(UnitedVoice.com) – On December 11, 1917, 13 black soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, died after the military hanged them. Their executions were carried out at a military camp located near Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. An all-white jury had recently convicted them of murder and mutiny. Six more soldiers were also brought to the gallows and executed.
The soldiers were all convicted of participating in the 1917 Houston Riot. More than a century after the convictions and executions, the Army has made an announcement.
On November 13, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth approved an Army Board for Correction of Military Records’ recommendation to formally overturn the convictions of the 110 soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment.
The Army Times reported Wormuth said the soldiers weren’t given fair trials or treated well because they were black. As a result, she had set aside the convictions and granted the soldiers honorable discharges. The Army secretary said the military branch wanted to acknowledge the mistakes and “se[t] the record straight.”
The killing of the 19 soldiers from the 3rd Battalion was one of the largest mass executions the military ever carried out. And the dead soldiers weren’t even given the time to appeal their convictions before they were executed.
The Houston Riot
On July 27, 1917, the Army ordered the 3rd Battalion to travel by train with seven white officers from Columbus, New Mexico, to Houston. The 110 black soldiers were discriminated against by the white soldiers and people in the cities where they stopped. According to a historical accounting of the incident, public officials, police officers, and others thought the black soldiers were going to create problems. Specifically, white people in Houston were afraid that if they treated the black soldiers as if they were equal, then black people in their city would want to be treated the same way.
Houston police officers regularly mistreated black soldiers and civilians. Eventually, police tried to keep the black soldiers at the camp. Then, on August 23, a riot erupted. Two police officers placed a black soldier under arrest for allegedly interfering in the arrest of a black woman. Cpl. Charles Baltimore asked about the soldier’s arrest, and a cop struck him on his head. Officers then fired their weapons at Baltimore and chased him. He was arrested, but later released.
A rumor started that Baltimore had been shot and killed, and it reached the soldiers at camp. A group of soldiers marched to the city. During the march, 15 people white people and four black people were murdered.
The incident led to the convictions and deaths of the soldiers, even though they’d proclaimed their innocence. Now, 106 years later, the records are being corrected.
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