event that the museum had canceled, one of the book’s authors, Chris Tomlinson, said on Twitter. The museum was facing pressure on social media and from its board of directors, according to The Austin Chronicle.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who sits on the museum’s board, tweeted Friday he told staff to cancel the event, adding “this fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place” at the Bullock Museum.
As a member of the Preservation Board, I told staff to cancel this event as soon as I found out about it. Like efforts to move the Cenotaph, which I also stopped, this fact-free rewriting of TX history has no place @BullockMuseum. #txlege https://t.co/ua1aSFxHCk— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) July 2, 2021
Tomlinson said the museum did not give him or the other author scheduled to speak, Bryan Burrough, an explanation about why it was backing out.
A @BullockMuseum employee says they had to cancel following a social media campaign by rightwingers and an order from the board, which includes @GovAbbott, @DanPatrickTX, @DadePhelan and @DrSchwertner. Apparently, they worry true Texas history might get out. #ForgettheAlamo— ChrisTomlinson (@cltomlinson) July 1, 2021
“We have to wonder, how far will they go?” Tomlinson tweeted, after calling out conservative officials. “Will they ban us from state college campuses? Will they ban our book at the Alamo and Bullock gift shops? Will they ban us from the State Capitol during the Texas Book Festival?”
After this story was published, the museum sent KUT a statement saying it was just a "co-host" and that the league could have moved forward with the event after it backed out.
"The Writers’ League of Texas was prepared to continue the event on their own platform and gave the book's authors the opportunity to do so," the statement says. "The authors declined to continue, and because they did so, the Writers’ League of Texas cancelled the event."
Becka Oliver, executive director of the Writers’ League, said she was notified that the Bullock was withdrawing from its co-host role hours before the event. She said the Writers’ League was prepared to continue the event without the Bullock if the authors wanted to.
“We were excited to do this event, but we were going to defer to the authors,” she said. “If they were interested in continuing, we would continue. If they were interested in not doing it or rescheduling it, then we would do that. And the word that came back was that they preferred to reschedule.”
Both the Bullock and the Writers’ League had been promoting the event to their respective audiences. Oliver said she understood having a co-host pull out did not change things and that the authors might want to “take a beat to make sure they’re able to get the largest audience they could."
Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of An American Myth was published last month by Penguin Press. The writers say the narrative surrounding the Battle of the Alamo overlooks that the revolt happened in part to preserve slavery.
"Slavery was the undeniable linchpin of all of this," Burrough told Fresh Air. "It was the thing that the two sides had been arguing about and shooting about for going on 15 years. And yet it still surprises me that slavery went unexamined for so long."
Thursday's canceled event will likely go on in some fashion in the future. Tomlinson told the San Antonio Express-News: “We’re hoping to reschedule the event with the Writers’ League and hope the Bullock will reconsider.”