Throwback Thursday: The Dallas Slave Uprising of 1860

The stolen Indigenous land known as Dallas received a town charter 15 years after the slaver separatist government was annexed into the United States in 1845. At the time, it boasted a population of 581 Whites, and 97 enslaved Blacks.

As history has shown us, where there’s injustice, the oppressed will fight back. The life of an enslaved person during that time was horrifying. Contrary to claims by modern-day slaver apologists, enslaved people were not treated well and insurrections were not uncommon during the entire history of slavery in the stolen land known as America.

According to multiple sources, the white folks of early Dallas were as suspicious of Blacks, Latin@s and Northerners as they are today. In 1859, two pro-abolitionist Dallas County residents were voluntarily jailed after a mob of “generous community members” served the two with threats. The two soon left town to avoid being lynched.

Union sympathizers hanging after the election

A year later, July 28 at 1p.m., a fire broke out. The population was in a panic trying to save their property, but to no avail. The fire spread quickly and consumed almost the entire downtown. After the smoke cleared, the whites met and decided to torture every enslaved Black in order to illicit confessions. Eventually three Black men admitted to the fire. Patrick Jennings, Sam Smith, and Cato were hung for their involvement. Patrick Jennings was accused because people heard him say that the fire was, “only the commencement of the good work.” Sam Smith was seen talking to the two abolitionists that were driven from town a year before. They would be hung on the banks of the Trinity River where the Commerce Street bridge is today.

Patrick Jennings remained calm and “betrayed no remorse or feeling whatever in view of his approaching doom.” All three men, according to a letter in the Gazette, approached the hanging with a “composure worthy of a better cause.
-Micheal Phillips
White Violence, Hegemony, and Slave Rebellion in Dallas, Texas, before the Civil War
     After fires broke out in downtown Denton and Collin County as well, the whites went into full paranoid mode, and soon racist mobs began hunting slaves and abolitionist sympathizers. Again from Phillips:
     While many historians doubt that the fires were an insurrectionist slave plot, we believe that those who died in the subsequent witch-hunt are heroes. The defiance of Cato, Patrick Jennings, and Sam Smith will not be found in school books. Our comrades here call upon their courage, spirit and guidance as we fight the modern day children of slavery: The criminal “justice” system, privatization of public schools, and the unaccountable murders of the Dallas Police Department.

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