Army sets aside convictions of Black soldiers in 1917 Houston riot
Dozens of Black soldiers implicated in the 1917 Houston riot now have new legacies.
Driving the news: The U.S. Army set aside the court-martial ruling convicting 110 soldiers over the deadly event, the military branch announced Monday.
Why it matters: The historic move, first reported by the Houston Chronicle, characterizes their service as honorable and paves the way for the soldiers' descendants to receive military benefits.
Catch up fast: While standing guard over the new Camp Logan in the summer of 1917, members of the all-Black 3rd Battalion of the 24th Infantry Regiment endured months of racist ridicule and encounters with Houston police enforcing Jim Crow laws.
- On Aug. 23, 1917, two soldiers were beaten and arrested after interfering with the violent arrest of a Black woman by Houston police.
- That, along with rumored additional violence against the battalion, led more than 100 soldiers to take up arms and march into the streets of Houston.
- Clashes with residents and police ultimately left 19 people dead.
The Army convicted 110 soldiers of mutiny, assault and murder, executing 19 of them, including some within a day of sentencing.
What happened: Members of the South Texas College of Law asked the Army to overturn the convictions in 2020, saying the mass trial was fraught with errors.
- That included a lack of evidence to convict many of the defendants and an incompetent lawyer, according to University of Houston historian Dr. Gerald Horne.
The latest: The Army held a special ceremony at Houston's Buffalo Soldiers National Museum on Monday commemorating the move.
- Two of the soldiers' descendants were in attendance, per the Chronicle.
What they're saying: "With the support of our experts, our dedicated board members looked at each record carefully and came up with our best advice to Army leaders to correct a miscarriage of justice," Michael Mahoney, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for review boards, said in a press release.
- "It's never too late to do the right thing," Horne tells Axios. "However, they should not have been convicted in the first instance. It was a travesty of justice, but better late than never."
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