Saturday, October 20, 2018

This Week in Texas Methodist History October 21

Methodist Church Sexton in Roxton Assaulted by Racist Thugs, 1900

The controversies over removal of Confederate statutes and renaming of schools, streets, and other public facilities named for Confederates have had the effect of renewed interest in the period 1890-1920.  It was that period in which most of the statues were erected and many public parks, schools, and streets were named to honor Confederates.   As always, one of the benefits of historical knowledge is being able to provide the larger context of events.   Although superficially benign, the honorifics were part of a larger picture of trying to ennoble the motives of those who had taken up arms to destroy the United States of America.  

Besides the erection of statues other actions of the period included disenfranchisement of African American voters, the imposition of strict social segregation, enactment of “Black Codes” which treated African Americans and European Americans differently even in courts of law, and myriad other violations of democratic values.

Even worse was the reign of terror launched against African Americans in the Texas and the rest of the South.   Lynching, assassination of political activists, imprisonment on trumped up or petty charges and other devices made life dangerous for African Americans.   Men swept up by the law for vague, unsubstantiated charges could find themselves leased out for chain gang labor, especially in the cane fields of the Brazos bottomlands.  An unknown number  died there.   

Even the sanctity of a Methodist church could not provide safety from the racist violence as this article from the Rockdale Messenger, October 25, 1900 shows

                                                        Attack on a Sexton
Paris, Texas, October 20,  About two months ago a negro (sic) was employed as a sexton at the Methodist Church in Roxton (Lamar County, about 18 miles sw of Paris).  Three of four weeks ago the church was entered at night by unknown persons who upset the benches, smashed the lights, and committed other depredations.  They posted a notice on the door warning the sexton to quit work.  The supposition is that they objected to him on account of his color.  Last night after the prayer meeting before persons who had attended had time to get out of hearing and while the sexton was engaged in putting out the lights, three or four unknown young men went up to the window and asked him why he was not picking cotton. He replied that he was attending to the church.  A stone was hurled through the window and struck him on the shoulder.  Almost immediately afterwards two shots were fired, one of the bullets grazing the side of his head and the other passing through his coat.  There is no clew as to who the parties were. 


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