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Millican Massacre Historical Marker

Amy Earhart and her undergraduate students are working to create a historical marker commemorating the Millican Massacre.

By Tiarra Drisker ‘25

From July 15-17, 1868, just 15 miles from where Texas A&M University sits today in the small town of Millican, up to 300 Black Americans were driven away or killed in what some scholars call “the worst incident of racial violence in Texas during Reconstruction.” After more than 150 years, Amy Earhart, an associate professor in the Department of English, and her undergraduate students are creating a historical marker, with the help of the Texas Historical Association, to honor the victims of the Millican Massacre.

At the time of the event, Millican was a topic for worldwide news. Today, the Millican Massacre is generally unheard of. There is not much information on the events leading up to the victims’ deaths, but Earhart and her undergraduate’s research proves the conflict leading up to the event was based on a simple miscommunication. 

Photo of Stephen Curtis.

Stephen Curtis, a former enslaved person who was married by Brooks, became a parishioner and pushed for an investigation of Millican during his time serving as Brazos co-representative at the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1868-1869. | 
Photo courtesy of Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission.

A month prior to the massacre, the Ku Klux Klan had marched through Millican firing shots at African-Americans who, by some accounts, were gathered in a prayer meeting. With racial tensions on the rise, a rumor that a Black man named Miles Brown had been lynched by white sons of a former slave owner on the Holliday’s farm began circulating. Soon, a counter rumor that the Black community planned to lynch the Holliday man responsible for the lynching of Brown also began circulating. 

After multiple points of miscommunication, Mayor Wheat and Deputy Sheriff Patillo arrived with thirty men to talk to the Black militia. A gun was fired by an unknown source and the massacre ensued.

“The more I learn about Millican, the more I think you can make the argument that this event was designed to end Black voting rights in this part of Texas,” Earhart said. “It was so fearful and so violent that the white community’s response was able to stop all civil rights, especially voting rights for African Americans up until the Civil Rights era. I think it was designed to be a moment of great violence to ensure Black disenfranchisement. It was effective because it was very horrific.

Pastor George Brooks was a key figure in both the Millican community and the Millican Massacre. Brooks was a Methodist minister appointed to Millican and a former soldier in the United States Colored Troops. When the Black Millican community was met with white mob violence, Brooks helped increase Black voter registration and organized community defense groups. He even led the Black resistance during the Millican Massacre. 

“I want people to know about Pastor Brooks,” Earhart shared. “He is a Texas hero. George Brooks, in response to the Ku Klux Klan attack, decided to protect his community. He was a former soldier, after all. He started to drill men on the public square with military precision. Brooks set up perimeters to protect women and children and even had scouts.”          

At the onset of the Millican Masacre, Books left for Austin to contact the commander of the U.S. military presence in the area. There is a possibility that things would have turned out differently if Brooks made it to Austin. Unfortunately, it is believed that Brooks was taken by a white mob and killed before he reached his destination. His story is a reminder that the Black community of Millican resisted and fought back.

“I want people to also understand the Black community’s agency, that this was not just helpless people being mowed down,” Earhart explained. “They tried to fight back, protect their own, and preserve their rights. I think we should of course be aware of the atrocities that the white community committed, but we should also focus on Pastor Brooks and what the Black community did to defend themselves.”

After eight years of research and studying both recorded histories and oral histories, the historical marker for the Millican Massacre is almost complete. Earhart said she hopes people stop to look and ponder about how they as individuals relate to the past when the marker is placed. 

“I think it’s important we mark this and position it within our community so that we can know the histories that happened there,” Earhart said. “We haven’t dealt with them and they’ve been erased. All around us are places and spaces where violence occurred. The marker forces us to think about this and you get a broader perspective of history.”

The next phase of Earhart and her students’ project consists of finding more oral histories from Black descendants of the victims of the massacre and creating a new digital archive. 

“Oral histories often tell truer histories than the recorded histories,” Earhart explained. “I have taken a long time to find folks connected to the Black community because this was a traumatizing event for the Black community of Millican. We have a digital archive, but we’re going to launch a new one around the time we place the historical marker. The new digital archive will have an exhibit specifically for George Brooks.”

The historical marker’s wording will be approved in February and then the creation of the marker will begin. 

“I am hoping that people ask questions, learn, and start to think more broadly about Texas as a place and space,” Earhart said. “I think this is really important as Texas becomes more and more diverse. We need to recognize all of our different stories and narratives that are about how Texas is created rather than just one.”