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English class confronts Dallas’ past injustices

This trimester, the junior and senior Literature of Human Rights class has studied some of the uglier parts of Dallas’ history.

The class, taught by Assistant Head of School Tom Perryman, has spent the past few weeks examining the murder of Santos Rodriguez and the lynching of Allen Brooks that both took place in Dallas in the 20th century.

The story of Allen Brooks, an African American man, dates back to 1910 when he was pulled out of the Old Red Courthouse, dragged down seven blocks, then lynched publically.

Santos Rodriguez was a 12-year-old Mexican- American boy. In 1973, after being accused of stealing eight dollars of goods from a gas station, Rodriguez was murdered by a Dallas police officer after he refused to confess to the alleged crime. Both of these incidents happened in downtown Dallas.

“I think the most striking thing about what you see, is that you don’t see anything,” Upper School English teacher Tom Perryman said. “You walk by there, you drive by there a million times and you have no idea. There is no marker, no monument, no commemoration to this horrible thing that happened here.”

On January 15, the class visited both murder sites. They collected soil from the Allen Brooks site for the Equal Justice Initiative national lynching memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. As part of their final project in the class, they will be writing letters to Mayor Mike Rawlings to propose memorials on each site.

The Equal Justice Initiative that the class has worked with collects soil from every documented lynching site in the nation’s history to collect for the national memorial in Alabama.

Before the field trip, students collected research and analyzing death certificates, old photographs and police reports from both events

“I think the most striking thing about what you see, is that you don’t see anything.”

Senior Amber Johri was able to learn a valuable lesson from this eye- opening experience and look at things from a different perspective.

“The biggest thing that I took away was probably to challenge things that we take to be fact…it’s really easy to overlook history if you’re only looking at it through one lens,” Amber said.

Mr. Perryman and librarian Mrs. Sonja Hayes stressed the idea of facing the reality of America’s history, especially Dallas’ history, so that the community can learn from those problems and move on.

“We have to be open. We have to be willing to look at the ugly part of history. Many people want to just shove it under a rug, or just pretend it never happened, but it did,” Mrs. Hayes said.

Story By Sarah Luan and Raag Venkat

Photo By Zeenya Meherally

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