1942 August 14

Justice Dept. to Investigate Beating of African-American Soldier by Texas Police


Attorney General Francis Biddle on this day announced that the Justice Department had begun legal action against two Beaumont, Texas, police officers accused of beating an African-American soldier. The soldier was ordered off a bus for having taken a seat reserved for whites. Immediately upon stepping off the bus, Private Charles J. Reco was beaten by the officers, taken to police headquarters, and reportedly also shot twice (although not fatally). The incident was one of many during World War II when African-American military personnel (in segregated units)encountered discrimination and violence in the southern communities where many military bases were located.

The action was brought by the Civil Rights Unit, forerunner of today’s Civil Rights Division, which was created by Attorney General Frank Murphy on February 2, 1939, as the first effort by the Justice Department to affirmatively defend the rights of African-Americans.

See also Attorney General Biddle’s directive on December 12, 1941 that U.S. Attorneys pursue cases of involuntary servitude, slavery, and peonage, using federal civil rights statutes to address economic injustice that was based on coercive actions.

Learn more at a timeline on African-Americans in the U.S. Army:  http://www.army.mil/africanamericans/timeline.html

Learn more about African American history: Henry Louis Gates, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (2011)

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