A symbol of Texas’ racist past has become a source of controversy at the Ellis County courthouse in Waxahachie.
The sign that said “negroes” was found after a courthouse renovation, and is believed to have stood over a segregated drinking fountain there. Local officials preserved it, adding a plaque underneath marking it as a reminder of the trauma caused during the Jim Crow era in the South.
But the sign troubled Ellis County Constable Curtis Polk Jr., a Black man who asked that his new office not be near it. County Judge Todd Little helped relocate Polk’s office, but Little is now also under investigation for encouraging the partial defacement of that sign.
Kevin Krause has been reporting on the story for The Dallas Morning News. He told Texas Standard that a YouTube video surfaced recently showing Judge Little encouraging another man to spray-paint an X over part of the sign. It’s unclear whether the Ellis County district attorney will charge Little or the other man for damaging government property.
The case comes amid a larger discussion in Texas and nationwide about how and if to preserve monuments and other evidence of America’s racist and segregationist history. Krause says the sign, in this case, is different than Confederate monuments that became especially popular in the middle of the 20th century, long after the Civil War had ended. Those monuments glorified racism, he says, while the sign in the courthouse is historical evidence of how the segregated South functioned.
“The ‘negro’ sign in Waxahachie is something that we can actually learn from,” Krause said. “That’s the consensus because it shows how how Blacks are treated.”
Judge Little has not publicly commented about the sign’s defacement, nor has the other man in the video. Both are suspects in the investigation.