Part three of the history of racial violence in Kaufman County, TX.
“Staying In Your Lane,” is a series on racial violence in Kaufman County and how the culture of white supremacy thrived in Kaufman County for decades and is fighting to stay relevant today. Part three picks up in 1920, when Kaufman County saw the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Confederate ties with the Ku Klux Klan.
In the late 1800s, Kaufman County was the place that Confederate veterans had reunions, special meetings, and rallies. As Black people in Kaufman County were being lynched on a regular basis, denied the right to vote, and ran out of town; Kaufman County’s white community celebrated with Confederate barbeques and parades.
Racial violence continued in Kaufman County against Black and brown bodies through 1911 when the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the Confederate statue on Kaufman County Courthouse lawn.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) is the sister organization of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV). Both organizations are hate groups with a long history of ties to the Ku Klux Klan.
An example of this can be seen in 1920 Houston when the KKK was a big feature in a Sons of Confederate Veterans parade. In 1921, the Ku Klux Klan took donations to send Confederate Veterans to the annual reunion.
To truly understand how the KKK, the SCV, and the UDC were all intertwined, check out this 1922 article from the Plano Star-Courier. In the article the chairman of the Dallas County Citizens Association called upon the Sons of Confederate Veterans to compel dissolution of the Klan.
The point is to show that the women who placed the Confederate Statue in Kaufman County in 1911 had close ties with the Ku Klux Klan back then. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if they still share those same ties in 2020.
What kind of Klan activity happened in Kaufman County?
During the 1920s in Kaufman County there were Klan parades in Kaufman, Terrell, and Forney. Local churches endorsed the Klan. And in shocking testimony from a 1928 trial, a witness gave accounts on the stand of the Klan killing and burning people alive while tied to trees in Kaufman County.
The UDC, who placed that statue in 1911 in front of the courthouse had deep ties with the Ku Klux Klan, even when they were committing murder in Kaufman County.
In 1922, the Forney messenger was sold to D.B. Coates, a man in Dallas who had vocally supported the Klan.
Lynchings went on.
In May 1922, two Mexican men were lynched in Kaufman, accused of murdering another man.
Lynchings were considered a normal part of Kaufman living throughout 1920s as evidenced by an article published in Kaufman on Christmas Eve 1931.
The article boasts how there have been mob lynchings in Texas every year for 50 years and how 1931 was the first year there was none.
Police killings also escalated.
As something that hasn’t changed over time, Black men’s lives didn’t matter to the cops that shot them.
In 1925 a constable intended to shoot a Black man who was fleeing and shot a white teenager on accident. The excuse he gave was, he thought he was shooting at the Black man.
Back in those days, police were so trigger-happy in Kaufman County, they even got in gun-battles with each other.
Police shot plenty of Black men.
In 1933, a constable shot a drunk Black man in the leg. In 1934 Rich Hill, a 60 year old Black man was shot and killed by a police officer for resisting arrest. And in 1950 a young Black man was shot for running away.
In a time when Black lives didn’t matter, Black men in Kaufman County were frequently sentenced to the electric chair, even for crimes other than murder.
In 1938 Henderson Young, 19 years old and Roscoe Young, 18 years old, were sent to the electric chair for armed robbery.
Then, in 1940 Floirence Murphy was sentenced to the electric chair for allegedly assaulting a white woman.
During the depression era, as lynchings dwindled, so came the rise of the Civil Rights Era.
Kaufman County dealt with a slew of Civil Rights problems.
Even when justice was served in Kaufman County, the punishment to Black people who commit crimes was much harsher than it was for white people. This can be seen in this 1933 case where a young Black man was given 40 years for burglary.
In 1948, six men, four of them who were law enforcement officers were arrested for holding a Black man in involuntary servitude. In other words, in 1948, these law enforcement officials had forced a Black man into slavery. 72 years ago. The men were from both Rockwall and Kaufman Counties. Specifically from Kaufman County was:
- Constable William Frazier
As the court case played out, the details of this crime were also exposed. Constable William Frazier had arrested the victim in Terrell, then took him to Rockwall, where he was forced into slavery.
During the trial, it also came out that these officers had beat the victim multiple times. However, they were acquitted of peonage and convicted of violating the man’s civil rights. Several of the other officers were also indicted for violating the civil rights of others, as well.
In 1948 the Kaufman Herald endorsed the Dixiecrat ticket.
They also published an article making their opinion known they they were anti-Civil Rights and anti-NAACP.
It wasn’t just Kaufman County that hated the NAACP, it was all of Texas. During the mid-20th century, the NAACP was fighting hard in Texas for civil rights. Texas didn’t like that very much. At one point, in 1950, the NAACP was ordered to end all activities in Texas.
Eventually, they were allowed to work for civil rights again in Texas. However, Texas elected officials continued to fight against civil rights for their Black citizens. Check out this 1958 ad from Joe Pool, a once Texas Representative of an at-large district that doesn’t exist anymore. The ad said he was 100% against integration and called the NAACP radical and liberals.
In case you don’t get it.
Texas wasn’t a great place to live for Black people in Texas before or during the civil rights era. Kaufman, wasn’t unique for that. They also didn’t want the NAACP in their county or state pushing for civil rights.
Kaufman County publications indicated a persistent dislike for the NAACP.
This 1948 article in the Kaufman Herald warns white residents not to vote straight ticket, because of the NAACP, candidates for Chamber of Commerce offices no longer specify their race.
With the Civil Rights era also brought the end of segregation, something that people still living in Kaufman County can tell you that white Kaufman residents fought feverishly against.
In this 1955 article in the Kaufman Herald it spoke about how some Texas towns and school are ending segregation, but Kaufman County planned on continuing on like they always had, segregated.
Although, the supreme court ordered for schools to desegregate in 1955, it was 1967 before the NAACP came to Kaufman County and forced integration.
Even religious leaders were pushing for segregation.
In 1957, the Kaufman Herald published this article which spoke of a Baptist minister from Dallas, who was advocating for segregation.
The Kaufman Herald did this frequently through the 50s and 60s, published opinions of local leaders, political, community, and religious, who took a pro-segregation stance.
The Black children who went to Pyle High in Kaufman, didn’t have the same education. Sure, white schools were better in the 1950s and 1960s, but what was worse in Kaufman County was the Black school didn’t even go to school for an entire school year.
During the school year, the Black school would only be open a few times, because the children who went to school there had to work in the cotton fields. So, their school schedule coincided with harvesting and planting.
The fighting over the Confederate monument began.
Unlike other towns fighting over their Confederate monument, Kaufman County’s fight began 70 years ago. When the new courthouse was built, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it.
To learn exactly what was going on around that Confederate statue, check back soon for part four.