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Houston Matters

Five Things You Should Know About Sam Houston

Who was Sam Houston and who was he to the Confederacy? We explore those questions with historian Raul Ramos. history professor at the University of Houston.


Portrait of General Sam Houston, made in about 1861 by Mathew Brady.

Confederate statues and monuments have come under more intense scrutiny since the violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va. just a couple weeks ago. It's forced many cities and states to consider where they belong.

The City of Houston is currently taking a look at ‘The Spirit of the Confederacy' statue at Sam Houston Park downtown. But what about Sam Houston himself? Who was he to the Confederacy?

Historian Raul Ramos tells us five important — and sometimes surprising — things we should know about Sam Houston.


  1. He was a southerner, but he was against secession and voted to stay in the Union. That alienated him politically in Texas. He was respected, but that was his downfall, politically. He didn't take up arms against Texas, but he also didn't support it.
  2. He owned slaves. One of his slaves took the Houston last name and became an important political figure in Huntsville later on.
  3. He represents westward expansion as much as representing Texas. He wasn't from Texas originally, but he was a strong Jacksonian. He was in an expansionist mode, but with a unique and contradictory personal history.
  4. He spent a lot of time living with the Cherokee, spending eight years with them. Every time he ran into personal and political trouble, he would go back to this Cherokee tribe, from which he had a wife and even his own given name, "Black Raven." He also participated in resettling that group and other indigenous groups.
  5. His claim to fame in Texas politics: He won victory at Battle of San Jacinto, which guaranteed his place as an influential figure in Texas history.