The 1880s: Representation
By the 1880s, Southern industries dependent upon farming and ranching—cotton mills, meat-packing, tobacco, and sawmills—had recovered from wartime disruption and flourished with the expanded railway system. The reality of being cash-poor and land-rich led Texas politicians to devise a plan for using the sale of approximately 3,000,000 acres of land to finance the construction of a new capitol. The old state capitol burned down in 1881 between the regular and special sessions of the 17th Legislature (1881-82). The new granite capitol was dedicated in May 1888.
Twelve African Americans served as legislators during the 1880s. Several major issues important to African Americans were debated in the legislature during this era, including several proposals to end racial segregation of passenger railroad cars. The convict lease system and the poll tax were opposed by African-American legislators. Representative Kerr introduced a plan to offer monetary support to former slaves who were crippled while in military service at the direction of former owners. Representative R. J. Moore championed the policies of compulsory school attendance laws and railroad regulation. Representatives Stewart and Wyatt left their teaching posts to serve in the legislature and fight for educational causes. Representative B. F. Williams often expressed open concern for laborers, both agricultural and skilled.