The TSU Riot, 50 years later

By | May 17, 2017

The TSU Riot of 1967 was a formative experience for many Houstonians swept up in the vast social changes of the ’60s. Fifty years later, though, a lack of historical markers or public recognition of the incident, official or otherwise, represents a kind of collective shrug towards reconciling that past.

Local and national newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, labeled the incident a riot. Visit the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Texas History Online, and there, under “Riots,” a brief description reaffirms parts of the prevailing narrative: On the night of May 17, 1967, TSU students rioted. (They were black.) Police officers responded. (They were mostly white.) All of which resulted in thousands of shots fired, the arrest of nearly 500 students, traumatic injuries on both sides and the tragic death of a rookie police officer, Louis Kuba. (He was white. And young. And an expectant father.)

What was often left out of press coverage is that the students weren’t actually rioting. There were no reports of looting, destruction of property or mass resistance of arrest, all essential hallmarks of a riot.

More accurately, this was a protest, followed by the alleged throwing of debris at a police car, followed by a police invasion of campus, followed by an isolated shooting of a police officer, which then escalated into an Alamo-scale shootout — all of which, while complex, does not constitute a riot.

Nor was there much discussion on how the so-called “TSU Five” — the five students charged with conspiracy and incitement to riot — were exonerated due to insufficient evidence. (Houston Chronicle)

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