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A deadly shooting, which ignited an injustice known as “The “Brownsville Affair of 1906” is remembered on this date. This was a racial incident from tensions between whites in Brownsville, Texas, and Black infantrymen in the U.S. Army stationed at nearby Fort Brown.
The soldiers had been subjected to racial discrimination since they arrived. A shooting incident in the town on the night of August 13, 1906, left a white bartender dead and a police officer wounded. Although white commanders at Fort Brown affirmed that all Black soldiers were in their barracks at the time of the shooting, local whites claimed that Black soldiers had been seen firing. They produced spent shells from army rifles to support their statements.
Despite evidence that indicated the shells had been planted, investigators accepted the statements of the white community. When the Black soldiers were pressured to name who fired the shots, they insisted that they had no knowledge of the shooting. There was no trial, and the men were not given a hearing or the opportunity to confront their accusers, yet President Theodore Roosevelt ordered 167 Black infantrymen discharged without honor because of their alleged conspiracy of silence.
Some of the men dismissed had over twenty years of service and were only a short time away from retirement with pensions. All security and financial compensation for their previous service was taken away from them. The Black community was furious at Roosevelt’s action, including Booker T. Washington. Although he did not criticize the president publicly, he protested in private; still, Roosevelt dismissed his plea to reconsider. Even some whites criticized the President. A United States Senate committee investigated the episode in 1907-08 and upheld Roosevelt’s action.
In 1970, John D. Weaver’s book called THE BROWNSVILLE RAID investigated the incident in-depth. The writer concluded that the discharged soldiers had been innocent. Sixty-six years later, the U.S. Army conducted a new investigation and, in 1972, reversed the order of 1906.
Source: The World Book Encyclopedia of 1996 via World Book Inc.