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Six years after Dallas approved monument to racial violence victims, it’s finally happened

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Six years after Dallas approved monument to racial violence victims, it’s finally happened


Adjacent to the Sixth Floor Museum and the Grassy Knoll sits another patch of sacred ground with its own historically consequential story.

It took Dallas decades to fully face President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It’s taken far longer to acknowledge the murders that occurred about 100 years earlier — just on the other side of where the Triple Underpass would eventually stand.

In 1860, three enslaved Black men — Patrick Jenkins, Cato Miller and the Rev. Samuel Smith — were lynched at this site, alongside the original path of the Trinity River. They were hanged after specious accusations concerning their part in setting a downtown fire, and their deaths became part of an infamous reign of terror led by white businessmen during which enslaved individuals were rounded up and tortured.

At long last, Dallas will formally dedicate a sculpture on the site next Tuesday that honors these three men and all other victims of lynching and racial violence in our city between 1853 and 1920.

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Artists Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee created the sundial-inspired weathering steel sculpture, “Shadow Lines.” At one end of its semicircular wall is a poem written about this location and its brutal history by former Dallas resident and poet laureate of Virginia Tim Seibles.

In early 2018, in the midst of the debate over removal of Confederate statues, City Council members expressed interest in a memorial to victims of racial violence. George Keaton Jr., founder of Remembering Black Dallas, persevered until his death in December 2022 to turn the idea into action. The Dallas County Justice Initiative, with Ed Gray at the helm, and Remembering Black Dallas finished the job.

Recent heavy rains have left much of the Martyrs Park side muddy and full of deep puddles. Park department officials hope newly planted grass will take hold before next Tuesday’s dedication of the “Shadow Lines” artwork.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

The sculpture sits on a wedge of city land known as Martyrs Park. It’s not an ideal place for a contemplative green space, trapped between the Triple Underpass and the access ramp to Interstate 35E, and deafened by highway traffic and the Trinity Railway Express rumbling overhead.

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It’s no mystery why the dedication ceremony is taking place at the Sixth Floor Museum before the ribbon-cutting at the sculpture site. Hearing the speeches would be impossible at Martyrs Park.

But Gray, like Keaton before him, is steadfast about this being the right location.

“To the people who ask, ‘Why did we build this here?’ This is where it occurred,” Gray told me. “We can’t change what’s there now, but it remains historic and sacred.”

I took my first close look at the sculpture Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to find a more welcoming feel at Martyrs Park, a raw space full of trash and tents on my several previous visits.

Accessibility remains a challenge. Your best bet is to park in the Sixth Floor Museum area and walk along the Elm Street sidewalk and through the pedestrian tunnel. Once you emerge, you are only steps from the park.

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Newly applied paint was visible Monday on the floor of the pedestrian walkway that connects...
Newly applied paint was visible Monday on the floor of the pedestrian walkway that connects the grassy knoll, near the Sixth Floor Museum, and Martyrs Park.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

The most important upgrades have taken place in the tunnel. Never before had I walked through this long dark corridor when it didn’t smell like a urinal — and looked even worse. It’s now been repaired, painted, scrubbed and lighted. On order is vandal-resistant permanent lighting.

The park department has cleaned out decades of trash, underbrush and scraggly bushes that once encircled much of Martyrs Park. The lower limbs of the stately trees along the street and in the background have been trimmed to allow for better viewing. A new sidewalk is in place, and lights illuminate the sculpture at night.

Let me be clear — the place didn’t look great. Recent heavy rains had left deep puddles throughout and threatened to wash away newly planted grass. The railroad-owned embankment remains unsightly. A man lay tucked up against the sculpture’s front wall — his sleep only disturbed when I began reading the inscriptions aloud.

But if you squint a little, you actually see a park, not a dumping ground. It’s a minimalist’s landscape that keeps the focus on the piece of stark public art, just as Keaton wanted.

Still to be added are two Texas Historical Commission markers, one honoring Jenkins, Miller and Smith and the other commemorating Jane Elkins, a slave hanged in 1853 after her conviction for killing her white owner as he attempted to rape her. Elkins’ name is also included on the “Shadow Lines” sculpture.

Martyrs Park provides a homecoming for all local victims of racial violence, Gray said. “It gives them a sense of all being put together in one spot and further sanctifying that ground.”

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A panel engraved with the name of Allen Brooks, who was lynched in downtown Dallas on March,...
A panel engraved with the name of Allen Brooks, who was lynched in downtown Dallas on March, 2, 1910, is part of the “Shadow Line” memorial.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

The “Shadow Lines” dedication at Martyrs Park will mark the last of three high-profile events in Dallas’ reckoning with the violence wrought by racism.

To secure the markers for two other victims, the Dallas County Justice Coalition worked for years to meet the requirements of the Equal Justice Initiative, whose National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala., is a shrine to the victims of lynching.

The marker for Allen Brooks, who was abducted, killed and hanged downtown in front of a large crowd in 1910, was dedicated at Pegasus Plaza in November 2021. The marker for William Allen Taylor, lynched by vigilantes in 1884 near the Trinity River, was dedicated last November at Trinity Overlook Park. The names of Brooks and Taylor are also among those on the Martyrs Park sculpture.

Gray had many kind words about how hard City Hall, especially the Equity and Inclusion, Arts and Culture, and Park and Recreation departments, have worked to get the commemorations done right.

He said it was important, in contrast, to note Mayor Eric Johnson has not attended any of the events. “His reluctance to be a part of these is troublesome and disturbing,” Gray said.

Johnson’s chief of staff, Alheli Garza, told me the mayor “regrettably has a preexisting immovable conflict” with Tuesday’s event. She said his office is “coordinating a private visit for Mayor Johnson to view the installation and meet the artists on a future date.”

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Most meaningful to me at the memorial site is Seibles’ poem, the words of which are punched into the sculpture’s steel wall. It’s exactly what needed to be written for Dallas, where we’ve made a lot of progress but still prefer the reconciliation part of racial healing to the hard truth-telling.

Seibles’ words are no Kumbaya moment, but rather searing honesty. Please take time to read the full text, which accompanies my column.

The "Shadow Lines" sculpture, with the names of known lynching victims cut into it, also...
The “Shadow Lines” sculpture, with the names of known lynching victims cut into it, also honors all victims of racial violence from 1853 to 1920.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

Finally, as I consider the 50 or so tourists I passed on the Grassy Knoll as I walked to Martyrs Park — where I was the sole visitor, not counting the homeless guy — here’s a suggestion: The last JFK information placard is only steps from the pedestrian tunnel. Can a sign be added about the historically relevant events visitors can find on the other side of the bridge?

That’s history Dallas and its visitors also need to understand.

The public dedication of “Shadow Lines” will begin at 10 a.m. March 26 in the Courts Room of the Sixth Floor Museum, 411 Elm St,, followed by the ribbon-cutting at the “Shadow Lines” sculpture at Martyrs Park, 379 Commerce St.

Below is the full text of the poem cut into the sculpture:

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Here

These are the things

nightmares are made of:

ropes, knives, a torn

black face, burning flesh,

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white mobs, their picnics

and blood-spattered hands.

We want to forget

what happened here,

But it is impossible

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not to wonder what broken

song in the human heart

led to this. What rancid fear

tightened the knots, gathered

the grinning throngs?

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All of us live with these echoes:

the last screams of a man

ripped apart, hung for display,

the mob’s ruthless laughter.

Though we remain

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tied to these wounds

and wary of each other —

though we don’t want

to believe this happened here.

this grief, this jagged silence

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still builds inside us, no matter

how far we run, no matter

how quickly we turn away.

You are here now.

Remember that this too

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made America.

Sound your voice.

— Tim Seibles, 2023



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Dallas, TX

We recommend: Dallas Prop E for arts and cultural facilities

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We recommend: Dallas Prop E for arts and cultural facilities


Proposition E in the 2024 Dallas bond program would allocate $75.2 million for arts and cultural facilities.

RECOMMENDATION: Vote yes

Dallas has come a long way in a short time in having great spaces for our artists. We have all benefited. A city that supports the arts is a city that is building a richer culture while deepening the enjoyment and understanding of life. Our arts facilities, like all other city properties, must be maintained, and this proposition is laser-focused on necessary expenditures for everything from HVAC to roofs to elevators for buildings that give back so much, from the Dallas Museum of Art to the Kalita Humphreys Theater and many more. Some buildings are in danger of falling into disrepair absent needed maintenance. This money provides that, and we enthusiastically support this proposition.

Check out the rest of our recommendations in the 2024 Dallas bond election here.

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We welcome your thoughts in a letter to the editor. See the guidelines and submit your letter here. If you have problems with the form, you can submit via email at letters@dallasnews.com



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Dallas, TX

Dallas Mavericks Must Improve Handling ‘X-Factor’ Ivica Zubac in Game 2 vs. Clippers

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Dallas Mavericks Must Improve Handling ‘X-Factor’ Ivica Zubac in Game 2 vs. Clippers


On Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, losing by a final score of 109-97.

Ivica Zubac was a significant element of the Clippers’ success, finishing with 20 points and 15 rebounds. The Mavericks trailed by as many as 29 points, with momentum going against them early amidst Zubac scoring 10 points alone in the opening period.

“I think it was definitely the X-Factor today, or however you say it, but it was a big factor for them– rebounding, scoring, too,” Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic said of Zubac. “We have to be more physical with him and do a better job of it.”

Zubac, who finished with a career-high in the playoffs with 20 points and 15 rebounds, was catching the ball deep in the paint and was allowed to work 1-on-1 with whoever the Mavericks were playing at center without help, whether that was Daniel Gafford or Dereck Lively II.

“Just doing my job,” Zubac said.

Dallas was too afraid of Zubac spraying the ball out to open shooters, and rightfully so since the Clippers shot 18-36 from behind the arc in this game, but the Clippers seemed to be one step ahead the entire way. 

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As the Mavericks adjusted to Zubac, the Clippers started relying more on James Harden and Paul George to create shots from the perimeter. When Zubac and Harden are playing as well as they did in this game, it’s easy to overcome playing without Kawhi Leonard, as the Clippers were. 

“Yeah, [Ivica] Zubac was big. He dominated during Game 1 at the center position,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “They played to him in the post and we didn’t have an answer. We have to be better. We talked about Zubac and the ability that he has when shots go up. Rebounding, we have to make sure that we send two to him but in the post regardless we have to do a better job of guarding him in the post.”

Gafford wasn’t pleased with his own effort tonight, admitting he needs to come out more prepared to play, especially in a postseason setting.

“I just didn’t come out here to play, honestly,” Gafford said. “I have to be able to be better in areas that I was always succeeding throughout the regular season. I got to come out, and I got to play playoff basketball…”

Gafford also went down with a minor ankle injury in the second quarter, which required him to exit the game and go to the locker room early, but he returned to action in the second half. 

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Zubac not only made life difficult on the Mavericks’ interior defense, but he anchored the Clippers—allowing only 30 points in the first half and specifically, only eight points in the second quarter.

“I know we are a great defensive team. I got to be one of the leaders on the defensive end,” Zubac said. “And that’s something that I’ve been doing for this team for a little bit, and no matter who it is, I just have to lock into the game plan.

“They are going to make shots, Luka [Doncic] and Kyrie [Irving] are going to make tough shots, but we got to make it harder on them. That’s it,” Zubac explained. “Not worried about what anyone says about a series three years ago. That was three years ago and I know what is our game plan, what we are willing to give up and trying to take away and just stick with it.”

The Clippers seemed to play with more urgency overall, and it started with getting Zubac the ball in the post, a trend that can’t continue for the rest of the series if the Mavericks want to advance. 

The Mavericks will need a better game plan for him in Game 2 on Tuesday at 9:00 p.m. CST at Crypto.com Arena.

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Man’s body recovered from Dallas’ White Rock Creek after reported drowning, officials say

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Man’s body recovered from Dallas’ White Rock Creek after reported drowning, officials say


Crews recovered the body of a man Sunday morning from White Rock Creek, after he was reported as being swept into the water the night before.

Police and fire officials responded about 10:30 p.m. Saturday to the 4900 block of West Lawther Drive to search for a man pulled in while he was trying to cross the creek on foot, according to a Dallas Fire-Rescue news release.

A woman with the man called 911 and remained at the scene to meet with first responders.

Multiple emergency crewmembers, boats, a drone team and more worked for hours with no success, the release said.

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The search was resumed between 7 and 8 a.m. when the current was calmer and the water levels were lower and located a man’s body about 11:30 a.m.

The man was found about 100 yards from where he went missing, the release said.

The Dallas County medical examiner’s office will confirm the man’s identity and determine his cause of death.

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