G.J. Hayes Letter

The latest document added to the Slocum Massacre website is the 1984 G.J. Hayes letter to Eliza Bishop of the Houston County Historical Commission.  Over thirty years ago he asked about having a historical marker placed to allow people to remember the massacre.  Near the end of the letter Dr. Hayes concludes that he "has probably bored you with what" he has already said.  In fact boring seems to be one of the least accurate ways to describe this letter, so why use the term boring?  Perhaps Dr.Hayes expected Ms. Bishop to find the violence and trauma he describes as common and unexceptional, and given that she did not approve any sort of marker perhaps she did not consider it noteworthy.  

In parts of the letter Dr. Hayes simply repeats what was reported in the newspapers, but he also adds new details learned from his father and people involved with the massacre.  The description of the grave could be useful for future efforts to unearth the victims and to determine how many lives were lost in the massacre.  Dr. Hayes notes that his father believed that there were many more than 18 people killed, but that this number was put out as an attempt to whitewash the event.  While every detail cannot be taken as the absolute truth, Dr. Hayes' descriptions make it possible to think of how this event happened at many different points in time and space.  The document can be found in the letter section of the website. 

A Note on Permissions and Sources

Some of you may be wondering why certain documents are included or excluded from this site.  Much of this has to do with permissions and also a desire to not overwhelm the reader with content.  

Newspapers are one of the most abundant sources for material on the Slocum Massacre.  Much of the early reporting reflects false reports, such as the Abilene Daily Reporter article posted on this site titled: "Race Riot at Slocum Results in Death of 23 Negroes, 4 Whites."  Later newspaper accounts tended to be more accurate, but nonetheless present a wide array of biases.  One of the best sites for studying Texas history, and digitized newspapers in general, is the Portal to Texas History where you can do a wide variety of searches and also search within specific editions thanks to optical character resolution (ocr).  Though sources like the Portal to Texas History are cited on this website, there are no copyright restrictions on newspapers from 1910.  Thus when you search on sites like the New York Times archives and see the nyt copyright symbol at the bottom of the article that is in fact illegal.  If you're interested you can read more here.

Government documents and archives were another fruitful source of information for this website.  They are cited with enough details so that you will know where to look if you want to find the original documents at places like the Texas State Archives or Sam Houston State University's archives.  With other sources, such as those from the Houston County Historical Commission, permission was required and granted via email.  And many other documents and images presented here were granted by the family members who held them.

There are a few first person accounts that are either copyrighted or protected that will eventually (I hope) be included on this site.  This includes Judge Gardner's memoirs where he discusses his role in trying to bring the perpetrators to justice.  Another memoir comes from Jerry Sadler, one of Texas' most storied politicians, who grew up a short distance away from Slocum.  Seeing the terrible effect of the massacre when he was a boy, stayed with Sadler throughout his life and he discusses this in his memoir, still under copyright, hence the delay in posting it here.  

Finally, the most important source will be from the individuals who lived through the Slocum Massacre and their descendants.  Eventually this website will feature their voices and stories about what life was like before, during, and after the Slocum Massacre.  These oral histories will be presented as audio recordings and transcripts, with the copyright remaining with the interviewees themselves.  Thanks to creative commons licensing we should be able to post these interviews on this site by attribution rather than ownership. 

Hopefully this has clarified some questions you may have had about sources.  Let the users of this site know what you discover!

-Scot McFarlane



Creating A Reading List

Eventually this website will include a comprehensive reading list that provides relevant context and case studies related to the themes of the Slocum Massacre.  This reading list will, in part, be the product of the comments that you provide as users of this site.  Here is a preliminary list of books related to the history of the Slocum Massacre, racism, violence, massacres in general, and the contested nature of historical memory.  

Of course it makes the most sense to begin with E.R. Bills' The 1910 Slocum Massacre: An Act of Genocide in East Texas in which Bills reveals the history of both the massacre itself and its aftermath.  This book also shows the great variety of sources that Bills had to interrogate in order to tell this story, which will be especially useful as you try and interpret the sources on this site.  Though written before the most recent contest to memorialize the massacre, Bills details past conflicts over the meaning and presentation of the Slocum Massacre where those in power have consistently sought to obscure and diminish the meaning of this event.   

William D. Carrigan's The Making of a Lynching Culture: Violence and Vigilantism in Central Texas, 1836-1916  is focused on Central Texas, but is useful for understanding the history of violence throughout Texas.  By looking at different time periods Carrigan shows how factors like politics or white supremacy influenced this violence.  Historical memory is prominent here, both in white people's current efforts to forget and in the memories of the immigrants that came to Texas, having heard about the violence of Texas before they arrived, they were primed to participate in it once they became Texans. 

Kidada E. Williams' They Left Great Marks on Me: African American Testimonies of Racial Violence from Emancipation to World War I with its vivid descriptions of racist violence from maiming to murder will move the reader to action.  And that, Williams argues, is exactly the reason that African Americans bravely articulated these traumas to a wider audience so that they could present the true costs of white supremacy for everyone to see, and for some to act upon, laying the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement.     

Ari Kelman's A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek shows why the work of interpreting an historical event is never complete, and with the many stakeholders at Sand Creek this process was even more fraught.  Even as Kelman points to complexity, with competing perspectives and contradictory evidence, he reemphasizes the moral clarity and weight of this event which is deeply felt by the present-day Cheyennes and Arapahos.  

More great books to follow!

-Scot McFarlane


Context and Contested

There are many different ways to teach this history, and one of the biggest questions for educators is deciding which contexts to connect this history with.  Will you be teaching this as part of a wider study of the Progressive Era?  Or will you try and connect it to Reconstruction or the Civil Rights Movement?  

This is also contested history, in the past and present.  How will you engage with questions of historical memory?  Some of the newspaper reports from this time, such as the one that lists four white people among the dead, are simply wrong.  But what do such reports tell us about the media during this time?  Or what do they tell us about any number of events from the past that unfold over a short period of time?  

Essays and Reflections

We also would like to encourage teachers and students to send in any particularly strong and reflective essays on the Slocum Massacre.  We will try to feature a different essay written by students over the course of the year.  

Slocum Massacre Education

Alongside the site we are working on developing lesson plans based on the material presented here.  We hope to offer lesson plans of varying length based on your pedagogical needs. Please feel free to share your own lesson plans on teaching the Slocum Massacre.  In addition, the Zinn Education Project has some current suggestions for teaching this history.