Tulsa, Oklahoma recently commemorated the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. Hundreds of Black people were murdered when what was known as Black Wall Street was burned by an angry white mob.
A similar race riot took place in Sherman, Texas in 1930. Now some citizens want a historical monument to recognize that part of the town’s history.
In Downtown Sherman sits the Grayson County Courthouse.
Some describe it as a more modern-looking courthouse for a town founded in 1846.
It looks this way because the original courthouse was burned down in 1930.
The historical marker for the courthouses of Grayson county does say it burned.
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But people coming and going probably don’t know the story of why.
But one group, the 1930 Historical Marker Committee, is working to change that.
“We are a group of Grayson county citizens who are advocating for a historical marker to be placed at the Grayson County courthouse to talk about the lynching of George Hughes and the Sherman riot of 1930,” said 1930 Historical Marker Committee chairperson, Melissa Thiel.
George Hughes was a Black farm worker accused of assaulting the wife of his white employer. That claim was never proven. But on the day of his trial, an angry white mob stormed the courthouse.
“And while that was going on a couple of young men threw some gasoline through a window downstairs and they set the whole courthouse on fire,” Thiel said. “That 1876 courthouse was mainly the interior, was mainly wood so it went up.”
After the fire, Hughes’ body was pulled from the courthouse and dragged to the Black business district on Mulberry street.
“So, while he was burning the mob then destroyed the Black business district,” Thiel said. “Martial law was declared in Sherman for two weeks because the mob didn’t stop there. They harassed and terrorized the Black people of Sherman. Notes were left on doors telling Black people to get out,” she added.
There are a number of other historical markers on the Grayson courthouse grounds. There is even a monument to confederate soldiers.
Organizers say one is needed for this part of their town’s history that still affects it today.
“It’s important to know not just the people then were affected, but generations of wealth were lost,” Thiel said.
“So, I think it’s really important to know our history, to know what happened, and to recognize a group of our citizens were terrorized and the best way to handle that is acknowledge it, to heal from it and move forward,” Thiel added.
Others agree the history should be remembered.
“It’s not about the marker to me as it is about the truth,” said Sherman Interdenominational Minister Alliance President Reverend Charles Brown, Jr.
He said for him it’s about providing history to the younger generations.
“But we have to recognize history and learn from history so that then our children will have a chance not to continue in that history but to change,” Brown said.
Some change for good has happened so far.
“Already from this movement we have a George Hughes Memorial Scholarship that started from one of our local churches,” Thiel said.
But ultimately to move forward they want to mark this part of Sherman’s past.
“We want this to be a healing thing,” Thiel said. “Something that brings people together. Not divisive. We want everyone to have a voice and to talk about this and recognize what happened.”
Theil has been working on this project since June of last year. They are still working to get full approval for placement of the marker.