1906 April 13

The Brownsville Incident: African-American Soldiers Framed, Discharged


The Brownsville Incident was one of the most famous injustices against African-Americans in the early 20th century. After a white bartender was shot and killed and a white police officer shot and wounded, African-Americans soldiers stationed nearby at Fort Brown were accused of the shootings. The soldiers had only arrived at the Fort three weeks earlier, and there were numerous racist incidents after they arrive. Even though they had been in their barracks at the time of the shootings, evidence was planted against them. President Theodore Roosevelt ordered 167 of the officers dishonorably discharged on this day, which cost them their pensions and denied them eligibility for civil service jobs.

In 1910, the Army reexamined the case and accepted 14 for reenlistment, 11 of whom chose to reenter the army.

After years of protest about the false charges, the case was reopened in the 1970s and, in 1972, the Army found all of the soldiers innocent. Only two were still living at the time. President Richard Nixon pardoned all the soldiers and granted them honorable discharges.

Read the book that helped reopen the case: John D. Weaver, The Brownsville Raid (1970)

Learn more about the Brownsville incident: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/pkb06

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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