Ranger Bicentennial Project

Since the creation of “Ranger” companies by Anglo-American colonists in Mexican Texas in the 1820s, Texas Rangers have played important roles in the history of Texas.  A large body of scholarship, including recent works by Refusing to Forget members, documents some of the ways in which their actions have supported white supremacy.  In 2023, the claimed bicentennial of the Texas Ranger Force’s founding, we hope to contribute to the larger national conversation about policing by documenting Ranger history by way of social media content, a traveling version of the “Life and Death on the Border” exhibit, and work with the press.

Project Contributors:

Jeffrey L. Littlejohn serves as Professor of History at Sam Houston State University. A native of Dallas, Texas, he completed his undergraduate degree at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, and his MA and PhD at the University of Arkansas. He is the co-author or co-editor of three books: Elusive Equality: Desegregation and Resegregation in Norfolk’s Public Schools (2012); The Enemy Within Never Did Without: German and Japanese Prisoners of War at Camp Huntsville, Texas, 1942-1945 (2015); and The Seedtime, the Work, and the Harvest: New Perspectives on the Black Freedom Struggle in America (2018). Littlejohn has also published more than a dozen articles with his co-author Charles H. Ford, including: “’In the Best American Tradition of Freedom, We Defy You’: The Radical Partnership of Joseph Jordan, Edward Dawley, and Leonard Holt,” Journal of African American History (2021) and “The Cabiness Family Lynching: Race, War, and Memory in Walker County, Texas,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly (2018). Littlejohn’s scholarship and digital projects, including Lynching in Texas, have received funding from the National Foundation for the Humanities and Humanities Texas. He can be reached on the web at: http://studythepast.org .

María Esther Hammack is the 2021-2023 Barra Postdoctoral Fellow at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies. She is a Mexican scholar and public historian whose work bridges the histories of liberation and abolition in North America and the Black Diaspora in Mexico. Her first book, Channels of Liberation: Freedom Fighters South of Slavery examines the experiences and roles of Black women, men and children in the construction of freedom in Mexico and reconsiders the Underground Railroad to broaden the timelines, geographies, and actors who shaped abolition in North America.

Brian Behnken is associate professor in the Department of History at Iowa State University. He also has affiliate faculty appointments in the U.S. Latino/a Studies Program and African and African American Studies Program. Brian was born and raised in Houston, Texas and completed his bachelors and master’s degrees in history at the University of Houston. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He is the author of multiple books and articles on civil rights activism in the United States. His first book, Fighting Their Own Battles: Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas (University of North Carolina Press, 2011), explored the African American and Mexican American freedom struggles in Texas. Brian is currently completing two books on the history of the Mexican American community and its relationship with police agencies in the Southwest from the early 19 th century to the early 21 st century. The first book, Borders of Violence and Justice: Mexicans, Mexican Americans, and Law Enforcement in the Southwest, 1835-1935, will be published by the University of North Carolina Press in November 2022. The second book, Brown and Blue: Mexican Americans, Civil Rights, and Law Enforcement in the Southwest, 1935-Today, will hopefully be published in the next few years.

George T. Díaz is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where he teaches U.S. History, Borderlands, and Mexican American History. His award-winning book, Border Contraband: A History of Smuggling across the Rio Grande (University of Texas Press, 2015), is a social history of smuggling in the borderlands. Díaz is co-editor of the collection Border Policing: A History of Enforcement and Evasion in North America (University of Texas Press, 2020). His current book project, Mañana Land: Life and Death in a Mexican Prison in Texas, considers incarceration and capital punishment transnationally by recovering the voices of those ensnared by the carceral state. Dr. Díaz’s research is informed by investigations in Mexican and U.S. archives, as well as a lifetime of living on the border.

Danielle Sanchez is a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin studying 20th century United States history. Her specialty is in race and religion and she is very excited to be a part of the team!

Michael Segura is a first-year PhD student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he works with Dr. Laura Muñoz. He studies race, ethnicity, and identity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Texas-Mexico border. His research focuses on how people of the Texas-Mexico border created national identities that are found in Mexican ballads known as corridos between 1875 and 1920.

Miguel A. Levario, PhD is an associate professor of U.S. history and borderlands studies at Texas Tech University. He is the author of Militarizing the Border: When Mexicans Became the Enemy (Texas A&M University Press) and has authored several book chapters and articles on the history of the southern border. He has given expert analysis on topics related to the U.S.-Mexico border on several national and international news outlets, such as the Washington PostLe Monde (France), C-SPAN, The New York Times, and others. Dr. Levario is a native of El Paso, Texas.

Richard Ribb, PhD, is a multiple-award winning educator with extensive experience in higher education. He has taught history at UT Austin, Texas A&M, and Austin Community College. He recently completed a book manuscript for Texas A&M Press on legislator J. T. Canales’s valiant 1919 attempt to reform the Texas Rangers.