Buffalo Soldier Mutiny: Houston, 1917

Memorial Park wasn’t always a park — it was once an army camp, and horrible things happened there

Riots, racism, police beatings, mob vengeance, political corruption, murder! No, we’re not talking about Watts in the 1960s, but the most inglorious event in Houston history — the 1917 Riot. Five policemen, four soldiers and at least 11 private citizens were killed during the violence. Sparked by the unfair treatment of blacks, enlisted and civilian, black soldiers stationed at Houston’s Camp Logan mutinied and marched on the city, where an angry mob of locals was waiting for them. (Camp Logan was situated on land that’s currently Memorial Park.) The incident led to the eventual court-martial and execution of 19 black U.S. Army soldiers.

Filmmakers Alan Berg, Larry Dickman, Eric Hanken and Mike Kaliski use Robert Haynes’s book A Night of Violence: The Houston Riot of 1917 and Celeste Bedford Walker’s play Camp Logan as the starting point for their documentary, Buffalo Soldier Mutiny: Houston, 1917. The film includes staged re-enactments, personal interviews and archival photos à la Ken Burns to flesh out this gruesome true story. According to the filmmakers, no one is blameless for the horrors that accumulated: not the black “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 24th Infantry Regiment, not the cowardly populace and certainly not the racist public officials and police force. This is Houston history at its fascinating worst.

The cast and crew of Buffalo Soldier Mutiny will be present at both screenings this weekend. 7 p.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6 to $7.


Sat., Feb. 21, 7 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 22, 2 p.m., 2009

 
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