In a night of unimaginable horror in late July of 1910 in Slocum Texas, a massacre of unarmed black farmers, shop owners and their families was carried out by armed whites, many who were members of the Ku Klux Klan. In the small East Texas town, estimates of deaths ranged from eight to 20 men and women. Those who owned farms and shops and who survived quickly fled to nearby Palestine, never returning to Slocum — and losing everything.
Thanks to Tim Madigan, the story has gained new life through a two-part series he wrote for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram last summer. In it he reported: “ ‘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,’ ” Anderson County Sheriff W.H. Black, a white from nearby Palestine, was quoted as saying in the Aug. 1,1910, edition of The New York Times. These Negroes have done no wrong that I can discover. I don’t know how many there were in the mob, but there may have been 200 or 300. They hunted the Negroes down like sheep.’ ”
Madigan went on to report that seven white men were indicted on murder charges, had their cases transferred to Houston on a change of venue, but as was all too common in those days and even as late as the 1960s, none ever came to trial.
In terms of loss of life and property, Slocum rivals a 1921 atrocity in Tulsa and another two years later in Rosewood, Fla., among the worst racial pogroms in the nation’s history, Madigan wrote. But in Slocum, now consisting of a school and a few houses 150 miles southeast of Fort Worth, “no public monument commemorates what happened. It is not taught in history classes,” the long-time S-T reporter wrote.
In other words, this horrendous, bloody chapter of Texas history was covered up and kept out of the history books in hopes that it would be forgotten.
But it has not been forgotten by everyone. Fortunately, descendants of the families who were killed and lost their farms, their homes and their hopes for a secure future for their children, have kept the story alive through the oldest historical tradition of all time: recounting the horrors of that terrible night of mob violence through story-telling sessions around campfires, supper tables, in parlors and living rooms, assuring that their children and grandchildren would keep the story alive.
Tonight at7:00 p.m. at the Greater Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church, 7312 Forest Hill Drive, a dinner and commemorative service honoring one of those descendents, the Reverend Myrt Hollie, 96, and his family, as well as the life of the martyred Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. will be held. It is open to the public; tickets are $20.
The guest speaker will be Missouri congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The list of those sponsoring the event, include long-time civil rights worker and now head of the Tarrant County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Rev. Kyev Tatum, city councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, former Arlington mayor Elzie Odom, former state representative Glenn Lewis, Dr. Richard Kurz, Dean of the School of Public Health University of North Texas Health Science Center, and a number of ministers from across the Metroplex.
Following Friday’s ceremony, on Saturday, March 26, at 1:30p.m., SCLC will sponsor a “Community Cares” workshop at the Tarrant County College South Campus’ Rotunda, 5301 Campus Drive, hosted by campus president Dr. Ernest L. Thomas.
On Monday, April 4, the day that King was murdered, there will be a service sponsored by the SCLC dedicated to “reviving the dream of Dr. King,” at Harmony Missionary Baptist church, 7510 John T White Road. It will begin at 6:01 p.m., the exact time that King was shot.
Both events are free and open to the public.
And in another event in honor of the slain leader, a health forum aimed at the needs of African American children will be held on April 7-8 beginning at 9 a.m. at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, 3500 Camp Bowie Blvd. hosted by Dr. Kurtz. Register at www.RegisterWithUNT.com or 817-735-2323.