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Texas Progressive Alliance Round-Up—Riot In Houston in 1917 Over Black Soldiers

Image, Source: original negative

Here is the weekly round-up of the Texas Progressive Alliance. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas. The round-up is at the end of this post.

With the round-up this weekend, since Memorial Day tomorrow, is a group portrait of African-American officers taken in Houston in 1918.   The names of the men are given as —Lieutenant Benati H. Lee, Lieutenant Harry Murphy, Lieutenant Fred Johnson, Lieutenant Claudius Ballard, Lieutenant Harry Allen, Lieutenant Edward Douglas, Lieutenant Louis Washington, Lieutenant George L. Amos, Lieutenant Samuel A. McGowan, and Lieutenant Frank McFarland, 370th infantry. This picture is at the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress.

I did not know that black officers would have been stationed and  trained in a Southern city such as Houston as long ago as 1918.

As it turns out, the fact that these troops were in Houston was a source of tension that led to a riot

From the excellent Handbook of Texas Online

“In the spring of 1917, shortly after the United States declared war on Germany, the War Department, taking advantage of the temperate climate and newly opened Houston Ship Channel, ordered two military installations built in Harris County—Camp Logan and Ellington Field. The Illinois National Guard was to train at Camp Logan, located on the northwest outskirts of the city. To guard the construction site, on July 27, 1917, the army ordered the Third Battalion of the black Twenty-fourth United States Infantry to travel by train with seven white officers from the regimental encampment at Columbus, New Mexico, to Houston. From the outset, the black contingent faced racial discrimination when they received passes to go into the city. A majority of the men had been raised in the South and were familiar with segregation, but as army servicemen they expected equal treatment. Those individuals responsible for keeping order, especially the police, streetcar conductors, and public officials, viewed the presence of black soldiers as a threat to racial harmony. Many Houstonians thought that if the black soldiers were shown the same respect as white soldiers, black residents of the city might come to expect similar treatment….On August 23, 1917, a riot erupted in Houston. Near noon, two policemen arrested a black soldier for interfering with their arrest of a black woman in the Fourth Ward. Early in the afternoon, when Cpl. Charles Baltimore, one of the twelve black military policemen with the battalion, inquired about the soldier’s arrest, words were exchanged and the policeman hit Baltimore over the head. The MPs fled. The police fired at Baltimore three times, chased him into an unoccupied house, and took him to police headquarters. Though he was soon released, a rumor quickly reached Camp Logan that he had been shot and killed. A group of soldiers decided to march on the police station in the Fourth Ward and secure his release…. Maj. Kneeland S. Snow, battalion commander, initially discounted the news of impending trouble. Around 8 P.M. Sgt. Vida Henry of I Company confirmed the rumors, and Kneeland ordered the first sergeants to collect all rifles and search the camp for loose ammunition. During this process, a soldier suddenly screamed that a white mob was approaching the camp. Black soldiers rushed into the supply tents, grabbed rifles, and began firing wildly in the direction of supposed mob. The white officers found it impossible to restore order. Sergeant Henry led over 100 armed soldiers toward downtown Houston by way of Brunner Avenue and San Felipe Street and into the Fourth Ward. In their two-hour march on the city, the mutinous blacks killed fifteen whites, including four policemen, and seriously wounded twelve others, one of whom, a policeman, subsequently died. Four black soldiers also died. Two were accidentally shot by their own men, one in camp and the other on San Felipe Street. After they had killed Capt. Joseph Mattes of the Illinois National Guard, obviously mistaking him for a policeman, the blacks began quarreling over a course of action. After two hours, Henry advised the men to slip back into camp in the darkness—and shot himself in the head…Early next morning, August 24, civil authorities imposed a curfew in Houston. On the twenty-fifth, the army hustled the Third Battalion aboard a train to Columbus, New Mexico. There, seven black mutineers agreed to testify against the others in exchange for clemency. Between November 1, 1917, and March 26, 1918, the army held three separate courts-martial in the chapel at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The military tribunals indicted 118 enlisted men of I Company for participating in the mutiny and riot, and found 110 guilty. It was wartime, and the sentences were harsh. Nineteen mutinous soldiers were hanged and sixty-three received life sentences in federal prison. One was judged incompetent to stand trial. Two white officers faced courts-martial, but they were released. No white civilians were brought to trial. The Houston Riot of 1917 was one of the saddest chapters in the history of American race relations. It vividly illustrated the problems that the nation struggled with on the home front during wartime.”

Here are some facts about black soldiers in World War I from the Library of Congress.

From these facts—

“More than 350,000 African Americans served in segregated units during World War I, mostly as support troops. Several units saw action alongside French soldiers fighting against the Germans, and 171 African Americans were awarded the French Legion of Honor. In response to protests of discrimination and mistreatment from the black community, several hundred African American men received officers’ training in Des Moines, Iowa. By October 1917, over six hundred African Americans were commissioned as captains and first and second lieutenants.”

The battles we have had to fight have been both at home and abroad.

Here is the round-up

WhosPlayin notes that the Dallas-Fort Worth area has once again failed to meet its 8 hour ozone attainment, forcing TCEQ to implement contingency measures. Have you had your two teaspoons of ozone today?
Rand Paul explains why Texas Republicans don’t mind pollution, notesCouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme.

Off the Kuff kicks off the official countdown to KBH’s 2012 re-election announcement.

Gas and greed divide neighbors in Argyle, TX. A tale of avarice, lies and corruption and civil disobedience in the Barnett Shale brought to you by TXsharon at Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS. Continue reading

May 30, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Armistice Day/Veterans Day Links

Here are some Veterans Day links. Veterans Day was initially Armistice Day and was meant to observe the end of World War I. ( The photo is of people celebrating the end of World War I in Toronto in 1918.)

Here is a history of Veterans Day from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Here is a link to a good web history of WW I. 

Here is a link to Fighting Different Wars: Experience, Memory, and the First World War In Britain written by Janet Watson. Janet is an associate professor of history at the University of Connecticut and a friend.

Here is a link to the many poets of World War One.  

Here is a link to Arlington National Cemetery.

Here is a link to information about the Korean War. My father fought in the Korean War.

Here is a link to Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Here is a link to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. This is an amazing place in Honolulu. Well worth a visit.  

Here is a link to Fort Rosencrans National Cemetery in San Diego. I visited this cemetery earlier this year.

Here is a link to a directory of peace and nonviolence organizations.

Here is a link to Antiwar.com detailing the numbers of Americans and Iraqis who have died in the Iraq War.

Without our veterans we would not be free. This should be recalled not just on Veterans Day but on all days.

November 11, 2007 Posted by | Books, History | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments