Some San Antonio Black Historical Facts
On November 1, 1917, the U.S. army held court-martials at the chapel at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The military court tribunals indicted the men of the 24th Black Infantry for participating in the so-called “Houston Riot,” Nineteen soldiers were hanged for trying to help a black woman being brutalized by Houston Police, and the need to protect themselves from white harassment and mobs. White officers who faced courts-martial were released, and none of the white civilians were brought to trial for their crimes. Pastor Isaiah Kelly delivered their last rites. Ironically, Pastor Kelly, a black Baptist preacher, would later be exposed as working with the KKK by W.E. Dubois in the Crisis magazine. The place where these brave soldiers were hanged is at the back of the golf course at Fort Sam Houston.
Later, Charles Bellinger, a black leader in San Antonio, basically was able to decide who would be mayor in San Antonio. Bellinger was a black political boss and according to the Texas State Historical Association, “Bellinger entered local politics in 1918 and, with the aid of black ministers, developed support among black voters for John W. Tobin, who served as sheriff and mayor, and later for the Quin family. In return the city government provided the black neighborhood with paved and lighted streets, plumbing, a meeting hall, and a branch library, as well as improved recreation facilities and schools. Black political participation set San Antonio apart from most Texas and southern cities and stimulated the state legislature to require a white primary in the 1920s, a move that led to court decisions in the 1930s and 1940s declaring such voter exclusion unconstitutional.”
It should be noted that San Antonio Mayors Charles Quin (1877–1960), and his political opponent Fontaine Maury Maverick (1895–1954), were ideologically different in that Quin was a KKK sympathizer while Maverick was a liberal. However, both of them were racists, as Maverick once called Charles Bellinger a “black baboon.” Unfortunately, some leftist and liberal groups refuse to recognize the racism of so-called liberals or socialists like writers Mark Twain, Jack London, and others. Even though Quin was a KKK sympathizer he was supported by black political boss Charles Bellinger. Bellinger would be called an Uncle Tom by NAACP president Harold Tarver for doing so. Maverick, the so called liberal, would eventually team up with a conservative segregationist named Walter McAllister, and both plotted to send Bellinger to prison. Bellinger was convicted of tax evasion and sent to the federal prison at Leavenworth. However, Mayor Quin would plot with the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, which resulted in Bellinger being pardoned. Hence, black political power was manipulated by a conservative African American, a racist KKK mayor, and a racist liberal. It was a very trying time for blacks in San Antonio.
The Municipal Auditorium was segregated as was the San Antonio Library for many years all the way to 1955. A rope was placed down the center isle by the San Antonio Fire Department which separated “white” from “colored” and was clearly marked with signs attached to the ropes. During the era of segregation, blacks needed places to stay while driving across the country. Segregated restaurants, restrooms, gas stations, hotels, and other facilities were designated “white only.” As a result, a book was published called “The Negro Motorist Green-Book.” This book listed places where blacks could utilize segregated facilities and San Antonio had at least 3 places listed: one at 1216 Dawson Street, 127 N. Mesquite Street (near St Paul’s Methodist Church) and the other at 245 Canton Street. The book was written by Victor H. Green, a black entrepreneur and was available in 1941.