JULY 29, 1910

Credit: Texas Historical Commission

After a series of lynchings, a massacre took place in the unincorporated town of Slocum near Palestine, Texas, killing at least eight African Americans and perhaps more than 20. The slayings took place in this community about 100 miles east of Waco after a foreman put a Black American in charge of recruiting for local road improvements. White mobs followed, firing their guns into cabins where the Black residents lived. 

“Men were going about killing Negroes as fast as they could find them,” the sheriff told The New York Times. “They hunted the Negroes down like sheep.” 

Two weeks later, more than 150 African-American ministers from Washington, D.C., sent a letter to President William H. Taft, urging him to use “the powers of your great Office to suppress lynching, murder and other forms of lawlessness in this country. … Unless something is done to make human life more valuable and law more universally respected, we feel that our beloved country is doomed to destruction.” 

The ministers said in a letter to Taft and the American people, decrying the disenfranchisement of Black Americans, “lynching our men on frivolous charges and unproven charges, and widening the (racial) chasm. … It is pitiable to note that the white man who makes laws for men of other races to live under has not succeeded in ruling according to the laws he has made … Within a month, approximately a hundred citizens have suffered death or persecution in a community of the State of Texas. … Humane treatment, establishing the guilt of evil doers, as a part of justice, is absolutely necessary.” 

The ministers’ words fell on deaf ears. The nation’s attorney general responded coldly that this was a matter for state authorities. Only seven men were indicted, but they all walked free. No one was ever prosecuted. A historical marker now remembers the massacre.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.