2017 marks the centennial of the U.S. involvement in World War I (1914-1919). An exhibit in the cases near the east entrance of Fondren Library created in collaboration with Rice’s Anthropology department offers a brief account of the history of Camp Logan, a World War I training camp once situated in what is today Memorial Park in northwest Houston. This exhibit marks the 100 year anniversary of the opening of Camp Logan in 1917.
Although this centennial has served as an inspiration for the exhibit, Rice University faculty, staff, and students have been involved in researching and preserving Camp Logan’s history for some time: for example, the Woodson’s collections of papers and objects related to Camp Logan (the Clark Bruster Collection) and the recently acquired Paul B. Hendrickson collection. Dr. Jeffrey Fleisher and students from the Anthropology Department have been investigating Camp Logan archaeologically since 2015. These collections and the results of this research form an important part of this exhibit. Also on display are postcards, ephemera, and images graciously loaned by Robbie Morin from his extensive collection and items from The Heritage Society. These materials have greatly enhanced the exhibit.
Occupied for a short period of time from 1917-1919, the story of Camp Logan represents the complexities and tragedies of early 20th-century Houston. Camp Logan emerged quickly at the edge of this small but growing city, and provided a significant economic boost to it as more than 30,000 troops were trained there. But Camp Logan is also tied in historical memory with the Houston Riot and the racial segregation that structured the US military at this time.
One of the most well-known and tragic of these aspects is the Houston Riot of 1917. The all black 24th Infantry was sent to guard the still under-construction site of Camp Logan in early 1917. On August 23rd two Houston police officers assaulted and arrested two members of the 24th Infantry for inquiring why a half-dressed, black mother of five was being assaulted outside her own home in downtown Houston. In retaliation to this unfair treatment, and spurned on by the general racist attitude of the city as a whole, around 100 men of the 24th Infantry took matters into their own hands, gathered weapons from their stockpile and marched towards the police station with the intent of freeing their fellow soldiers. The two-hour riot that followed was a tragic and difficult episode in Houston’s history, the consequences of which meant the death of black and white Americans and the incarceration of black troops.
A current exhibit at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum covers the events of this riot in more detail and the museum is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Houston Riot with week-long events later this month. More information is available on their website: http://www.buffalosoldiermuseum.com/?event=100th-anniversary-of-camp-logan-mutiny-1917-2017&event_date=2017-08-21
The Camp Logan exhibit in Fondren Library will be on display through the end of December 2017.