The 1909 De-Ro-Loc Carnival took place from November 29 through December 4 in Houston’s Third Ward at Emancipation Park.
Reprinted from the Texas State Historical Association’s Handbook of Houston, a project in cooperation with the Houston History Alliance. For more information, visit www.HoustonHistoryAlliance.org.
The De-Ro-Loc No-Tsu-Oh (“Colored Houston” spelled backwards) Carnival
originated in 1909, created by John A. Matthews, who joined with grocer William Jones, publisher Van H. McKinney and attorney Major Hannon Broyles to form the De-Ro-Loc Association. The new festival was in response to the existing segregation laws which limited African Americans’ access and participation in the well-established No-Tsu-Oh Carnival.
The 1909 De-Ro-Loc Carnival took place from November 29 through December 4 in Houston’s Third Ward at Emancipation Park. The Houston Daily Post estimated that 4,000 people attended the first day’s activities, thanks in part to the favorable passenger rates from “all the railroads leading into Houston, and especially those covering the colored belt of the State.” Lachman Company Hippodrome Show provided the 35 concessions and performances by the Georgia Minstrels for the attendees. Friday, December 3, was designated Special Educational and Industrial Day. This day was devoted to exhibits and discussions from colleges and academics from throughout the state. One of the highlights of the 1909 activities was the crowning of the festival’s first king. The carnival association chose the title of “King La-Yol E-Civ-Res” (“Loyal Service”) for their honoree. On Friday, December 4, Major Hannon Broyles was chosen as the first King of De-Ro-Loc.
In 1910 merchant M. M. Barlow was recognized as King La-Yol E-Civ-Res
II, and in 1911 Van H. McKinney was crowned King La-Yol E-Civ-Res III.
McKinney was a “pioneer Negro job printer” and editor of Houston Van, a
publication covering “business, social, religious and moral life of the Negro
The carnival location alternated between Emancipation and West End parks
from 1909 through 1912. In December 1912 founder John A. Matthews, who had been working for the Texas Freeman, Houston’s first African American newspaper, passed away. B. J. Covington was chosen as King La-Yol E-Civ-Res IV and became president of the De-Ro-Loc Association in 1913. These annual festivals proved to be very popular, and the tradition continued for more than a decade, concluding in 1920.
De-Ro-Loc included a number of activities similar to its predecessor No-Tsu-
Oh, such as Farmers’, Galveston, East Texas and Children’s days, and flower parades while expanding to include a Wild West Show, Plantation Show and College Day. The carnival also embraced the history of African Americans by providing Ex-Slaves and Old People’s Reunion Day activities. Starting in 1910, football games became annual events.
On November 27, 1920, the Houston Informer included a small article entitled
“The Late De-Ro-Loc Carnival” and pointed to the lack of financial success for the 1920 event. The article indicated that the carnival had “outlived its days of usefulness.” Having continued for several years after the end of the No-Tsu-Oh Festival, De-Ro-Loc came to a close.