Race War of Slocum Receives Resolution in Texas House
Texas House passes resolution recognizing 'horrific' racial massacre of 1910
Posted Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2011
By Tim Madigan
AUSTIN - As the the first order of legislative business this morning, 96-year-old Myrt Hollie was wheeled into the Texas House chamber and seated next to Speaker Joe Straus, who happily shook Hollie's hand. Hollie's sons and granddaughters stood to his rear.
Then they listened as House members unanimously approved a resolution that formally acknowledged a forgotten racial atrocity, one that has haunted the Fort Worth resident and his family for more than a century.
In 1910, mobs of East Texas whites killed at least eight African Americans. One of Hollie's uncles was among the dead, another was badly wounded, and ancestors were forced to abandon their property near the small village of Slocum, located 150 miles southeast of Fort Worth.
For decades, Myrt Hollie and his family have sought to restore the atrocity to its proper place in history. For them, Wednesday morning at the Capitol had a dreamlike quality.
"I was overwhelmed with joy," Hollie said later as he sat in the office of State. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, who sponsored the resolution. "I didn't think this day would ever come. I didn't ever dream that I'd see the change the way we have. I didn't think I would live that long."
Veasey began preparing the resolution after learning about the slaughter in a Star-Telegram article in February. On Wednesday, he was joined at the front of the House chamber by Reps. Chuck Hopson and Byron Cook, both Republicans who represent areas in East Texas where the massacre took place.
"So many members, Republican and Democrat, came up to me afterward and thanked me for doing that," Veasey said later. "They said, 'I've never heard of that. I didn't know that happened.' I thought it was a great day for the House, a great day for Texas, and more importantly for that family."
The House resolution called the Slocum massacre "a horrific incident and one that is deserving of attention and discussion."
"Only by shining a light on previous injustices can we learn from them and move forward toward a future of greater healing and reconciliation," the resolution said.
It also summarized events as they are known to have occurred in the summer of 1910, when racial hatreds were ignited in and around Slocum, and mobs of whites took up arms against their African American neighbors. The dead were later found to be unarmed and most had been shot in the back.
"They hunted the Negroes down like sheep," Sheriff W.H. Black, a white from nearby Palestine, said at the time.
Seven white men were indicted for murder by a grand jury in Palestine, and their cases were transferred to Houston. But none of the accused men were ever brought to trial. Years later, the presiding judge suggested in his memoirs that prosecutors did not want to spend money necessary to prosecute whites for killing blacks.
At the time, the Slocum incident was reported in newspapers around the nation. Historians now say it was one of the worst racial atrocities of its kind in the post-Civil War era. But in the decades since, except for family stories passed down through generations, it has been largely forgotten.
"Despite the notoriety of the massacre, it has faded from history, and no one knows why," Veasey said in House remarks before the resolution passed. "Mr. Hollie, we thank you and your family for your persistence. You kept digging. You kept looking for the facts. You kept searching for justice."
Veasey said Wednesday that he would help the Hollies investigate why the Slocum defendants were never prosecuted. Family members said yesterday they will also continue to attempt to determine what became of the family property.
"This isn't the end. This is just the beginning," said Constance Hollie-Ramirez, Myrt Hollie's granddaughter.
But for the family and House members who greeted them Wednesday, the moment seemed healing. About 20 members of the Hollie family lingered in the Capitol Wednesday, taking dozens of happy photographs.
"They at least were able to see that an official body of government acknowledged that what happened was bad and it was wrong," Veasey said.
After the resolution passed, Myrt Hollie was asked about his old pain that has lingered from the tragedy.
"It's gone now," he said. "With this exercise, other people know about it. Other people can bear the burden. I can throw it away."
Tim Madigan, 817-390-7544