Historic justice: US army clears convictions of 110 black soldiers from 1917 riots

Written by Jeppe W

Nov.14 - 2023 3:55 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com

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The United States Army has made a historic decision to overturn the convictions of 110 black soldiers involved in the 1917 Houston Riots, reported by BBC.

This move is a significant acknowledgment of the racial injustices faced by these soldiers, who were members of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, also known as "Buffalo Soldiers."

The 1917 Houston Riots were a consequence of escalating racial tensions and the violent arrest and assault of two black soldiers.

Amidst rumors of further threats from a white mob, armed black soldiers gathered in Houston, leading to clashes that resulted in 19 deaths, including civilians.

The aftermath saw 110 soldiers from the regiment being convicted on various charges, including disobedience, mutiny, and assault.

This led to the execution of 19 soldiers, 13 of whom were executed in secrecy within a day of their sentencing, marking the largest mass execution of American soldiers by the U.S. Army.

Historians have highlighted that the trials of these soldiers were marred by "numerous irregularities," indicating a lack of fair trial and racial bias.

In response to petitions received in October 2020 and December 2021 from retired general officers, the Army has now recognized the wrongful treatment of these soldiers due to racial prejudice.

Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth, stated, "By setting aside their convictions and granting honorable discharges, the Army is acknowledging past mistakes and setting the record straight."

This decision serves as a rectification of historical wrongs and will reclassify the records of these soldiers to reflect their military service as honorable.

Gabe Camarillo, Under Secretary of the Army, remarked, "We cannot change the past; however, this decision provides the Army and the American people an opportunity to learn from this difficult moment in our history."

The Army has also indicated that relatives of these soldiers may be eligible for compensation.

This reversal of convictions is a significant step in addressing the historical racial injustices within the military and commemorates the legacy and sacrifice of the Buffalo Soldiers.

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