Pictured above: Mr. Fred Rouse III, grandson of Mr. Fred Rouse, holds a picture of his father, Mr. Fred Rouse II, at the site of the racial terror lynching of Mr. Fred Rouse.

Remembering Mr. Fred Rouse

No one alive remembers details of Fred Rouse’s life, but today we can imagine. Likely born to parents who had been enslaved in Mississippi, Rouse moved to Fort Worth in the 1910s. As gruesome as his butchering job at the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant probably was, the paycheck was an opportunity to provide for his family — a wife and three children, including a newborn son bearing his name.

Rouse couldn’t join Swift’s white employees when they went on strike in 1921. Black laborers were not permitted to be members of unions but, like Rouse, they were often called on to fill in for the jobs vacated by strikers. His decision to work led to his abduction and lynching.

A Timeline of the Racial Terror Lynching of Mr. Fred Rouse

Events of December 1921

December 1921
The Racial Terror Lynching of Mr. Fred Rouse
The Strike

Mr. Fred Rouse was a Black, non-union butcher for Swift & Company in the Niles City Stockyards (now Fort Worth). For the most part, Black people were not allowed to be members of trade unions in the Jim Crow South.  Mr. Rouse was a strikebreaker and, in so being, crossed both union and racial lines.

December 6, 1921
Mr. Rouse Attacked by Strikers
The Attack

When Mr. Rouse left work at 4:30 pm on Tuesday, December 6, 1921, he was accosted, attacked, and stabbed repeatedly by strikers and strike agitators. In the brawl, two shots were fired that hit brothers Tom and Tracy Maclin. A white mob bludgeoned Mr. Rouse with a streetcar guardrail. He was left for dead on Exchange Avenue.

December 6, 1921
Mr. Rouse Taken to Hospital
The Hospital

Niles City police officers asked the mob to relinquish the body of Mr. Rouse, which they placed in a police car. On the way to the mortuary, officers discovered that Mr. Rouse was still alive. They drove him south to the basement Negro Ward of the City & County Hospital (330 E. 4th St.).

December 11, 1921
Mr. Rouse Abducted from Hospital
The Abduction

Five days later at 11 pm on Sunday, December 11, 1921, a mob of white men barged into the hospital, threatened the staff, and abducted Mr. Rouse from the Negro Ward. They drove north to what had become known as the “Death Tree” at the corner of NE 12th Street and Samuels Avenue

December 11, 1921
Mr. Rouse Lynched
The Lynching

There they hanged Mr. Fred Rouse and riddled his body with bullets. Over one hundred people drove to the site to watch the result of the murder of Mr. Fred Rouse.

As of Today
No One Brought to Justice
The Aftermath

Mr. Fred Rouse was buried on Monday, December 12, 1921, in New Trinity Cemetery, Haltom City, Texas.Two days later, the property owner of the site of the racial terror lynching of Mr. Fred Rouse cut down the “Death Tree.” Indictments were handed down against members of the mob, but, despite the overwhelming evidence, no one was ever found guilty in the murder of Mr. Fred Rouse.

Honoring Mr. Fred Rouse on Juneteenth

As part of the City of Fort Worth’s Juneteenth Celebration, a segment was presented by the TCCPJ on Mr. Fred Rouse, whose death resulted from the only documented lynching of an African American in Fort Worth. Although it is a dark stain in Fort Worth’s history, TCCPJ believes it is a history lesson that can be used to help eliminate racial injustice.

Where it happened

The Locations of the Events Described Above Can be Found Below

This Corresponds to the Route Taken During the Fort Worth Lynching Tour

“We cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted during the era of racial terrorism until we tell the truth about it,” said EJI Director Bryan Stevenson. “The geographic, political, economic, and social consequences of decades of terror lynchings can still be seen in many communities today and the damage created by lynching needs to be confronted and discussed. Only then can we meaningfully address the contemporary problems that are lynching’s legacy.”

Press Coverage

December 1921

*Articles are from the Fort Worth Star Telegram or the Dallas Morning News Unless Otherwise Stated

Racial Terror and Lynching In America

Mr. Fred Rouse was one of thousands of Black people lynched in the United States.  The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) researchers documented 4075 racial terror lynchings of African Americans in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia between 1877 and 1950—at least 800 more lynchings of Black people in these states than previously reported in the most comprehensive work done on lynching to date.

Per EJI, this was not “frontier justice” carried out by a few marginalized vigilantes or extremists. Instead, many African Americans who were never accused of any crime were tortured and murdered in front of picnicking spectators (including elected officials and prominent citizens) for bumping into a white person, or wearing their military uniforms after World War I, or not using the appropriate title when addressing a white person. People who participated in lynchings were celebrated and acted with impunity.