Over a hundred years ago, on August 23, 1917, Houston, Texas, witnessed one of the first steps towards the elimination of racial segregation and discrimination within the state. On this day, a mutiny held by a total of 156 African-American soldiers was performed in Camp Logan as a result of continuous discrimination and humiliation of the African-American community. As a result, the Houston riot of 1917 has become a catalyst for major social change and reconsideration of public policies in the state.
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African-American history is replete with moments of despair and riots created by people to be heard. Today, centuries after the first battles for equality and respect, Black people still struggle with defending their identity, roots, and right to live without any discrimination and implicit racial bias that stand for subconscious concerns about one’s skin color (Nance, 2016). However, if today’s battle is primarily focused on implicit discrimination apart from some severe human rights violations, African-Americans of the 20th century were forced to defend their existence every single day. As a result, their anger and inexplicable despair resulted in full-scale riots, as it was the only way to be noticed by others.
One of the vivid examples of such an uproar is the Houston riot of 1917, also known as the Camp Logan Mutiny. The riot took place during the First World War in Camp Logan, a venue designed as a training center for the soldiers in Houston, Texas (Graham, 2017). During the construction works, various infantries were ordered to guard the area for the sake of safety. One of the infantries involved, however, consisted of mostly African-American soldiers, and this fact inevitably caused some cruel outcomes. Following Jim Crow laws, the US society was driven by the ideas of racial segregation and white-male absolute dominance among Southern Americans (Logan And Temin, 2020). As a result, the 24th infantry, with almost 150 soldiers on duty, struggled with ignorance, humiliation, and resentment to recognize their worth.
The situation was getting worse every single day, as infantry soldiers were constantly addressed as “niggers,” emphasizing the lack of soldiers’ rights despite their plain duty execution. According to the researchers, the breaking point was marked by the brutal humiliation of a Black woman by a local police officer (Thompson, 2019). As a result, the night of August 23, 1917, was marked by a mutiny against white southerners who displayed disrespect and discrimination against the battalion soldiers. Eventually, the riot claimed the death of eleven citizens and five policemen. According to the first-hand allegations, the local police officers witnessed an example of unprecedented brutality with one of the police workers claiming to have seen how African American soldiers were shooting civilians’ cars (the United States. War Department Office of the Judge Advocate General, 1917). The only fact that was not taken into consideration was the amount of implicit instigation performed by the white Houston residents.
As a result of the investigation, nineteen soldiers were executed, and forty-one African Americans were sentenced to life imprisonment (Graham, 2017). The following event eventually became a catalyst for the African American human rights movement commencement, resulting in various public movements dedicated to the recognition of Black residents and abandonment of racial segregation. Taking everything into consideration, it might be concluded that the Houston riot of 1917 is one of the most significant milestones of African American history in the state of Texas, claiming the commencement of a statewide reconsideration of human equality.
Graham, Priscilla T. 2017. Camp Logan. Morrisville, NC: Lulu Press.
Logan, Trevon, and Peter Temin. (2020). “Inclusive American Economic History: Containing Slaves, Freedmen, Jim Crow Laws, and the Great Migration.” Institute for New Economic Thinking Working Paper Series 110.
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Nance, Jason P. 2016. “Student surveillance, racial inequalities, and implicit racial bias.” Emory Law Journal 66: 765.
Thompson, Malcolm K. 2019. “Save One for Yourself”: A Reconsideration of the Houston Rebellion of 1917. New York, NY: The City University of New York.
United States. War Department Office of the Judge Advocate General. 1917. Testimony of John H. Crooker, Criminal District Attorney of Harris County. Washington, D.C.: United States War Dept.