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Protest March and Sit-In (1967)


Silent | 1967

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  •  TSU student holds a sign calling for legal aid for Reverend F. D. Kirkpatrick and Franklin Alexander 
  •  Harris County Courthouse 
  •  Vigil outside the courthouse 
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This unedited footage from Houston’s KPRC-TV captures a protest march from Texas Southern University to the Harris County Courthouse on April 4, 1967. The march followed a week of demonstrations on the TSU campus. While student leaders voiced several concerns, from poor national teacher examinations among graduates to the early curfew for female students, the protests primarily stemmed from the administration’s barring of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee chapter on campus. Demonstrations on April 3 led to the arrest two individuals on charges of unlawful assembly: Franklin Alexander, a national leader of the W. E. DuBois Clubs, and Reverend F. D. Kirkpatrick, co-chairman of Friends of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. A third, Lee Otis Johnson, was arrested the following day. The trio were subsequently held in jail on $25,000 bond. University President Joseph Pierce addressed demonstrators at a rally in the TSU auditorium on the morning of April 4; however, the students refused to meet his request of naming representatives to present grievances until Alexander and Kirkpatrick (and later Johnson) were released. After Pierce left the stage, the assembled students walked out and began a peaceful march to the Harris County Courthouse to protest the arrests. Upon reaching the courthouse, a large group of protesters remained overnight for a sit-in. The vigil ended on the afternoon of April 5, some 20 hours later, after the demonstrators learned that a bond hearing for Alexander, Kirkpatrick, and Johnson was scheduled for later that day. The demonstration highlighted the tense relationship TSU students shared with not only the administration but also local law enforcement. A reported 200 city riot police and 20 sheriff’s deputies encircled the demonstrators, nearly matching them in number. A month later, an interaction between students and police on campus would escalate into a deadly confrontation known as the TSU Riot.
On the night of May 16, 1967, police blockaded the Texas Southern University campus in response to a student civil rights protest. Amidst the high racial tensions, the confrontation escalated into an “Alamo-scale shootout,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Police fired an estimated 3,000 rounds into TSU’s Lanier Dormitory, where the students were blockaded. Law enforcement raided the building in the early morning hours of May 17, arresting 488 students—the largest mass arrest in Houston history. Two police officers were wounded and another, rookie Louis Kuba, was killed. A small group of students, known as the TSU Five, were indicted on charges of inciting a riot, assault, and murder. They were Charles Freeman, Trazawell Franklin, Douglas Waller, John Parker, and Floyd Nichols. Only Freeman was tried, resulting in a hung jury. A judge ultimately dismissed the case against all five defendants due to insufficient evidence, believing that Kuba most likely died from a ricocheting police bullet.