July 29, 1910: Slocum Massacre in Texas

By E. R. Bills

Jul. 29, 1910: Slocum Massacre in Texas | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

The 1910 Slocum Massacre in East Texas officially saw between eight and 22 Blacks killed, and evidence suggests African American casualties were 10 times these amounts. Yet the massacre has become a dirty Lone Star secret, remarkable more for the inattention it has received than for its remembrance.

Unlike most Texas communities in the early 20th century, the unincorporated town of Slocum—like Rosewood, Florida—was largely African American, with several Black citizens considerably propertied and a few owning stores and other businesses. This alone, in parts of the South, might have been enough to foment violence. But in the area around Slocum, roughly 100 miles east of Waco, there were other issues, according to newspaper reports and other sometimes conflicting accounts of the massacre.

When a white man reportedly tried to collect a disputed debt from a well-regarded Black citizen, a confrontation occurred. Hard feelings lingered. When a regional road construction foreman put an African American in charge of rounding up help for local road improvements, a prominent white citizen named Jim Spurger was infuriated and became an agitator.

News reports, of varying truths, were reported across the country at the time, yet this history has been buried by officials.

The Slocum violence was reported (in various degrees of truth) in newspapers across the country at the time.

Rumors spread, warning of threats against Anglo citizens and plans for race riots. White malcontents manipulated the local Anglo population and, on July 29, white hysteria transmogrified into bloodshed.

Stoked and goaded by Spurger and others, a collection of white mobs made up of Slocum locals and heavily armed white residents from all over Anderson County roamed through the area in groups of six or seven or in mobs of 30 to 40 and, according to some reports, up to 200. Members of the mobs engaged in what authorities later termed a “potshot” occasion, firing on Black citizens at will. They moved from road to road and cabin to cabin, shooting down African Americans in their tracks. Survivors of the bloodshed spread the word, and African Americans began fleeing. The white mobs followed Blacks into the surrounding forests and marshes and shot many victims in the back as they fled. Several bodies were discovered with bundles of clothing and personal effects at their sides.

Every initial newspaper report on the transpiring bloodshed portrayed the African Americans as armed instigators, but these accounts were heinous mischaracterizations. Anderson County Sheriff William H. Black, of Palestine, Texas, and Special Deputy Godfrey Rees Fowler arrived in the Slocum area, and they discovered a terrified white populace, most of whom had slept overnight in churches and schoolhouses. But it was increasingly apparent that the alleged African American mob that had supposedly conspired to attack the local white community hadn’t materialized.

When reporters gathered on July 31, up to two dozen murders had been reported, but local authorities had only eight bodies. Sheriff Black said it would be “difficult to find out just how many were killed” because they were “scattered all over the woods,” and buzzards would find many of the victims first.

“Men were going about killing Negroes as fast as they could find them,” Sheriff Black told the New York Times. “These Negroes have done no wrong that I can discover,” Black continued. “I don’t know how many were in the mob, but there may have been 200 or 300. They hunted the Negroes down like sheep.”

The truth is, a harrowing number of African Americans were slaughtered in the counties of Anderson and Houston in the mid-summer of 1910. Yet today it’s almost never spoke of, much less widely acknowledged, sufficiently researched, or historically considered, including its omission in A Centennial History of Anderson County, Texas (1936) and History of Houston County, Texas, 1687–1979 (1979).

Context and National Response

In every month for the six months leading up to the Slocum Massacre, an African American in the East Texas region was executed by a white mob based on allegations alone. No trials, no juries—simply white verdicts. After the lynching of Allen Brooks, just four months prior to the Slocum Massacre, a photograph of his hanging body and a crowd of a hundred spectators was made into a postcard that was mailed to friends and family. And these injustices weren’t exceptions to the rule; rather, they were the rule under which African Americans lived and died in that part of the world.

Three of the 150 ministers who sent a letter to Pres. Taft | Zinn Education Project

J. Milton Waldron, J. Anderson Taylor, and W. J. Howard signed the letter on behalf of 150 ministers asking President Taft for help.

On August 13, 1910, a group of more than 150 African American ministers from Washington, D.C., sent a letter to President Taft regarding the Slocum Massacre. In the letter, the committee implored President Taft to use the powers of his “great office to suppress lynchings, murder, and other forms of lawlessness” and to do something to “make human life more valuable and law more universally respected.”

The attorney general responded on August 24 with a succinct letter stating, “The protection of life and property is generally a duty devolving up the state authorities,” and continued “Your letter and petition deal with the subject of the treatment of colored persons generally and therefore furnish no facts which would warrant this Department in taking any steps to redress the wrongs complained of.”

Trial and Aftermath

At the initial grand jury hearing of the suspects charged in the Slocum atrocity, nearly every remaining resident was subpoenaed; some refused to testify and were arrested. By the time the grand jury findings were reported on August 17, several hundred witnesses had been examined. Though 11 men were initially arrested, seven were indicted. The grand jury judge moved the trial to Harris County, distrusting the potential jury of peers the defendants might receive in Anderson County. The indictments received no interest or justice in Harris County. Eventually, all those charged were released, and none of the indictments were ever prosecuted.

In the meanwhile, the personal holdings of many Slocum-area Anglo citizens fortuitously increased. The abandoned African American properties were absorbed or repurposed as the now-majority white population saw fit. The standard Southern Anglocentric world order was restored.

The community reflects effects of the event to this day. While most nearby towns have African American populations of 20 percent or more, Slocum’s is just under 7 percent.

Recent Acknowledgments
Slocum Marker | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

After decades of effort, a marker commemorating the Slocum Massacre was dedicated on Jan. 16, 2016. Click to view larger image.

On March 30, 2011, after a two-part February feature on the Slocum Massacre by Tim Madigan in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the 82nd Texas Legislature adopted House of Representatives Resolution 865, acknowledging the incident.

On January 16, 2016, a historical marker to the Slocum Massacre was unveiled. In a Washington Post article, Constance Hollie-Jawaid, who is a descendant of victims of the massacre and who applied for the historical marker, said, “This most definitely helps restore [the Slocum Massacre] to its proper place.” Hollie-Jawaid continued, “It was being ignored, and by ignoring it, you’re spitting in the face of those who died during that tragic event. You’re basically saying either it didn’t happen or it was not important, and it’s very, very important.”

Despite local opposition to the marker, Chris Florance, spokesperson for the Texas Historical Society, told the Washington Post, “There is difficult history in the state, and this shows there has been a lot of change.” Longtime State Judge Bascom Bentley also noted, “I’m glad the marker is there. It’s part of our history, an ugly part. But the purpose of history is to teach us how to do better in the present and future.”

The atrocities committed in the Slocum area in 1910 should give us all pause and spur commitments to definitively establish the truth, fully acknowledge it, and honestly and constructively address it.


LEFT: Jack Holley, Slocum resident and the great-great-grandfather of Constance Hollie-Jawaid, survived the massacre. RIGHT: Descendants of massacre victims and survivors.


Slocum Massacre (Book) | Zinn Education Project: People's History for the ClassroomE. R. Bills is the author of The 1910 Slocum Massacre: An Act of Genocide in East Texas. Bills received a degree in journalism from Southwest Texas State University in 1990. Reprinted here with permission of the author. Versions of this story have been published on Dissident Voice, the Statesman, and the Patrick Murfin blog.

Our thanks to Constance Hollie-Jawaid (formerly Constance Hollie-Ramirez), a descendant of victims of the 1910 Slocum Massacre, for sharing this story with the Zinn Education Project. Hollie-Jawaid was a Dallas Independent School District principal for many years.

Posted on: Huffington Post.

© 2016 The Zinn Education Project.

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There are 57 comments by other visitors:

  • “There would have been no need for laws to prevent African Americans from participating in the economic and social structure of the society if they had not already been doing so, successfully.”

    Response shared by Earl — July 29, 2014 @ 8:48 am

  • Stories like these help us appreciate the African Americans who continued the pursuit of economic success in light of the terror heaped on blacks who sought to partake in the American Dream.

    Response shared by Donna Rogers-Beard — July 29, 2014 @ 11:38 am

  • This is the reason they don’t want black history month, in fact, we need to have black history every day until it reach all the generation of today. This information is not and won’t be taught in public or private school and having facebook have been great in getting a lot of good information out there. I know I have learn a lot of history that I didn’t know about and have had others to tell me the same thing so keep up the good work and eventually the young people will start ready the history and get the messages about those who came before us.

    Response shared by pat — July 29, 2014 @ 12:59 pm

  • This was a shocking story to me! I have lived near and traveled that area alone and I was unaware of that history. Thanks to the descendants for getting the story out.

    Response shared by Billie — July 29, 2014 @ 6:36 pm

  • We as a people need to research and value our own history and we need to teach this to our children. Our kids today really think we have made it as a people. If you ask me we are far from it when we are killing each other off or fighting against each other. This site is so important to keep that history alive. Our African descendents found it very important to keep tha history alive and we need to keep it going.

    Response shared by Shawn — July 29, 2014 @ 9:56 pm

  • I have never heard of this. I plan on getting the books on these terrible killings and pass on what I learn.

    Response shared by jose archuleta — July 29, 2014 @ 10:03 pm

  • This is why African Studies should be taught in our schools. Stop hiding the truth.

    Response shared by Randall Dellemar — July 29, 2014 @ 10:44 pm

  • This is a history that was well hidden. Not even Lerone Bennett chronicled it in “Before The Mayflower”, nor did I see it in my research of invasions in my “The Constitution and The New Jim Crow”. Thank God for the descendants who should keep this history present.

    Response shared by Robert P. Robertson — July 29, 2014 @ 10:58 pm

  • It bothers me that we had people in our families that probably knew about this and never told us…

    Response shared by Deborah Anderson — July 30, 2014 @ 9:46 am

  • This is basically what happened in Rosewood, Florida. Rosewood was brought to light by the movie that was made of the incident. The legislature did give some of the original home owners that was living at the time a small reimbursement, however, they never got their land back, and the town has disappeared from history. It is a shame that African American history was eliminated from the history books. Those people that was murdered in Slocum should be remembered. What the African Americans need to do is the same thing the Jews did after World War ll. They created the Holocaust. They will not let the world forget what the Nazis did to their ancestors, and we should not either.

    Response shared by C A Williams Sr. — July 30, 2014 @ 11:30 am

  • I agree this will not be taught in schools, especially in Texas where they have rewritten the history to exclude people of color contributions. That is why it is important for adults to be more socially conscious so they can pass these stories to their children and grandchildren. Our history will be forgotten if we keep silent.

    Response shared by Dera Williams — July 30, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

  • First time ever reading about this. I went to an all black school and took black history. This was not in it, so sad.

    Response shared by Charlie Coopee — July 31, 2014 @ 12:30 am

  • My grand babies gonna learn about this!

    Response shared by Linda berry — July 31, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

  • I grew up when we were taught Black history year round. It was before segregation…in a one room school. I was nurtured in a rich but closed cultural environment. It is my (our) responsibility to teach those who come after us the untold history of a strong people. While we gained with desegregation, we lost the immersion of children and families in culture, history, and community. Each generation has a story to tell. Let’s not lose them due to neglect of the telling.

    Response shared by Rosa — July 31, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

  • These stories are but a tip of the Iceberg when accessing America’s dark past. In listening to a caller during a radio program some years ago and on the Tulsa massacre, the caller, a white man said he didn’t understand why they (the descendants of those massacred) wanted to keep bringing this part of history up again and that he didn’t want his children to grow up being ashamed of his ancestors’ evil deeds. That’s the issue. Many Americans only want to know that which makes them feel good. They don’t want to know that which speaks to the cruelty of their ancestors so for “image” sake and the positive growth of their children, the many stories of African and Native American men and women and their courage against overwhelming odds, won’t get told. The historian John Henrik Clarke said it best when he repeatedly explained how important the concept of Image was to the American psyche. It dictates just about everything aspect of our consciousness. And the right (but not necessarily accurate) image must prevail in this society. I leave it to the reader’s own interpretation what they perceive that Image to be.

    Response shared by Blake Richardson — July 31, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

  • I still don’t understand why white people think they are superior to any other race i.e. black and Mexicans mainly. Who ever said God was white. Notice in all the photos even at Catholic Church Jesus is white all the way. Just makes me sick to hear about the injustices of one people to another. To this day this is still an ongoing problem. Some people are just plain mean and abusive. I live in Texas and I’ve never heard of the town or the incidents that occurred. We were never taught that in History and/or Civics.

    Response shared by Rose Dominguez — August 1, 2014 @ 2:21 am

  • As long as white elitist government exits in Texas, Texas History books will NEVER include anything like this in their “approved” list of history books because it casts a “shadow” on their preconceived idea that we have evolved from these kinds of acts. Hell, we haven’t “evolved”, we have shoved it all under the floorboards of our Capital in Austin and pretended it just didn’t happen here in Texas. I am amazed at the prejudice that still exits in East Texas regarding both black and Hispanic populations here. I will be honest, I was raised in a poor white home that used the word “nigger” and I cringe to even type the word but neither of my parents were educated just hard working white folks who “thought” for whatever reason, we were better than the black people who lived on the other side of the rail road tracks. That was the division line. Only until I started college did I see the OTHER side of history as it really was as I became friends with more and more students of color and learned from them what they had been through growing up in segregated schools as did I. As my educational level increased my level of prejudice disappeared and when I would come home, many an argument would erupt between me and my Father mostly, but my Mother as well to a certain extent. As a retired educator I know how much we have “regressed” in racial relationships here in Texas and the RED states in general. It saddens me so much. Had I known about this incident, I would have taught it in my English literature class and had research done on this part of OUR history. Shame on Texas and all the South for hiding stories like this.

    Response shared by LaDona Davis — August 1, 2014 @ 11:28 am

  • This story needs to be told! How would they go about incorporating it in the history books? Why continue to cover up these evil deeds?

    Response shared by Earline Bentley — August 1, 2014 @ 7:23 pm

  • Today they accomplish the same thing in our community with drugs.

    Response shared by Arnold E Stallings — August 2, 2014 @ 12:28 am

  • Thank you for this information. I am passing it on.

    Response shared by Lisa Canton — August 2, 2014 @ 6:58 am

  • Learned some of my history this evening.

    Response shared by Robert Williams — August 3, 2014 @ 12:50 am

  • Thanks for this information. I am definitely passing it on.

    Response shared by Idella Francois — August 3, 2014 @ 9:37 pm

  • Thanks for teaching, I didn’t know.

    Response shared by Queen iawia — August 4, 2014 @ 6:38 am

  • The Black churches should take up the teaching of our history. Every Black church should have a Black History ministry. Why leave the teaching to whites and whites’ history books. As a community we need to stop sending our children to white school, We pay taxes therefore we need to demand that the schools in our community have the same equipment, books that they have in their school. We need to create in our community committees to investigate the persons they send to teach our children. This does not mean an all black staff, sometimes we are our worse enemy, this simply means getting persons who are committed to teaching the truth and up lifting our children.

    Response shared by Bettie Patterson — August 6, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

  • I wish they would make a movie documentary about this!!!!

    Response shared by debrab — August 6, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

  • Here are two news stories about the Slocum Massacre:


    (scroll down to “Listen” prompt, click and advance to 7:45 mark)

    Response shared by eddie — August 7, 2014 @ 5:57 pm

  • Thank you for telling this story, my ancestors were all a part of this. Thank God that a lot of fine and intelligent African Americans are the epitome of true love and forgiveness. We have lived a life that is deeply rooted in God’s Word. We have no hate to give. We pray that the bringing to light of this true but awful story will open up the eyes of Americans that are still so entwined in hate and jealousy. It did not just stop after that massacre, it continued on for years, my dad was born in 1913 and he remembers so much from the Slocum area that involved his family again and again. My dad died in 1990. He left us a legacy that will strengthen us until the day God calls us home. Thank you so much for this enlightened subject. May God bless us all and strengthen us up in His Word.

    Response shared by Ester — August 24, 2014 @ 12:30 am

  • Very informative articles. I was a Social Studies teacher for many years and had never heard these stories. I will pass this information on to others.

    Response shared by Marsha Sperling — August 28, 2014 @ 10:39 pm

  • Had never heard of this this needs to be told.

    Response shared by Rosie James Ross — September 4, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

  • I am a 58 year old African-American Male originally from Tyler, Texas (which is also located near where Slocum was, in East Texas) and I had no knowledge of this ever occurring. I now am glad to know what happened there. It is a shame these individuals were Murdered in Cold Blood, in such an Inhumane way.

    Response shared by Michael Russell — September 18, 2014 @ 6:40 am

  • I am so glad that I came upon this piece of African-AmericAn History! We are a people who have struggled as a People after being bought here as Slaves and treated with Injustices from then On! And the thing about them wanting to HIDE THESE INJUSTICES from the American History Books! They will have a Memorial for the Victims of the 9/11 WTC Bombing EVERY YEAR but NOT ACKNOWLEDGE this type of TERRORISM that they Did to Blacks in 1910 and to the Present! AND THEIR KILLING OF PEOPLE OF COLOR does not stop there because …… Only Now the Killers are COPS! And the Victims are Our Black Children!

    Response shared by Zakiyyah Muhammad — September 18, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

  • I found it interesting, I really did not know the first documented Slave owner was an African American named Anthony Johnson.

    Response shared by carl — October 6, 2014 @ 2:16 pm

  • Without diminishing in any way what Blacks and other people of color inside the U.S. have suffered at the hands of white supremacists and a white-supremacist social order, it should be pointed out that these crimes are only a pale imitation of what the U.S. killitary has done to people of color (and occasionally even to whites!) in countries around the world. Both these histories need to be constantly publicized and denounced, and, in particular, no person of color in the United Snakes should be proud of having served in the U.S. armed forces.

    Response shared by Aaron Aarons — October 8, 2014 @ 12:30 pm

  • This is a very sad story that needs to be told, we have the right just as everyone else to know our history and not some fabricated pack of lies to make Whites feel superior. I live in California and we have a town outside of Bakersfield, Allensworth National Park that was a town started by and for Blacks by Colonel Allen Allensworth and other educated well appointed Blacks, only for the town to die after Colonel Allensworth was “Killed” in a motor cycle accident, but the truth was as with all the other stories, whites wanted the land because they had the main water source and the main train depot line. America will forever have problems because the country was founded on hatred, murder, theft and lies.

    Response shared by Morshelle Tease — October 9, 2014 @ 12:21 am

  • Someone need to make a Movie about it. Make it last for our future generation to passe it on.

    Response shared by Anonymous — October 10, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

  • Need more information on Texas history.

    Response shared by welbert — October 14, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

  • I am fifthy years old and this is the first time I have ever heard of this. I will purchase the books so that I can teach my grandchildrens.

    Thank you!

    Response shared by AF — October 23, 2014 @ 4:21 pm

  • We all need to have an accurate account of history taught to ALL our children!

    Response shared by Dezri — October 27, 2014 @ 1:25 pm

  • I’m 62 yrs and I never heard of the massacre in Slocum Texas, We American Africans must stand together as one people’ we should teach our own’ raise our own, and police our own, because the powers that be have been trying to get shed of our people since we came up out of slavery” JESHUA is coming back” SO WE BETTER BE READY’

    Response shared by Anonymous — October 29, 2014 @ 12:42 am

  • I myself have never heard of either if these stories. It’s shocking that even Black History month has not brought these stories forward. I will be learning more about them, Hell when I saw the movie Rosewood, I did not know that it was a true piece of history. I will be learning more!!

    Response shared by LearningMore — October 31, 2014 @ 3:52 am

  • Thanks for that piece of history. Will pass it on to my son.

    Response shared by Anonymous — October 31, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

  • It is a shame and disgrace that people are still hating. I have read about Rosewood and Tulsa, but this is new to me about Slocum , Texas. I have a 13 year old son and I am always talking to him about the treatment of our people. Thank you for making this part of black history known.

    Response shared by Donna — December 31, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

  • When riding through the town of Slocum…
    you can feel the hatred that has dwelt in that area.
    The feeling was so dry, I seriously had to rush my way out of those woods!!!!
    Racism still lives on!!!!

    Response shared by Kalina Trout — January 7, 2015 @ 1:06 am

  • It is true that all the bad things in History were not in our history books.

    I once commented in my History class about how the slavery owners had sex with their slaves and the Teacher said we don’t talk about that! How we have treated the blacks, the American Indians and the Mexicans breaks my heart. American people need to know all this. I left out the Japanese people also. We need to all know of this History not to take revenge but to forgive and love each other more and understanding. God made us all.

    Response shared by Linda McFarland — January 7, 2015 @ 4:58 pm

  • I recently moved from Slocum after living there 4 years. I learned of this tragedy shortly after moving there through my own curiosity about the area in which I was living. At the time there was 1 African-American family of five residing in Slocum with 3 children attending the public school. I was curious about their perspective and asked them if they had ever experienced any racism or negative comments and they had not. The family moved away before I did due to job relocation, however the stated 7% in the article is incorrect. Maybe 1%. There is an area judge who is pushing to have a monument erected but has not happened as of yet.

    Response shared by Heather Braun — January 14, 2015 @ 11:37 pm

  • Wow never heard bout Slocum but I have heard of Tulsa and rosewood

    Response shared by marcus — January 27, 2015 @ 3:24 am

  • Lived in Anderson County my first 18 years life never knew nothing like this happened. I feel so uninformed, and let down. I have traveled around the world and heard other countries stories now this happened in my backyard I truly feel ashamed about not knowing. As a black man I have to be better informed.

    Response shared by Eric — January 30, 2015 @ 10:08 am

  • At 63yrs. Old..I never heard of the Texas Massacre.. That makes my Heart ache.

    Response shared by Harlan — January 30, 2015 @ 9:41 pm

  • Wow ! Although I love this Country very much, there is a lot this Country needs to answer for. I strongly feel that the only way we as a people can truly move forward is to address and then forgive the sins of the past. Its time for America to humble itself on all ends or be humbled by the Almighty One, in which HE has already started that process because of America’s pride.So many injustices and so little apologies and reconciliations (thank you for this story about Slocum)…….GOD help us.

    Response shared by AC — February 9, 2015 @ 11:43 am

  • I knew of they other 2 but not this one

    Response shared by Keith Mayes — February 10, 2015 @ 5:04 am

  • Please check out my books on the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the worst of the twentieth century American “race riots.” There are two: (1) “Black Wall Street: From Riot to Renaissance in Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District” (Eakin Press on amazon.com); and (2) “Tulsa’s Historic Greenwood District” (Arcadia Publishing on arcadiapublishing.com). Hannibal B. Johnson

    Response shared by Hannibal B. Johnson — April 21, 2015 @ 9:20 pm

  • This is not surprising considering this is a pattern in history, even today looking at the occurrences we see on the news daily…Racism lives and until people wake up, black and white, the fate of humanity is uncertain.

    Response shared by anonymous — July 28, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

  • Brings shame upon everyone that turns their back on these communities and American white society for pretending that there is not a problem with racism when people are going to jail and mysteriously committing suicide for changing lanes without using a turn signal. This is an issue that seems to be a pandemic mainly in the United States and is not seen with the black communities in many other “Western” civilizations.

    Until these histories are shared and their root causes understood and overcome, issues like this story will be a part of the pantheon of Americana for generations to come and that is truly sad.

    Response shared by Heidi — July 29, 2015 @ 12:56 pm


    Response shared by LAURA FROWNER — December 28, 2015 @ 12:49 am

  • I’m from Slocum and I can’t even remember when I first heard about it; I’ve just always known about it. The swamp by where I use to live they called “Negro Swamp”—this is where I’ve heard they put a bunch of the bodies.

    Response shared by John — March 23, 2016 @ 12:21 am

  • I was compelled to travel from California to Slocum to participate in the Slocum Marker Dedication on January 16, 2016. That was also Dr. Martin Luther King day. My Grandfather lost his left leg in the Slocum Massacre.

    Response shared by Felix Green — April 2, 2016 @ 11:31 am

  • I was married a perso that was related to those people that was involved in the tulsa riot very interesting story excuing the anguish…

    Response shared by Anonymous — June 18, 2016 @ 12:47 am

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