On July 29, 1910, the Slocum massacre took place at Slocum, Texas, an unincorporated town in southeast Anderson County. The city used to have a vibrant African American community, with several black-owned businesses and farms.
The lynching of a black man in nearby Cherokee county heightened racial tensions in the Slocum region in the days leading up to the slaughter. White whispers spread that black Slocum residents were conspiring to plot an armed revolt. When a white man allegedly attempted to collect a disputed debt from a well-respected black farmer called Abe Wilson, and when a road construction foreman put an African American in charge of soliciting money for road improvements, racial tensions rose even higher.
When a disagreement erupted, it enraged Jim Spurger, a local white farmer who became the principal agitator of the incident that resulted in the killing. Spurger allegedly initiated the events by alleging that blacks had threatened him, according to many media and eyewitness testimony.
An irate mob of heavily armed white males from all across Anderson County wandered Slocum in groups, led by Spurger and other white vigilantes. Two hundred warriors, according to some accounts, lay siege to the city. They had no qualms about firing weapons at black residents at will. As word of the atrocity spread, African Americans began to flee. Into the nearby woodlands and marshes, white mobs pursued fleeing blacks and shot them in the back. Every first-day publication depicted African Americans as “armed instigators,” which was a massive exaggeration.
Newspapers stated that the death toll among black citizens ranged from 8 to 22. Members of the black community disputed the findings, claiming that at least 40 people died and that the number of victims could have risen to 200. At the time, Anderson county sheriff William H.
Black reported that obtaining the death toll was difficult because black bodies were strewn across the woods. To save their lives, many black citizens fled the town during and after the slaughter, leaving behind real land and other possessions. Their property was later seized by white residents. For example, after fleeing the city, Jack Hollie, a formerly enslaved man, lost his dairy, granary, general store, and 700 acres of property to white neighbors.
Almost everyone in Slocum was called to testify, and white men who refused were arrested. Spurger was detained, along with at least fifteen other white men, for the attacks. Spurger and six of the men were also charged with 22 charges of murder. They were, however, never put to the test. When Judge Benjamin Howard Gardner shifted the trial to Harris County, where the charges were finally dropped, the indictments garnered little attention. None of the assailants were ever brought to justice.
Slocum is still a vestige of its history today. Slocum has a black population of just fewer than 7%, compared to more than 20% in other adjacent communities. In 2016, a historical marker was installed to commemorate the tragedy thanks to the efforts of Constance Hollie-Jawaid, a descendant of the victims.