SLOCUM (KYTX) - We've reported that this week marks the anniversary of the greatest injustice in East Texas history, one that many people don't even know about. Historians say hundreds were killed in the Slocum Massacre, which happened 104 years ago, in Anderson county.
It's been over a century and there is no historical marker, or justice for the descendants of the families affected. Today, that's what they're fighting for.
"It's surreal standing here. Look, I'm getting chill bumps."
There's a reason for that. Constance Hollie Jawaid says that as she stands where her family members were murdered a century ago.
"It is very emotional, just to look there at the creek and know that's where I lost uncles, cousins, family members," she says.
The Slocum Massacre started at Sadler Creek, then violence moved to Ioni creek, where Constance's uncle and cousin were killed.
"My great grandfather was the primary landowner here in Slocum," she says. "He owned the only store here in Slocum, a dairy a granary, 700 plus acres. It's his son and cousin who were first shot here on Ioni Creek, Alex Holley and Lusk Holley."
"In late July in 1910, group of white folks in the Slocum area decided they had a problem with the African American population, and essentially, they just started killing them, as many as they could find," says author E.R. Bills.
Bills finished writing a book this year called "The 1910 Slocum Massacre: An Act of Genocide in East Texas." It came out this March. He has joined Constance and her brother Leo on their quest for justice and answers.
"There were reports of unmarked graves where a dozen, 16, 17, 18 bodies were covered up," Bills says. " The oral history, the families that were affected estimate at least 200 were killed. There are several different theories of why it happened. Essentially it was a racial expulsion. A Texas politician Jerry Sadler says it was pure and simple just a land grab."
People who survived, like Constance's great grandfather, could never goback. Theirr homes, land, and businesses, were taken. Her great grandfather even changed the spelling of his last name from Holley to Hollie when he moved to Palestine, for fear of repercussions.
"They took my family's legacy. they took the inheritance that my great grandfather worked for and built," Constance says.
What hurts her the most is that no one ever paid for these crimes.
"Nobody was ever officially tried or convicted," Bills says.
In 2011 the Texas government passed a resolution acknowledging that it happened but Constance wants more.
"To have returned to my family what is rightfully ours, what was taken illegally. To at least have the deaths of my family members honored with a historical marker," she says.
Most of all she wants the truth of the Slocum Massacre to be taught to generations to come, so her family's dark history will never be forgotten.
Both Constance and E.R. Bills say they have applied for a historical marker through the Anderson County historic commission in the last year. They say just yesterday, the director called Constance and told her he was reviewing the request.
If you want to check out Bills' book, it's available online and in book stores.