U.S. Army Today to Mark 100th Anniversary of Unjust Hangings at Ft. Sam

The U.S. Army today is officially recognizing one of the worst acts of miscarriage of justice ever committed in San Antonio, as the Senior Commander of Ft. Sam Houston will speak at the 100th anniversary commemoration of the hanging of 19 African American soldiers who were condemned in connection with the Camp Logan Riot in Houston the previous year, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Historians now agree that few if any of the 19 men who were sentenced to death at Ft. Sam had anything to do with the worst race riot in Texas history, which erupted in the summer of 1917 when members of the segregated 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry rioted following the abuse of a Black woman by a Houston Police officer.  Many of those who were sentenced to death or sentenced to lengthy prison terms weren't even at the scene, and were convicted as a consequence of the violent racism of the time.

"Its been over 100 years since the incident happened, and to date no one was recognized the memory of those individuals, who many of us believe were unjustly hanged," said Pastor K.P. Tatum of the New Mount Rose Missionary Baptist Church in Ft. Worth.  

Pastor Tatum is a historian of African American Texas, who has been fighting for more than decade to win recognition and a memorial to the men who were hanged.

He says an unwillingness to admit to the event remains in San Antonio to this day.  He says the City declined to include the incident in its vs part of the city's Tricentennial celebration.

"You can't hide it, it happened, it was a bad time in the life of our country, but, you know what, we've come a mighty long way," he said.

Over the years, the incident faded into memory as Texas changed from a rural backwater of the Old Confederacy to a booming magnet state driven by energy.  Many of the African Americans who had living memory of the 1917 rioting moved to the north as part of the Great Migration of the 1920s, to take jobs in the nation's industrial cities, and it was to everybody's benefit not to recall the riot, which left more than two dozen people dead.

But as the sometimes painful history of Black Americans has begun to resurface over the past twenty years, historians like Tatum have pressed for the Army to recognize the unjust sentences handed down to the men at 'drum head' court martials at Fr. Sam Houston.  

Not only were 19 executed but another 53 were handed life sentences.

Some were still in prison in the 1940s.

Today, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, who is the senior Army commander in San Antonio, will speak at an event at the Gift Chapel at Ft. Sam Houston marking the 100th anniversary of the hangings.  Tomorrow marks a century since the last of the 19 men was hanged on a makeshift gallows that was erected on the banks of Salado Creek, near what is now Perrin-Beitel Rd.

The Army immediately began to question its justice system after the hangings, and the incident led directly to today's Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Tatum says it is important for today's young African American men and women to face incidents like this and to recognize the full depth of the history of African Americans in Texas and the U.S.

"If they knew the historic work of the Buffalo Soldiers throughout our history,"  Tatum said, using the nickname that Native Americans used for Black soldiers, who were in many cases more common than White soldiers on the American plains.  

"This will help them take more pride in themselves, their culture, and their history."

After today's commemoration of the event, Tatum says he will ask President Trump to posthumously pardon the 19 who were hanged, as well as the others who unjustly served prison sentences in this now largely forgotten case.

PHOTO COURTESY: PASTOR K.P. TATUM

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