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Slocum Massacre Texas Historic Marker Dedicated

David Martin Davies
Slocum Massacre descendants gather to dedicate the Texas State Historic Commission's marker commemorating the 1910 attack on the African American settlement in East Texas/

A little known episode in Texas history known as the Slocum Massacre is now officially recognized with a state historic marker. But the descendants of Slocum say this is only the first step in spotlighting acts of injustice in Texas.

On the grassy shoulder of a rural roadway in Anderson County in East Texas now stands a Texas State Historical Marker titled “The Slocum Massacre.” The text tells the story of the 1910 deadly eruption of racial violence by the White community against the African American settlement. Men, women, and children were gunned down in those days and nights of horror. However, due to the limits of documentation the marker is only able to list eight of murder victims.

Credit David Martin Davies
Constance Hollie-Jawaid

And in their memory, on Saturday at the marker unveiling a bell was rung 8 times. Then ER Bills, author of the book “The 1910 Slocum Massacre, An Act of Genocide in East Texas," called out to the gathering, “Holley family and the descendants of the Slocum Massacre, do you accept this marker?”

“Yes,” was the loud and enthusiastic response.

With that, the Texas flag themed covering over the marker was removed and years of struggle were realized. Constance Hollie-Jawaid is a descendent of Slocum. Her great grandfather was killed in the massacre. She led the fight for the marker against all the naysayers.

“I had the support of my ancestors. I had the support of those who came before me. And with their support this happened. There was never a doubt in my mind that this wasn’t going to happen,” said Hollie-Jawaid.

Credit David Martin Davies

Opposition to the Slocum Massacre historic marker came mainly from Anderson County’s elected officials and the county historic commission. County Commissioner Greg Chapin represents District 1 in Anderson County.

““It’s just lack of evidence. It’s all hear-say – no factual. You know everything that the commission works off of is all basically – proven – as far as documented by some of our peers – judged – you know what I mean – as not just hear-say. So we’ve looked at all the information – as far as all the ones that have been supplied to us. Everything has contradicted itself totally – y-know – as far as how many were killed – how many weren’t killed. How many blacks. How many whites,” said Chapin.

Credit David Martin Davies

Even though Chapin represents this part of Anderson County, he was absent from the dedication, as were all other local elected officials. However, Chairman Anderson County Historic Commission Jimmy Ray Odem was there. He had worked for years to block the marker, but he participated in the ceremony and delivered an address to the gathering that seemed to include an ominous prediction about the fate of the new marker.

“We had the Lincoln High School here in Palestine.. anybody here went to Lincoln High School?” Odem asked.

Lincoln High School was the segregated school for African American students in nearby Palestine. Odem says a historic marker was installed there, but it’s not there now.

“That marker stayed there for about two years and then somebody tore it down – hauled it off,” he said.

Odom’s story appeared to echoed a prediction that Chapin had made about the Slocum Marker.

“I think it would go up one day and go down the next. And be thrown in the river,” said Chapin.

Credit David Martin Davies

If anyone should wonder about the atmosphere in Slocum today concerning the Massacre, they need to look no further than across the street from the Slocum public school, which was where the pre-dedication events were being held; a brand new Confederate flag was hanging from the porch.

“Why today of all days right across from the school would you put up a Confederate flag?” Hollie-Jawaid wondered aloud.

Nevertheless, the marker was approved. It was installed and it was dedicated amid laughter, tears and prayers. What happens tomorrow is anyone’s guess. But Hollie-Jawaid hopes the Remember Slocum Movement inspires other communities in Texas to reclaim their history in the face of injustice.

“It may not be race related – just any unjust situation. If you raise your voice. If you know what you are asking for has to do with liberty and justice for all continue,” Hollie-Jawaid said.

She adds don’t listen to those who say it can’t be done. Find a way to keep moving forward.

David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi