On Saturday, January 16, 2016 the Slocum Massacre Texas Historical Marker was dedicated and unveiled on Farm-to-Market Road 2022 in Anderson County, Texas.
There was wide media coverage of the dedication and unveiling ceremonies, including The Dallas Morning News, “Sign Shines Light and Truth on Slocum’s Grim Past,” http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20160114-sign-shines-light-and-truth-on-slocums-grim-past.ece: NPR, (National Public Radio) “Slocum Massacre Highlights Double Standard In The South,” http://www.npr.org/2016/01/15/463224198/slocum-massacre-highlights-historical-double-standard-in-the-south: The Tyler Morning Telegraph, “Slocum Massacre Descendents to Converge at Site of Killings This Week,” http://www.tylerpaper.com/TP-News+Health/229765/slocum-massacre-descendents-to-converge-at-site-of-killings-this-week: The Palestine Herald Press, “Slocum Massacre Marker Unveiled,” http://www.palestineherald.com/news/slocum-massacre-marker-unveiled/article_540ed642-bc9f-11e5-be35-9bf8affa3502.html. There is also a UTube video on the unveiling of the marker.
The keynote speaker at the ceremony was Dr. Malachi Crawford, assistant director of the African-American Studies Program at the University of Houston. The guest speaker was E. R. Bills, author of the book “The 1910 Slocum Massacre: An Act of Genocide in East Texas.” Bills is also the author of the just released book; “Black Holocaust: The Paris Horror and a Legacy of Texas Terror.” The standing room only ceremony and unveiling were attended by many descendants of the Hollie Family, including Constance Hollie-Jawaid, whose tireless efforts were instrumental in making the marker a reality. According to the Dallas Morning News story, “Among those who fled was Jack Holley, Hollie-Jawaid’s great-grandfather. “Papa Jack” was a prominent businessman who owned Slocum’s general store, a dairy and a granary. He went to Palestine, where he asked to be jailed for his protection.” The author of this column, (who previously served as Chairman of the Anderson County Historical Commission) was contacted by the Dallas Morning News and expressed her ongoing concerns for the blatant uncompensated theft of black wealth. According to the Dallas Morning News: “Before the massacre, Bills said, Slocum was 40 percent black. Afterward, that figure dropped below 10 percent, where it remains today. Entire African-American families left, never to return. Their homes and belongings were seized with impunity.”
“Men were going about killing Negroes as fast as they could find them, and so far as I was able to ascertain, without any real cause,” William Black, the sheriff at the time, told The New York Times. “I don’t know how many were in the mob, but there may have been 200 or 300. … They hunted the Negroes down like sheep.”
According to the Dallas Morning News story, the Slocum Massacre marker is the first such marker in Texas to acknowledge what the author of this column describes as domestic terrorism against African American citizens, then and now. “It’s been essentially buried,” said Texas Tech history professor Karlos K. Hill, who studies lynchings and other racial violence. “You can’t find it in Texas history books. It’s been a case that’s been forgotten.”
The exact cause of the Slocum killings has yet to be identified. Some documents suggest that a white man was outraged that a black man has been made supervisor of a road construction project. Others say that whites were jealous of the wealth of land-owning African Americans. The Dallas Morning News story says this: “In part, the bloodshed may have been triggered by a prizefight 1,700 miles away. On July 4, 1910, in Reno, Nev., Jack Johnson, the first African-American world heavyweight champion, defeated James J. Jeffries, dubbed “The Great White Hope,” to retain his title. Johnson’s triumph filled black communities with pride but set off racial violence across the country. At the time, the heavyweight championship was “the most important title in sports,” Hill said. “For a black man to hold it ran not only counter to the history of that title but to the racial and social norms of the time.”
The Slocum Massacre Marker was dedicated over the continuing push-back of some Anderson County officials. Some indicated that the 1910 killings in Slocum was “not a massacre” because a massacre requires the killing of hundreds of (black) people. There is no explaining the McLean Massacre Historical Marker located in Anderson that commemorates the killing of two white men by Native Americans. That marker has this inscription: “Daniel McLean and John Sheridan, expert Indian fighters employed by the settlers as guides and protectors, were killed here in 1837. By holding the savages in check until the settlers could escapee, both sacrificed their lives.”
Copyright 2016 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.