History Detectives: Special Investigations

Texas Servant Girl Murders

Episode Guide »
In 1885, six African-American servants and two white society women were killed in Austin, Texas - almost all bludgeoned with an ax, dragged from their beds and raped. As quickly as the killings started, they stopped. No killer was ever identified. Desperate to find someone to blame, the authorities first rounded up hundreds of black men. Later, they pointed the finger at a white man, James Philips, whom they accused of murdering his teenage bride. Although Philips was eventually acquitted, the trial was akin to the OJ Simpson trial, with sensational, lurid details spilling out in court. After the furor and panic died down, so did the memory of the killings. Can the History Detectives solve these murders? They pore over the records and apply cutting-edge police techniques to determine who killed the servant girls of Austin.




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