By 1900 Texas was leaving the world of ranching and farming and entering a modern era. The century began with a disaster, however, when Galveston was struck by a hurricane of unbelievable force. About 6,000 people died and half of the city lay in ruins. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a seawall to provide protection in the future.
Only four months later, oil was discovered at Spindletopan event that changed the economy of Texas and the United States. Oil operators began drilling throughout southeast Texas, and Houston became the center of oil business activities. Other industries, such as the lumber industry, emerged in response to the oil boom. Cities grew quickly.
As more and more Texans moved to the cities, they found new problems. The Progressive Movement attempted to solve these problems. Galvestonians replaced their mayor and city council with a commission form of government, which worked so well that it became a model for other cities. Election laws were reformed, and women lobbied for the right to vote.
The Progressive Era reforms did not benefit African Americans, who actually lost rights during the early 1900s. So-called Jim Crow laws were passed, discriminating against African Americans. African Americans accused of even minor crimes were sometimes lynched by mobs. African American doctors, dentists, and lawyers left the state for their training because Texas universities admitted only whites. A poll tax kept many minorities from voting. African Americans created organizations, such as local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to work for racial equality.
Like African Americans, Mexican Americans also experienced discrimination and segregation. Many Mexicans had fled to Texas to escape the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. They took jobs on the newly established farms in South Texas. Ethnic conflict became violent along the Rio Grande, with many people killed or wounded. Mexican Americans fought discrimination and ill treatment by joining labor unions and self-help organizations.