US Army Makes Historic Reversal, Atones for Jim Crow Laws and Racism

( – The U.S. army has overturned the verdicts of 110 black soldiers who were charged with mutiny in 1917 following clashes with white police officers at the time.

The soldiers, a number of whom were executed, received the punishment due to Jim Crow-era racism and bias at the time. The soldiers who belonged to the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, had been tasked to guard a training camp in Houston, Texas, which was then governed by anti-black Jim Crow laws. Tensions erupted after a white mob marched on the soldiers, who ostensibly acted in self-defense. Law enforcement at the time, however, described the incident as a pre-meditated assault of the all-black regiment against the white populace.

The case of the regiment, also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, was first reviewed after the South Texas College of Law submitted requests in 2020 and 2021 asking the Army to look into it. Several retired general officers also submitted a request for clemency for the 110 soldiers.

A review found that the soldiers received unjust and unfair treatment “because of their race” and were denied their right to a fair trial. The soldiers were also found to have been defended by a single officer who was given only a few days to prepare for the court-martial proceedings. The officer, Major Harry Grier, who was also not a lawyer, also apparently defended his charges poorly, actually supporting the accusations that the mutiny was proven, and failing to raise the issue of racial discrimination in the trial.

The historic and posthumous reversal of the ruling was part of a recent ceremony honoring the members of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Gabe Camarillo, the Army’s undersecretary, said that while the Army does not have the ability to change history, the decision to rescind the convictions “provides the Army and the American people” a chance to learn something from a problematic time in American history.

Through the reversal of the mutiny ruling as well as a posthumous granting of honorable discharges to the Buffalo Soldiers, the “Army is acknowledging past mistakes and setting the record straight,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement.

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