Next Month Marks the 100th Anniversary of Forgotten Episode in S.A. History

As San Antonio gears up to celebrate the city's 300th birthday, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is asking for some recognition of one of the darkest, and least known parts of the city's long history, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Next month marks the 100th anniversary of the mass hanging of 13 African American soldiers who were convicted, most historians agree unjustly, in connection with the infamous Houston race riots that occurred in the summer of 1917

"This is a part of the history that San Antonio does not want to proudly share," said Rev. K.P. Tatum, Sr, who heads the SCLC in Ft. Worth and is the creator of 'Hung Before Dawn,' a remembrance of the soldiers who were executed in what remains the largest court martial in U.S. military history.

What is known as the 'Mutiny at Camp Logan' is one of the most underreported events in Texas history.

In the summer of 1917, soldiers of the all black 24th Infantry Division, who were still referred to as 'Buffalo Soldiers,' using the name given to Black troops in the frontier by Native Americans, were stationed at Camp Logan, a National Guard camp in what is now west Houston.

When a Black corporal, Corp. Charles W. Baltimore, attempted to stop a white Houston police officer from assaulting a woman, the officer responded with 'I don't answer to no Negro,' and proceeded to pistol whip Baltimore.

The incident occurred at a time when racial tensions had been building between the Black citizens of Houston, which was intensively segregated under the 'Jim Crow' laws in place at the time, and Houston's White citizens.  The result was a riot as the troops, angry over the disrespect shown to their corporal, and Black civilians, who had long simmered under the racial laws in place at the time, rampaged through the city.  At the end of the riot, 17 people had been killed.

Interestingly, the Houston riot of 1917 is the only race riot in U.S. history where more White people than Black people were killed.

Houston was placed under martial law, and the military quickly sprung into action, ordering court martials for 63 Black soldiers.  

Many of the accused soldiers, Tatum says, had nothing whatsoever to do with the riot.

"We do not see this as a period of pride," he said.  "We can proclaim that we are better now, we have progressed."

The court martials took place at Ft. Sam Houston, and 13 of the soldiers were executed on the early morning of December 11th 1917 in a gallows erected at Camp Travis, a National Guard camp located along Salado Creek northeast of Ft. Sam Houston, near present day Perrin-Beitel Road.

Dozens more soldiers were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, and some were still in prison at the start of World War II.

Rev. Tatum is hoping to bring people to San Antonio next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the hanging of the men, which is one of the forgotten chapters in America's sad history of race relations.  He envisions regular annual events at the site, and its use as a symbol of the days of Jim Crow in Texas.

He says San Antonio, as the city prepares to mark its 300th birthday, needs to realize that it has become a national symbol of racial and ethnic diversity, and has proudly risen from the ashes of the events of 1917.

He also wants to see some sort of permanent memorial to mark the location of the hanging.

"This happened a long time ago, should these men be pardoned?" he asked.  "Many of us believe that they should."

He said President Trump could heal a lot of wounds and overturn many impressions of his character by using the occasion to pardon the 'Camp Logan 13.'

In fact, concerns over whether justice was properly applied to the soldiers, who were jointly represented by one man who was not even a lawyer, led directly to the creation of the Judge Advocate Corps and the development of the modern Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The soldiers were first buried in unmarked graves near the execution site, but were later moved to Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery.

But, in a final act of discrimination, rather than the marker displaying the service member's name, rank, military record and birth and death dates, the markers for the Camp Logan 13 simply read their name, and '1917,' the year of their death.

PHOTO: REV. K.P. TATUM SR.

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