Redressing History: Honoring the Black WWI Soldiers of the Houston Riot

Published: 22 February 2024

By Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
via the BNN website

Redressing History Honoring the Black WWI Soldiers of the Houston Riot

Redressing History: Honoring the Black WWI Soldiers of the Houston Riot

Discover the poignant dedication ceremony for 17 Black World War I soldiers, highlighting a century-old injustice and the ongoing journey towards equality and recognition.

Imagine standing on a patch of green, hallowed ground, under the vast, open sky as the wind whispers through the leaves of nearby trees. This serene setting was the backdrop for a momentous occasion on February 22nd, as the Department of Veterans Affairs took a significant step toward rectifying a century-old injustice. The dedication of new headstones for 17 Black World War I soldiers executed in the aftermath of the 1917 Houston riots marked a poignant attempt to honor their memory and acknowledge the racial prejudices that marred their trials.

A Century-Old Injustice Revisited

In 1917, amidst the global turmoil of World War I, a group of Black soldiers stationed in Houston, Texas, found themselves at the heart of a violent confrontation that led to the deaths of several people. The subsequent military trials of these men were swift, and many argue, egregiously unfair. A recent Army review in 2023 concluded that these soldiers had been unjustly treated, their trials tainted by the racial discrimination of the era. This revelation has prompted a long-overdue reevaluation of their cases and the acknowledgment that their convictions were a miscarriage of justice.

Racial Discrimination in the Armed Forces

The story of these 17 soldiers sheds light on the broader issue of racial discrimination within the military, an institution that mirrored the societal prejudices of its time. The military, like many other American institutions, was segregated, and Black soldiers often faced harsher punishments and discrimination. The recent dedication of their headstones is not just an act of remembrance but a symbolic gesture towards acknowledging and correcting the historical injustices faced by Black service members. This gesture is part of a larger movement to recognize and honor the contributions of Black soldiers, as evidenced by the renaming of a U.S. Army base in honor of Black World War I hero, Henry Johnson.

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