How a 1917 Houston Riot Echoes the Black Lives Matter Movement

Buffalo soldiers stationed in Houston started the riot after a white police officer had beaten and arrested black Houstonians, including one of their own enlisted.

By Laura RiceAugust 25, 2016 11:53 am

When did the Black Lives Matter movement start?

Its founders formed the group after the acquittal of Don Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Other, similar movements gained momentum after Ferguson. Still others would say the outrage began with the nation’s founding.

But a powerful case can be made for a story about a night in Houston nearly a century ago, sparked by police violence against the black community.

In the Houston Chronicle, writer S.L. Wisenberg recounts a story most have never heard before – about a riot that was largely, perhaps conveniently, forgotten and echoes loudly today.

A Houston policeman had chased some young black men playing craps, Wisenberg says, who ran into a house. The policeman arrested the woman in the house because he said she was a prostitute. The officer also took in a solider who had intervened on the woman’s behalf. Another soldier, who was military police, questioned the white policeman.

“The guy felt he was being challenged,” she says, “that nobody who was black had the right to talk to him as if they were equals. … So the obvious thing to do was to knock him by the side of the head and to start shooting at him as he ran off. And then, get him and arrest him.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

– What happened when word of the police officer’s treatment of the soldier got back to his barracks

– How the riot ensued and who was punished

– How many people died, including white police officers and black Buffalo soldiers