There are fewer words in the Houston lexicon as fraught with meaning as Camp Logan. In the black community, the story of the 100-or-so black soldiers who marched on Downtown, killing 15 white people along the way, was passed down as legend.
In the white parts of town, it wasn’t mentioned. For decades, the silence of the powerful and the prosperous spoke volumes.
No monuments were erected to Cpl. Charles Baltimore, a black soldier beaten and arrested by HPD for asking about the arrest of a black woman. No murals depicted the hanging of 19 soldiers who took up arms against oppression. And, until very recently, there were no museums to contextualize the events.
Although the story of mutinous-Buffalo-Soldiers-pushed-too-far wasn’t talked about around white dinner tables, the impact of the bullets fired by Sgt. Vida Henry’s men reverberated through the city for generations.
The memories of black men marching down San Felipe, rifles at the ready, helped define racism in Houston for the rest of the Twentieth Century. A few years ago, Quannell X, an activist for Houston’s black community, described a warning his mother gave him as a child.
“She told me not to go into River Oaks,” he said through a bullhorn to a crowd of protestors, “She told me the police will kill you if you go into River Oaks.”
Now, 100 years after that night of rage, bloodshed and fear, the same frustrations that sent soldiers from the Twenty Fourth Infantry out into that August night have pushed their way back to the surface.
The belief that the police have a license to hunt and kill black people, and that the white criminal justice system won’t do a damn thing about it, sent black men and women into the streets of Ferguson, Baltimore and Minneapolis. The desire for justice and the cry for equality called multiracial coalitions to the steps of city halls and state capitols.
Sadly the struggle for civil rights is never over, and as a 72-year-old black lesbian who grew up on the South Side of Chicago with Fred Hampton and Niki Giovanni once said, “Getting freedom in Texas is like fighting a gut shot bear, it takes everything you got and will most likely kill you.”