The De-Ro-Loc No-Tsu-Oh (“Colored Houston” spelled backwards) Carnival originated in the fall of 1909 as a completely separate festival from the larger No-Tsu-Oh event. The concept for this carnival was originated by John A. Matthews, who joined with grocer William Jones, publisher Van H. McKinney, and attorney M. H. Broyles to form the De-Ro-Loc Association. The organization also had a sixteen-member board. 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 and was held in Houston’s Third Ward at Emancipation Park. The Houston Daily Post estimated that 4,000 people attended the first day’s activities. The planners secured the services of Lachman Company Hippodrome Show to help provide the thirty-five 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, including E. L. Blackshear, president of Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University), Matthew W. Dogan, president of Wiley College, and J. W. Laws, president of Paul Quinn College. 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, local attorney-at-law Major Hannon Broyles was chosen as the first King of De-Ro-Loc.
This first De-Ro-Loc Carnival was able to obtain favorable passenger rates from “all the railroads leading into Houston, and especially those covering the colored belt of the State”—rates similar to those provided for the No-Tsu-Oh Carnival. Like No-Tsu-Oh this helped to draw participants from across the state and subsidized the financial viability of this initial event.
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 race.”
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 as a salesman 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.
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 its people by providing Ex-Slaves and Old People’s Reunion Day activities. Starting in 1910 football games became annual events at West End Park. Participating teams included Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College, Wiley College, Langston College, Bishop College, and Camp Logan’s Eighth Illinois Regiment.
These annual festivals proved to be very popular, and the tradition continued for more than a decade, concluding in 1920. 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.