Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dallas Martyr's Park and John F. Kennedy

In 1860 three Black men were murdered on the banks of the Trinity River near downtown Dallas by a crowd with no trial and no ability to defend themselves against false charges involving "insurrection" and burning building in Dallas. But these were not the first public hangings of slaves in Dallas. Seven years earlier Jane Elkins had been hung near the jailhouse within a block of Courthouse Square where "Old Red" now stands.  It was after killing her overseer. He had probably either sexually molested, or attempted to molest, either her, or one of her children, or maybe a grandchild. That was the only way to stop such abuse.  She probably knew she would be executed. She said nothing at her trial and was never given an attorney. See https://billbetzen.blogspot.com/2017/11/jane-elkins-black-female-about-age-53.html

There are many martyrs who should be remembered in Dallas Martyr's Park!

In 1991 the land near where the 1860 hangings happened, and only 2 blocks from Courthouse Square, was renamed Martyr's Park.  It is downtown Dallas to the Northside of Elm street as you drive west and go under the triple underpass under the railroads.

This week a long-overdue article was written asking why more of this history is unknown, why is this history hidden?  See that Dallas Morning News article at https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2017/10/06/dallas-hates-erasing-history-much-anyone-know-park-three-slaves-hanged .

The above map shows where Martyr's Park is located:

It is very appropriate that it is simply on the "other side of the tracks" from the tragic location of the J. F. Kennedy Assassination.  President Kennedy had introduced what became the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to the nation in June of 1963 in a national radio address.  He changed the basic civil rights issues from legal issues into moral issues.  Remember, this was when everything was segregated by race: schools, neighborhoods, lunch counters.  Tragically, his death probably helped speed the signing of this monumental legislation within 9 months of his 11-22-63 death.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed on July 2, 1964. It was followed on August 6th of 1965 by the Voting Rights Act. (https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/civilrights/prize.htm)

If Dallas were to build the long-overdue memorial for Martyr's Park, they could include the many who died due to the racism that had plagued the US for centuries.  This would include the three men who died in 1860, and others publicly killed at gatherings in Dallas such as Jane Elkins "legally executed" just 7 years earlier, May 27th of 1853, as a focus. A Historical Marker to the JFK work to start the process toward the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act should be placed on the east side entrance to the pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks. 

A Black History Timeline, similar to the one now in the Shotgun House at Dallas Heritage Park, could be placed into the walkway under the railroad track.  It could be well lit so people could easily follow Black History back to 1860. 
This would illustrate the painful history leading up to  President Kennedy's 6/11/63 national radio address on Civil Rights.  

See photos from the location below to better explain.

The 1853 hanging of Jane Elkins on Dallas Courthouse Square was the first legal execution of a woman in Texas.  She had no lawyer. Judge John H. Reagon handled her trial and ordered her death. He went on to become the Confederate Postmaster and has a Dallas school named after him. Austin Texas removed his name from the high school named for him there.

This is Martyr's Park and the area surrounding it.  It is an open canvas for Dallas to write on and preserve an accurate record of our history, and our dreams for the future.  Done well it will become a major tourist attraction in its own right.

Other opinions are welcome as to the accuracy of the position of the "X" in the above photo.  Much has changed.