Celebrating Black History
Teneshia Hudspeth made history as the first African-American woman to be elected Harris County Clerk. Hudspeth assumed office on November 18, 2020, and her current term ends on December 31, 2022.
Hudspeth ran as a Democrat in a special election for Harris County Clerk in Texas. Hudspeth won in the special general election on November 3, 2020.
In August 2021 the Harris County Archives, part of the Harris County Clerk's Office, loaned a Justice of the Peace court inquest docket to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum to put on display in observance of the 104th anniversary of the Camp Logan Mutiny, also known as the Houston Riot of 1917. This docket contains legal documents from the inquest of SGT Vida Henry and PVT Bryant Watson.
During World War I, a military encampment was established just west of downtown in the area of what is now Memorial Park. When African-Americans from the predominately black Twenty-fourth United States Infantry Regiment were sent to guard the construction of the camp in the summer of 1917, the soldiers immediately encountered a hostile environment. At this time, Houston had strict Jim Crow laws in place which enforced racial discrimination. Many of the soldiers in this battalion were from northern states where they were accustomed to more equal treatment as servicemen. When faced with forced segregation, mounting tensions grew, erupting in an incident on August 23, 2017. Houston police officers arrested and assaulted some black soldiers, and in response to this event, many soldiers from the camp mutinied and marched to Houston. A rapid escalation of events led to the deaths of four soldiers and 15 white civilians.
Details of the deaths of two of the soldiers- Sgt. Vida Henry and Private Bryant Watson, can be found in the Harris County 1917 Justice of the Peace court docket. Contained in this docket are the inquest records, or reports of the events, proceedings, findings, and conclusions of investigations into this incident.
Negro Home Demonstration event in Carverdale Community, 1961
After Vera Dial Harris graduated from Prairie View A&M in 1935 she demonstrated modern cooking equipment and products to African-Americans in small urban centers throughout East Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana for Southern Newspaper Features of Dallas. In 1937 she joined the Texas Agricultural Extension Service as a Negro Home Demonstration Agent first in Austin and later in NegroHarris County. She participated in the integration of the office during the 1960s.
Vera Dial, an employee of Texas Agricultural Extension Service, retired after 35 years of continuous employment - 32 years in Harris County.
Poll tax receipt from 1937. A poll tax is essentially a voting fee. The idea of a poll tax originated in the Republic of Texas as a tax levied against all white males between the ages of 21 and 55. As time went on, this evolved into a legal way to discourage African-Americans from voting. Some whites were excused from payment, but there were no exemptions for African-Americans.
El Franco Lee served as a Harris County Commissioner for 30 years until his death in 2016. When elected to the position in 1985, Lee became the first African-American member of Harris County's governing body. Before becoming a county commissioner, he served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1979 to 1985.
Harris County Grand Jury, November 1952.
Case law recognizing a defendant's right to a jury selected from a fair cross-section of the community began to develop in the 1940s and 1950s. Photos of Harris County Grand Juries during this time begin to include African-Americans and Latinos.
Original housing for African American residents of the Harris County Home for the Aged, 1922.
The Harris County Home for the Aged (also known as the Old Folks Home) was located approximately 8 miles east of Houston on the Crosby Road. The home had segregated facilities for approximately one hundred white and African-American residents.
Andrew L. Jefferson Jr. was the first black state district judge in Harris County. He served as judge in Court of Domestic Relations No. 2 in Harris County from December 1970 through 1973, then as 280th district judge in 1974 and 1975. He resigned in October 1975 for private practice.
Black children sitting at their desks, with Viola DeWalt, custodian of the School Library, sitting at the front. Students of the La Porte Colored School (as it was known at the time). Image from the Harris County Public Library records.
Photograph taken in the fall of 1933. Boys hold large stacks of books tied together with string. Behind them stand a row of girls. Image from the Harris County Public Library records.
Dr. Joye Carter was the first black female Chief Medical Examiner in the United States. From July 1996 to October 2002, Carter served as the Chief Medical Examiner for Harris County, Texas. After retiring from Harris County, Dr. Carter started a private company, J&M Forensic Consulting. Dr. Carter is also an author with two books under her belt: My Strength Comes From Within, an autobiography, and I Speak For the Dead, a book that examines the emotional turmoil that family members experience after the loss of a loved one.
In 1971 Anthony W. Hall, Jr. became the first African-American in an executive position in Harris County government. He served as a State Representative from 1972 until 1979 when he was first elected to the Houston City Council. Upon his appointment, Hall was the third African-American, after Judson W. Robinson, Jr. and Ernest McGowen, to be elected to the city council in Houston. In 1990 he became the first African-American chairman of the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority, during which time he practiced law in a private firm. From 1998 until 2004 Hall served as the City Attorney for the City of Houston and Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Houston from 2004-2010.