Uncovering Longview, Texas's History of Racist Violence

Historians in the News
tags: Jim Crow, African American history, Texas, lynching

Whether the tree still stands in the pasture is a mystery, its exact location just as much so. A century of brutal East Texas summers — or even a sharp ax — could have brought its end.

The death of the Black man found hanging from that tree one December day in 1921, somewhere in Gladewater, likely was as lonely and anonymous as his mourning.

No identification was found on his body, hands bound behind it. The only clue: the name Lonnie Newsome written on a letter tucked inside the man’s clothing.

Among the four sentences in a report by the Austin American-Statesman was this: “Officers had been unable to develop the reason for the hanging …”

Who, why, where.

History holds tight its secrets surrounding this episode of death and terror.

Uncomfortable truth

The Gladewater lynching is one of numerous such deaths documented in Gregg and surrounding counties in the late 1880s through the mid-1900s. But just like the details of that man’s hanging, it’s likely these cases of racial violence also are mostly unknown among the communities where they happened.

Two projects — one involving Sam Houston State University in Huntsville and the other led by a group of Longview-area residents — aim to change that.

Both efforts, in different ways, address gaps in our communities’ past left unfilled by most school history books.

Both tackle a topic whose truth might make some flinch.

Clent Holmes believes dragging our violent history out into the light is essential, despite the discomfort it could bring.

It’s a matter of “healing,” he says, something that can benefit the whole community.

Holmes is the director of Thrive Longview, a nonprofit organization that supports area teens.

He’s also a member of the 1919 Remembrance Project, a group working to bring attention to and commemorate the 1919 Longview race riot as well as other documented cases of racial violence in the city.

“If we don’t stop and halt, and I don’t want to say make a fuss … but if we don’t stop, then nothing is done to undo, nothing is done to heal, nothing is done to fix,” Holmes said. “And we just keep perpetuating the same cycle.”

Read entire article at Longview News-Journal

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