Dallas’ hidden history

Editorial Board of the Dallas Morning News:

History-lede-1800It’s been said that the winners write the histories of any given place. In Dallas, like most places, that has meant that the majority culture — in our case, most often white, Christian, southern — has held the pen of history for all the generations who followed John Neely Bryan and Dallas’ earliest settlers. We see the markers to that history all over town, in the names of our buildings and our schools and streets, and in the statues, memorials and other testaments to the past. These physical reminders of our past speak through the ages, and will continue to speak to future generations about what went into the making of this place, and what values were most cherished by those who built it and have lived here since. By its definition, the history of the dominant culture in Dallas has been one that has had an impact on everyone who lived here and had the most profound influence on the development of our city. But the story of Dallas is made up of scores of smaller tributaries, stories that often transpire in the shadows, sometimes in conjunction with, and sometimes in conflict with, that top-line tale.

Those sometimes subtler stories, so often missing from the dominant histories of the city, are vital to understanding who we are and how we got to where we are. Take for instance the night of April 4, 1968. Violence erupted in cities across the country, especially in Detroit and Washington, on news that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered in Memphis. Here in Dallas, students and faculty members at Bishop College held instead an all-night vigil to mourn the slain civil rights leaders. That’s history that Dallas could stand to remember. Or consider the Saturday in June, a decade later, when San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk spoke at a gay rights convention at the Royal Coach Inn, a long-gone hotel on Dallas’ Northwest Highway. Milk, who had twice before lived in Dallas, was here as a celebrity, having been made the first openly gay elected official in America not long before. A few months later, he was murdered in San Francisco and instantly converted into an icon of the gay rights movement.

A grimmer story, but one important to never forget, unfolded in a police cruiser parked at 2301 Cedar Springs Road in 1973. That’s where Dallas police Officer Darrell L. Cain shot and killed 12-year-old Santos Rodriquez, Russian-roulette-style, while questioning him and his brother over missing coins from the Fina station’s Coke machine. The murder, and subsequent sentencing of Cain to just five years in prison, caused widespread and lasting grief throughout Dallas’ Mexican-American community.

We’d like to invite all of Dallas to help tell the story of communities often overlooked here.

Picture: Faculty, staff and students walk toward Bishop College Chapel for an all-night prayer vigil on April 4, 1968, after the murder of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis.

More here.