The role of racism in helping the United States win the Mexican–American War was the topic of a recent “MTSU On the Record” radio program.
Host Gina Logue’s interview with Dr. Brady Holley, a lecturer in MTSU’s Department of History, first aired May 30 on WMOT-FM Roots Radio 89.5 and www.wmot.org. You can listen to their conversation above.
Holley’s research, titled “I Never Shall Be a White Man Again: Race and Junior Officers in the Mexican War,” was published in the October 2016 edition of the academic journal “War and Society.” You can read the article here.
The professor discovered, through examining letters, diaries and other documents, that the intense training required to become a junior officer did not necessarily result in a greater understanding of the enemy than that of the ordinary soldier. In fact, the U.S. Army was replete with racism in its views of the Mexican people.
Holley said American soldiers and officers both had less negative views of Mexicans who were descended from the Spanish conquistadores who conquered Mexico in the 1500s.
“In their physical appearance, they tended to be lighter,” said Holley. “These officers were very aware of … levels of whiteness, and, so, the lighter-skinned someone tended to be, the more they attributed that person to being of European stock or European heritage.”
The Mexican War lasted from 1846 to 1848 and resulted in U.S. acquisition of the modern-day states of California, Nevada, Utah and Texas, most of Arizona and New Mexico, and parts of Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Colorado.
MTSU’s Forensic Institute for Research and Education is helping analyze the remains of what are believed to be as many as 13 Tennessee militia members who died in the war’s Battle of Monterrey in 1846. The horrific conflict cemented Tennessee’s reputation as the “Volunteer State.”
To hear previous “MTSU On the Record” programs, visit the searchable “Audio Clips” archives at www.mtsunews.com.
For more information about “MTSU On the Record,” contact Logue at 615-898-5081 or WMOT-FM at 615-898-2800.