Civil Rights

Harris County issues apology to Black soldiers convicted after 1917 Camp Logan riot

The unanimous vote by Harris County Commissioners Court came just a few weeks after the U.S. Army set aside the convictions of 110 soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment.

Camp Logan Court Martial
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration/Wikipedia Commons
The court martial of 64 members of the 24th Infantry on trial for mutiny and murder of 17 people on Aug. 23, 1917 during the Houston Riots.

Harris County has issued a formal apology to the African American soldiers convicted in the wake of the 1917 Camp Logan riot. County commissioners voted unanimously for the resolution.

The vote came just a few weeks after the U.S. Army set aside the convictions of 110 Black soldiers sentenced for their participation in the incident. The soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment had been sent to Harris County to guard the construction of Camp Logan, on the grounds of what is now Memorial Park, during the First World War.

"Under the brutal system of Jim Crow," said Commissioner Rodney Ellis, who authored the resolution, "the soldiers endured severe, nonstop, racist harassment and violence from white residents of Harris County and Houston, including police officers and fellow members of the military. Tensions from the ongoing violence and harassment boiled over on August 23, 1917."

What followed was the largest court-martial in U.S. history. One hundred eighteen soldiers were tried by an all-white court-martial board on charges of murder, mutiny, and disobedience. Of those, 110 were convicted and were not given the right of appeal. Thirteen were hanged in secret and were buried on the grounds of Fort Sam Houston.

"First of all, the resolution apologizes on behalf of Harris County for the fact that this happened under the watch of Harris County government," Ellis said. "Secondly, the resolution makes clear that, moving forward, we, those of us who are in power to govern today, will remain committed to creating a more equitable justice system for all and standing against the scourge of racism wherever it exists."