Dallas Morning News

A Paul Quinn College administrator says he’s trying to help Dallas confront its racist history.

So last week, Dr. Christopher Dowdy published a website on the 105th anniversary of the lynching of Allen Brooks, a black man who was accused of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl in 1910.

Called “Dallas Untold: Lynching and Memory in Dallas, Texas,” Dowdy’s near-complete account tells what happened that March 3 afternoon when a mob broke into the second story of the Old Red Courthouse.

Using newspapers, court records and historical archives, Dowdy describes how a noose was placed around Brooks’ neck and the other end of the rope was tossed out a second-story window. Below, members of a boiling crowd pulled Brooks out the window. It is believed he died from the fall.

His body was dragged behind a car down Main Street and strung up on a telephone pole near a ceremonial arch at Akard Street. Historians say as many as 10,000 people witnessed the lynching. A photograph was taken and turned into a postcard.

“Every city is built on ruins,” said Dowdy, a special assistant to the president of Paul Quinn. “Whether it’s ancient Rome or the city of Atlanta, you can’t find a city that’s not built on top of somebody else’s roads. Our challenge is to figure out what those ruins mean for us and how they shape what we are today.”

Dowdy became interested in the lynching story in 2009 while studying for his doctorate in religious ethics at SMU.

In the intervening years, he discovered rarely seen photos, including one of the crowd two hours after the lynching, and painful details about the man who was murdered. He was a 65-year-old laborer who tended the furnace of a home at Ross Avenue and Pearl Street.

Brooks was accused of attempted rape after being found alone in a barn with the toddler, Mary Ethel Beuvens, on Feb. 27. Both he and the child were examined by a doctor, but no injuries were listed in sensational newspaper accounts.

Dallas County Sheriff Arthur Ledbetter hid Brooks in area jails for several days as angry crowds gathered at the courthouse and jail. But when Brooks appeared for a hearing, Ledbetter and his deputies were unable to save him from the mob.

After the lynching, some historical accounts suggest, city leaders tore down the massive Elks Arch on Main Street — a landmark displayed prominently in a photograph of the lynching — because of public shame about the incident.

But Dowdy says newspaper accounts from the time say the arch was disassembled because some city leaders thought it was gaudy. The lighted metal structure was temporarily moved to the state fairgrounds and eventually disappeared.

Read more here.