Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 24, Number 2, Fall 2012 Page: 19
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This cartoon from Harpers Weekly, September 25, 1871, illustrates the 19th century Freethinkers' stand on the
separation of church and state.
find themselves on a bed of roses when they
took their new position and began the work of
educating whites and negroes alike." Nevertheless,
Mackay persevered and in 1874, Dallas's first free
public schools were opened,20 although they
were racially segregated and would remain so for
nearly one hundred years.
During the summer of 1886 the Freethinkers
adjourned owing to the blistering heat. On
October 10, when the weather became more
pleasant, they reconvened in the Opera House,
where Professor W. S. Bell, "an ex-Methodist
preacher" and pamphleteer from Pennsylvania,
who in 1889 would earn a listing in J. M.
Wheeler's Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers,
helped them commence "their fall campaign by
firing their first gun against the gates of Zion."21
For most of the next two years, however,
the Freethinkers met infrequently and usually
at Dr. Mackay's house, suggesting not only that
the group was small but also that it was having
trouble either finding a meeting place or new
In the spring of 1889 the group attracted
some attention when it met in City Park and
resolved to raise funds to help offset the cost
of a statue of Giordano Bruno, a "Freethought
martyr" who lived in Italy in the sixteenth
century and was burned to death in 1600 by the
Roman Catholic Inquisition. At that time, there
were plans to erect the statue "on the spot where
he perished, the Municipal Council of Rome
having granted the site in face of the bitterest
opposition of the Catholic party."22
In June, when news arrived that the Bruno
statue had been erected, the Dallas Freethinkers
met in the county courthouse to celebrate. It
appears however that the purpose of the gathering
was soon forgotten after an impassioned debate
broke out. "As the News reporter entered"
the district courtroom, wrote a journalist who
covered the meeting, "Dr. Mackay was pitching
into the churches, charging that they found
authority in the bible for all their troubles."
Following a discourse on his favorite topic,
"brainism," Mackay yielded the floor to "Brother
Fall 2012 LEGACIES 19
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 24, Number 2, Fall 2012, periodical, Autumn 2012; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth308998/m1/21/: accessed October 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.