Cover image for Black soldiers in Jim Crow Texas, 1899-1917
Black soldiers in Jim Crow Texas, 1899-1917
Christian, Garna L.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
College Station : Texas A&M University Press, [1995]

Physical Description:
xvi, 223 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
UB418.A47 C48 1995 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In Jim Crow Texas, black Regular Army units returning victoriously from Cuba and the Philippines collided head-on with local segregation and bigotry. As the soldiers' expectations of dignity and respect met with racial restrictions and indignities from civilian communities, a series of violent episodes erupted.

Although confrontations also occurred elsewhere, the most notorious were in Texas, beginning with an 1899 clash between white lawmen in Texarkana and black soldiers riding a troop train west after returning from Cuba. The first truly violent episode came in 1906, when troops were accused of attacking Brownsville after civilian provocations. In 1917 a full-scale battle in Houston resulted in fifteen dead and twenty-one injured. Between 1899 and 1917, a series of other face-offs--some involving the complex relationships of blacks with local Hispanic populations--occurred when black soldiers stood up for their rights or their lives in San Antonio, Laredo, El Paso, Rio Grande City, Del Rio, and Waco.

This little-known story, never before told in full, illuminates the collision of racial discrimination with racial pride and reveals once again the petty biases, institutionalized racism, and mutual suspicions that have divided American society. But it is also a story of lofty aspirations too long delayed, of the transformation of a downtrodden race into a self-confident people, and of the noble attempt, however dangerous its means, to realize full citizenship.

Clearly written and impressively researched, Black Soldiers in Jim Crow Texas traces the relationship of the four black military regiments--the 24th and 25th Infantries and the 9th and 10th Cavalries--with white civilian communities in the period between the Spanish-American War and World War I. Drawn from previously unexploited sources, it fills a void in the increasing body of research on the black military and illuminates the magnitude of racial intolerance in early twentieth-century America. No other work has explored these issues in such depth and with such skill.

Author Notes

Garna L. Christian has written extensively on the black military units in Texas and on other aspects of Texas history and culture. He earned a bachelor's degree from Mexico City College, a master's from Texas Western College, and a doctorate in history from Texas Tech University. He is a professor of history at the University of Houston-Downtown.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The military experience of African Americans in Texas is the vehicle used by Christian in this examination of American race relations in that state. Employing numerous sources, including various military records, affidavits, and newspaper stories, the author unfolds several accounts of racial confrontation between whites, Hispanics, and black military men, from Texarkana in 1899 to the Camp Logan Rising at Houston in 1917. The uniform of the US Army did little to protect blacks from the virulent racism of white Texans and Hispanics. In addition, black soldiers received little sympathy from elected officials and the Army. In some cases the military sided with civilian accounts and acquiesced to political pressure, harshly punishing black soldiers, as in Brownsville, Texas, in 1906. As the author argues, the paradox is that the one institution where black men should have found some degree of independence could not dissociate itself from the racism of the society. Christian's work is also a story of a civil rights movement led by black men in uniform. As the author notes, black soldiers were active agents diligently fighting for their human dignity. Unfortunately, Christian gives the reader only a glimpse of the relationship between black troops and the black communities of Texas. Despite this blemish, this well-written and well-researched monograph is requisite reading for anyone interested in US race relations. General readers; undergraduates. C. Taylor Le Moyne College