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‘Negroes’ Sign In Waxahachie Courthouse Leads To Controversy Over Its Preservation And Defacement

the ellis county courthouse
Nicolas Henderson
Wikimedia Commons
The Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas.

From Texas Standard:

A symbol of Texas' racist past has become a source of controversy at the Ellis County courthouse in Waxahachie.

The sign that says "negroes" was found after a courthouse renovation and is believed to have stood over a segregated drinking fountain there. Local officials preserved it, adding a plaque underneath marking it as a reminder of the trauma caused during the Jim Crow era in the South.

But the sign troubled Ellis County Constable Curtis Polk Jr., a Black man who asked that his new office not be near it. County Judge Todd Little helped relocate Polk's office, but Little is now also under investigation for encouraging the partial defacement of that sign.

Kevin Krause has been reporting on the story for The Dallas Morning News. He told Texas Standard that a YouTube video surfaced recently showing Judge Little encouraging another man to spray-paint an X over part of the sign. It's unclear whether the Ellis County district attorney will charge Little or the other man for damaging government property.

The case comes amid a larger discussion in Texas and nationwide about how and if to preserve monuments and other evidence of America's racist and segregationist history. Krause says the sign, in this case, is different than Confederate monuments that became especially popular in the middle of the 20th century, long after the Civil War had ended. Those monuments glorified racism, he says, while the sign in the courthouse is historical evidence of how the segregated South functioned.

"The 'negro' sign in Waxahachie is something that we can actually learn from," Krause said. "That's the consensus because it shows how how Blacks are treated."

Judge Little has not publicly commented about the sign's defacement, nor has the other man in the video. Both are suspects in the investigation.

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Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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