George Floyd death could be biggest moment in Houston's racial history

Tuesday, June 9, 2020
George Floyd death could be biggest moment in Houston's racial history
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Here is why a professor on race relations says George Floyd's death and the resulting protests could be the most significant part of Houston's racial history.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Protests over the death of George Floyd have brought together some of the largest crowds Houston has seen since the civil rights movement.

Associate professor of history at the University of Houston-Downtown, Dr. Gene Preuss, calls this movement a major turning point in U.S. history.

"All Americans have the right, all people have the right when they see something bad to speak up," Preuss said.

Protests against police brutality date back to the mid-20th century. At one point, Houston's police force was all white, many of whom incited racial tensions.

"You had problems that are going on in the '70s. You had Jose Campos Torres, who is a Mexican-American Vietnam veteran, who returned and is beat up and drowned by the police," Preuss said.

During the civil rights movement, protesters held marches and sit-ins to let the government know they wouldn't stand for racial injustice.

"There have been other cases that have come out of Texas over voting rights, over school integration. We have a long history of segregating, and we also have a long history of standing up for minority communities that have stood up and fight against that," Preuss said. "Usually, it's fairly peaceful. Sometimes it's not so much, but people in Houston are not afraid to speak up for their rights, and I think it's something that we should be very proud of."

Other notable moments in Houston history:

  • August 23, 1917 Camp Logan Riot - Following conflict between African American soldiers and Houston police, 16 white civilians were killed and 13 black soldiers were hung.
  • 1943 - Race riots in Beaumont and other southern cities increase tension in Houston.
  • 1947 - Texas Legislature names Houston College for Negroes to establish law school for African Americans to avoid Heman Marion Sweatt's integration challenge.
  • 1961 - University of Houston admits first African American student.
  • 1965 - African American students boycott Houston schools in protest of continued segregation.
  • 1981 - Lee Brown becomes Houston's first African American police chief.
  • 1997 - Lee Brown is elected first African American mayor of Houston.

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