BRYAN, Texas — Just 15 miles south of Texas A&M University, on the southern edge of Brazos County, is Millican, Texas. Its current population is 241.
But 153 years ago, during the Reconstruction era following the end of the Civil War, Millican was the place to be in Brazos County.
"So in 1868, Millican would have been the big town in this area, because the end of the railroad pre Civil War was in Millican and a very large percentage of black free men and women were living there," said Amy Earhart, project coordinator of the Millican Race Massacre 1868 project and associate professor of english and affiliated faculty of Africana studies at Texas A&M University.
The large number of newly freed African-Americans who had the right to bear arms, combined with the loss of voting rights for white Texans, signaled a dramatic shift in power. In July of 1868, a shift toward equality for Blacks incited one of the largest “race riots” in Texas, known today as the Millican Massacre.
“We are not sure it went on for several days. We don't have firm numbers. Newspapers around the world reported from five to 300 people murder, they all make clear that no white people were killed or only black people," said Earhart. "The newspapers are pretty consistent on that. I've also read a report by the Governor of Texas, former Gov. [Elisha] Pease, and he also reports the same thing that it was a massacre of black freeman.”
The Millican Massacre was reported worldwide in newspapers from Panama to Europe, and it’s that public record in print and oral histories from Brazos Valley families that have helped fill in holes to what happened in Millican 153 years ago.
“It’s something that is very uncomfortable to talk about and one of the reasons why it is important is you don’t ever want it to happen again," said Barry Davis of the Brazos Valley African American Museum. "We don’t want violence. Violence is not something Dr. Martin Luther King was all about, he was about love, working together and we can respect each other. So, you don’t want it to happen again and that’s why you want to study it and you want to know about it."
The Millican Massacre has for decades been the secret left out of Brazos Valley history. Earhart hopes a Texas Historical Maker will soon mark the location of the massacre as she continues her work on the Millican Project.
“We filed an application for Texas historical marker to commemorate George Brooks and those who were murdered, and we should hear final approval. We're hoping by February, we've done the wording. It's going through all the processes. We're just waiting on final like 'Yes, we like the wording, we're going to send it off to the foundry.' So I'm excited that there will be a marker that people will see and know about this important event because it's kind of been erased.”
Along with Earhart, Reggie Brown, a former Exxon diversity executive, and Toniesha Taylor, department chair and associate professor of communication at Texas Southern University, have both been vital in getting a historical marker placed in Millican.
To look at the documents Earhart and her students have found in their research of the Millican Massacre visit https://millican.omeka.net/.