Allen Brooks, Victim of a 1910 Lynching, Is Remembered in Dallas

Allen Brooks, a Dallas handyman accused of raping a little girl, was awaiting the beginning of his trial on March 3, 1910, when a mob stormed the courtroom.

As The Dallas Morning News reported the next day, Brooks, who was Black, had a rope tied around his neck and was pulled from the second-story window of the courthouse. His body was then dragged several blocks to the Elks Arch, a large landmark in downtown Dallas. Brooks was strung up on a telephone pole and lynched on the corner of Main and Akard Streets.

“While the attorneys were preparing the motion, a mob entered the courtroom and killed the defendant,” Judge Robert Seay wrote in the court record. “Case dismissed.”

The arch was dismantled less than a year later, but now, a new landmark has been erected where it once stood. In a ceremony on Saturday at the site of Brooks’s lynching, the Dallas County Justice Initiative unveiled a historical marker acknowledging the crime that occurred 111 years ago. Local advocates say the marker is the first memorial of its kind for a lynching victim in Dallas County.

“Everybody knows J.F.K. was assassinated here in Dallas, we have no problem recognizing that part of history,” George Keaton Jr., executive director of the nonprofit organization Remembering Black Dallas, said in a recent interview. “But when it comes to our people of color, the sins and the wrongdoings that white America has done to our people, they do not want to be known.”

According to Christopher J. Dowdy, chief academic officer at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Brooks had been fixing a furnace in the home of a white family on Feb. 27, 1910, when the family’s 3-year-old daughter, Mary Ethel Beuvens, went missing. Brooks, who was believed to be 59 years old, was found with the toddler less than four hours later. For his research project, “Dallas Untold,” Dr. Dowdy combined the sensationalized local articles from the time with court records to provide a textured account of what happened to Brooks.

After the man and the child were examined by doctors, Brooks was charged with rape. Dr. Keaton said there was no proof of that crime and the child had no injuries.

An estimated 5,000 people witnessed the lynching at Elks Arch, a three-story white, blue and purple structure that marked the main entrance to the city, according to Dr. Dowdy. Its white metal was inscribed with the name of every county in Texas.

The Dallas County Justice Initiative, which is also led by Dr. Keaton, worked to secure funding for the marker from the Community Remembrance Project of the Equal Justice Initiative, which “collaborates with communities to memorialize documented victims of racial violence.”

“One of the great tragedies is that there are many lynchings that we’ll never know anything about, because there was just no way to document them,” Bryan Stevenson, the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, said in an interview. “And so this marker for Allen Brooks represents what happened to him, but it also represents what happened to thousands of other people, many of whose names we’ll never know.”

Next month, the Dallas County Justice Initiative plans to hold a second ceremony honoring Reuben Johnson, who was lynched in 1874.

“Most Americans know very little about this history when it is so central to the American story,” Mr. Stevenson said.

While the two historical markers will represent only a small fraction of the racial violence that took place in a state where at least 335 lynchings of African Americans occurred, Dr. Keaton said, they’re more than he could have imagined 20 years ago.

“This means a lot to me,” Dr. Keaton said. “It means that Dallas has moved forward.”

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