Sherman continues work on memorial for 1930 riot, Black business district

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Sherman is considering options for commemorating the destruction of the city's Black business district in the Sherman Riot of 1930.

As prolonged efforts to get a historic marker detailing the Sherman riot of 1930 continue on the county level, Sherman has quietly been working on its own efforts to recognize the events.

Mayor David Plyler said last week that the city hopes to have a plan to memorialize one aspect of the events that left a man dead, the Grayson County Courthouse destroyed and Black-owned businesses burned to the ground.

"Sherman was unique in that we had a thriving Black business community, which was very unusual at the time," Plyler said. "We are working on an effort to remember those businesses and remember those that were impacted by that loss in another location."

The efforts by Sherman are part of a greater effort to have the lynching of George Hughes — a Black farmhand who was killed during his trial for an alleged sexual assault — and the following riots recognized publicly through historic markers and other displays. For months, organizers have pushed for the placement of a marker on the grounds of the Grayson County Courthouse, but county commissioners only recently responded by creating a committee to propose a recommendation.

"What we are proposing is to form a citizen's group to look into a historical marker, a location, and how we can do it respectfully, and that is historically accurate to depict the events of 1930 that happened here in the city of Sherman," Plyler said in late September.

Efforts are being made to recognize George Hughes, right, who was killed and lynched in the Sherman riot of 1930.

The Grayson County Commissioners Court is expected to receive a recommendation on a marker placement Tuesday morning as a part of its weekly meeting.

Plyler said the efforts on the county level are separate and independent of the city's efforts to recognize the events, with a focus on the destruction of Black businesses.

Hughes was on trial for allegedly sexually assaulting his employer's wife during a dispute over wages owed in 1930 when a mob of protesters attempted to gain access to the courtroom. The courthouse itself was set on fire and burned to the ground with Hughes still inside.

After the blaze was put out, Hughes' corpse was pulled from the rubble and dragged by automobile to Mulberry Street where it was hanged from a tree, and a bonfire was set beneath it. The rioting continued and culminated in the burning of many Black-owned businesses nearby.

The city's efforts to recognize the Black business district started about four months ago and has been led by a committee of city leaders, the local chapter of the NAACP and the Sherman Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

Plyler was motivated by conversations and calls from members of the community from those who still feel the effects of the riots and lynching nearly a century later.

"They are asking for a chance to get closure, because at the end of the day, a man was denied justice," Plyler said last week. "The man was denied justice, right?"

Unlike the county efforts, Plyler said the Sherman recognition likely will not include a Texas state historical marker. Instead, it will likely have a city marker, an art display or another form of recognition. The city is working with the Equal Justice Initiative for the effort.

The Montgomery-based organization operates many facilities focused on the history of racial justice in the U.S., including the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The memorial includes more than 800 six-foot steel monuments, each representing a county in the U.S. where a lynching occurred.

Plyler said he hopes to have a plan in place for the memorial some time within the next month, noting that he is waiting for more information from the EJI.