The Brownsville Raid of 1906
On the night of August 13, 1906 a shooting incident that killed a bartender and wounded a police officer in Brownsville, Texas was blamed on African American soldiers from a nearby Army base. The white commanders at the base said the soldiers were in their barracks that night. Whites in the town said they saw the soldiers and had gun shells they claimed were used in the shooting. Evidence was produced the shells were planted. Despite the evidence the investigators took the statements of the white people to be true. They pressured the Black soldiers to name who fired the shots. The soldiers refused.
Teddy Roosevelt thought the soldiers were guilty and and ordered the dismissal of three companies of African American Troops of 167 men due to a “conspiracy of silence.” The men were discharged “without honor.” Some of the men had been in the Army for over 20 years. They lost their pensions for the time they were in the service.
Roosevelt acted before he had all of the facts and committed a miscarriage of justice. Taft, who was secretary of war at the time, stepped in and tried resend the order. T. Roosevelt told Taft to follow the orders thus involving Taft in the incident.
Senator Joseph Foraker took the side of the African Americans and tried to get them justice. He and Secretary of War, Taft urged the Senate to investigate. Teddy Roosevelt refused to admit that he had made and error. Blacks were furious with these actions. Booker T. Washington lead the protests and tried to get the soldiers reinstated.
In 1907, there was a Senate investigation. The Senate supported Roosevelt’s actions.
In 1970, a writer named John D. Weaver published a book, The Brownsville Raid, that concluded the discharged soldiers were innocent. Congressman Augustus Hawkins read the book and had a bill passed asking the Department of Defense to investigate the incident.
In 1972, The Army found the soldiers innocent. President Richard Nixon pardoned the men and gave them honorable discharges and back pay. Most of the mean were dead. Only one or two were still alive. In 1973, under the leadership of Hawkins and Senator Humphrey, Congress passed a bill that gave the last survivor, Dorsie Willis a tax free pension of $25,00.00 and honored him at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.
The William Howard Taft Presidency (American Presidency Series)