From slavery to lynchings to fancy china, the Turner family history is Dallas’ history

Decades before Dealey Plaza would become the site where crowds gathered to greet a presidential motorcade, it was infamous as the place another stunned crowd cheered and mourned.

Three slaves were killed in the area. Seventeen days prior to the triple-lynching, a suspicious fire had consumed parts of downtown, adding to the heat of the summer of 1860 and inflaming paranoia.

“Did you know about this?” George Keaton suddenly asked, halting his narrative. I said no.

I was captivated by this born storyteller who had done careful research on his family, which has been in Dallas since the era of slavery. Their stories are the stories of Dallas, and Keaton is the keeper of that history. Now, he’s helping Dallas to memorialize his family and what they represented.

“They whipped two white preachers and let them go,” Keaton answered. “A committee decided not to let the black men go, though there was never a trial or any charges.” Keaton sighed deeply, “They were unjustly hanged.”

The slaves were blamed for the fire.