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 the murder victims.
In their memory on Saturday at the marker unveiling, a bell was rung eight times.
With that, the 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,” Hollie-Jawaid says. “With their support this happened. There was never a doubt in my mind that this wasn’t going to happen.”
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, not factual,” Chapin says. “You know everything that the commission works off of is all basically proven as far as documented by some of our peers … 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 as far as how many were killed – how many weren’t killed. How many blacks. How many whites.”
Even though Chapin represents this part of Anderson County, he was absent from the dedication – as were all other local elected officials. But the chairman of the 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 seemed to deliver an ominous prediction about the fate of new marker: “We had the Lincoln High School here in Palestine… anybody here went to Lincoln High School?”
Lincoln High School was a segregated school for African-American students. Odem says a historic marker was installed but it’s not there now.
“That marker stayed there for about two years and then somebody tore it down – hauled it off,” Odem says.
Odem’s story appeared to echo 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.”
If anyone should wonder about the atmosphere in Slocum today about the Massacre, they need to look no further than across the street from the Slocum public school, where the pre-dedication events where 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 says.
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,” Hollie-Jawaid says. “If you raise your voice. If you know what you are asking for has to do with liberty and justice for all: continue.”