"Welcome to Greenville. The Blackest Land, The Whitest People” was a sign that existed in Greenville (Hunt County) from 1921 until it was removed in the 1960s. The saying was from Greenville home builder Will N. Harison (1859-1916); in the late 1960s, the second part of the saying—“The Whitest People”—was changed to either ‘The Finest People” or “The Greatest People” before the entire sign was eventually removed.
Greenville is known for its black land, a term that several Texas towns advertised about 1900. A 1926 ad for the Portland Cement Association (below) advised that its cement was best for making roads over Greenville’s black land. The sign now resides in Greenville’s Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum.
Wikipedia: Hunt County, Texas
Hunt County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. In 2000, its population was 76,596. Its seat is Greenville6. Hunt County is named for Memucan Hunt, a secretary of the navy of the Republic of Texas. The county is part of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
Wikipedia: Greenville, Texas
Greenville is a city in Hunt County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 23,960. It is the county seat of Hunt County.
Greenville was named for Thomas J. Green, a general in the Texas Army in the war for independence from Mexico. He later became a member of the Congress of the Republic of Texas. The city narrowly escaped being named “Pinckneyville” in honor of James Pinckney Henderson, the first Governor of Texas.
Greenville is infamous for a banner that hung over Lee Street in the downtown district between the train station and the bus station from the 1920s to 1960s. The banner read “Welcome to Greenville, The Blackest Land, The Whitest People”. The same sentiment was also printed on the city water tower. An image of the sign was available as a postcard. From the 1960s to the 1970s the sign was replaced by one that read “The Blackest Land, The Greatest People”. Subsequently the sign was taken down entirely. The banner is now displayed in the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum.
The Blackest Land The Whitest People: Greenville, Texas (2006)
About the Book
This sign was hanging on the main street intersection of downtown, from the 1920s to the late 1960s, two blocks from where I lived.
My hometown is Greenville, Texas. Greenville is known throughout the nation for two things: its unique slogan, “The Blackest Land - The Whitest People” and its famous 1908 lynching.
The famous sign hung on the main street between our train station and our bus station. As soldiers and civilian passengers passed through our town, it provided a very conspicuous view.
This book is about what it was like being black and growing up in Greenville, Texas. It is also in remembrance of all those before us who went through struggles to help people free themselves from undesirables which had previously enslaved us. Although we obtained certain rights, I give you a background and the history of why things were the way they were. Even a more valuable history is of why things are still the way they are, especially between blacks. Is it because of a single, powerful, twisted-minded genius 292 years ago, whose theory is still a powerful affront in the black race today? My hope is to help break this chain of enslavement of blacks against blacks in my hometown.
5 February 1909, Galveston (TX) Daily News, pg. 3, col. 5:
He comes from “the county having the blackest land and the whitest people on God’s green earth today.”
Senator Perkins of Collin—ed.)
6 June 1916, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Will N. Harrison Dies Suddenly at Greenville,” pg. 11:
Will N. Harrison was born on Moore Prairie, Aug. 18, 1859, but his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Harrison, at that time had a home in Greenville, which still belongs to the Harrison family.
Thirty years ago Will N. Harrison engaged in the real estate and loan business in Greenville. His success had been steady and uninterrupted and at the time of his death his business was one of largest of this kind in North Texas. His desk had been in the same office for twenty-two years. His hobby was home building, and during his career he erected some of the most beautiful residences in Greenville. It was his pride that he was “responsible for more people living in their own homes in Greenville and Hunt County than any other man.”
9 July 1921, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Greenville’s New Slogan Gives Electric Welcome,” pg. 14:
Greenville, Texas, July 8.—The Greenville electric slogan sign, purchased by the citizens of Greenville who are members of the Senior and Junior Chambers of Commerce, was installed last night with appropriate ceremonies in the presence of over 5,000 people.
The sign is 24x5x1 feet, with letters on a dark background. The inscriptions are “Greenville, Welcome.” “Blackest Land, Whitest People.’ They present the location of the city, the character of the people and nature of the welcome to all.
15 July 1921, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Greenville Slogan Sign Tells Story of Greenville,” pg. 4:
Greenville, Texas, July 14.—This is a street scene in Greenville, Texas, east from the Katy railway crossing on Lee street, showing the big electric slogan sign in place.
This slogan is 24x4x1 feet, containing ninety-two forty-watt incandescent light globes. The inscriptions, “The Blackest Land,” “The Whitest People,” “Greenville, Welcome,” are on both sides of the design on dark green background.
The sign first suggested by Dr. Joe Becton, president of the Chamber of Commerce, and is a gift to the people of Greenville by members of the Junior and Senior Chambers of Commerce. It was erected under the direction of City Commissioner H. L. McLow, and is maintained and operated by the municipal electric light department. The slogan, “The Blackest Land,” and “The Whitest People” is a notable saying by the late Will N. Harrison, who during his life was a consistent and enthusiastic believer in the value of the lands and the high character of the citizenship in this section of the State.
The slogan, “The Blackest Land,” presents the character of the soil in this vicinity. “The Whitest People” is the class of people set as a standard for the citizens of Greenville. “Welcome” indicates the disposition and attitude of Greenville toward every one who comes to Greenville to visit, to locate and to trade.
26 May 1926, San Antonio (TX) Express, pg. 9, col. 3 ad:
Who in Texas has not heard of Greenville’s slogan “The Town with the Blackest Land and the Whitest People.”
Black land, which has made Hunt County and Greenville one of the wealthiest sections in Texas, also has its disadvantages.
("How Concrete Streets Met Severe Conditions in Greenville,” Portland Cement Association—ed.)
31 October 1938, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. 2:
“The blackest land and the whitest people” is the boast of Greenville, Tex.
30 May 1941, Port Arthur (TX) News, pg. 2, col. 1:
A talk on the courthouse steps tonight will take Mann’s campaign to Greenville and Hunt County, described by his headquarters as “the home of the blackest land and the whitest people.”
10 March 1949, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section 1, pg. 20:
GREENVILLE, Texas, March 9.—Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Central Christian Church for Mrs. Will N. Harrison, 85, pioneer teacher, club leader and widow of the originator of Greenville’s nationally-known slogan, “the blackest land, the whitest people.”
2 October 1966, Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle, pg. 1, col. 1:
He is supposed to have gone to Greenville one time to organize a Community Chest drive or some other sort of charitable enterprise.
That was when Greenville had the slogan “The Blackest Land and the Whitest People.”
Eddy is supposed to have failed in his campaign. He couldn’t arouse any support from the Greenville business community. So he charged into the office of a Greenville banker and snarled:
“‘The Blackest Land and the Whitest People.’ You better change that to ‘The Blackest Land and the Tightest People!’”
20 October 1968, Paris (TX) News, section 2, pg. 4, col. 7:
FOR YEARS, the huge sign across the main street of Greenville proclaimed “Greenville—Welcome. The Blackest Land. The Whitest People.”
It came down unceremoniously a while back, for unexplained reasons but obviously “The Whitest People” had racial overtones.
This week, the City of Greenville raised the sign again, with slight alterations. They now proclaim “The Blackest Land. The Greatest People.”
27 October 1971, Hayward (CA) Daily Review, pg. 16, cols. 4-5:
Near Greenville, a town I’ve been in and out of for many years, there has always stood a sign at the outskirts of town that proclaimed Greenville to have “the blackest land and the whitest people.” The sign has been changed to read, “The blackest land and the finest people.”
New York (NY) Times
A Texas Town Nervously Awaits a New Neighbor
By SIMON ROMERO
Published: August 21, 2005
‘’Blackest Land, Whitest People.’’ Until the mid-1960’s, those words were painted on the water tower and on a sign near the square in this North Texas town, a once-segregated cotton-ginning center. Joe A. Bobbitt, the county judge in Greenville, still has photographs of the water tower and the sign on the wall of his office here.
‘’It’s part of our infamy,’’ said Judge Bobbitt, 59, seated in a large red leather chair stitched together by inmates of the Texas penal system. ‘’If you try to hide history, then you cannot change.’’
The people of Hunt County, a largely rural area of which Greenville is the county seat, are about to get a rare opportunity to break with the past.
New York (NY) Times
February 19, 2008
New Trove Opened in Kennedy Killing
By LESLIE EATON
DALLAS — The Kennedy assassination — a defining moment in American history and a never-ending topic of debate among conspiracy theorists — re-entered the spotlight for a moment Monday, after the Dallas district attorney unveiled the contents of a safe that had been secret for more than 40 years.
The trove of material connected to the assassination was collected by the former district attorney, Henry M. Wade, who prosecuted Ruby and continued in office until 1987. Mr. Wade died in 2001.
One of the surprises in the collection was a contract for a movie deal about the killing, signed by Mr. Wade, said Craig Watkins, who became district attorney last year. Mr. Watkins said he did not know if the transcript was meant to be part of the film or why the film was never made.
Mr. Watkins, the first black district attorney in Texas, said he was releasing the material in part because of the window it provided on the racism of the past. The material “takes us back to 1960 and the climate not only of our criminal justice system, but of our country as it relates to race,” he said. He cited the official letterhead of nearby Hunt County, which claimed “the blackest land and the whitest people.”
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • (1) Comments • Thursday, February 21, 2008 • Permalink
I have an original Post Card post marked Oct. 5 1945, of this sign hanging at the west end of Lee st. in Greenville Tx. Just thought i would share that with you.