The US Army has now overturned the convictions of 110 black soldiers who were arrested after the 1917 Houston Riots.
A military review found the soldiers were not given fair trials and were “wrongly treated” because of their race.
Records will now be reclassified to characterise their military service as honourable.
The riots took place after months of racial provocations against members of a regiment known as “Buffalo Soldiers”.
The 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment was one of four regiments of all black servicemen also known as “Buffalo Soldiers”, a nickname dating back to the 1860s.
The Houston Riots took place on 23 August 1917 after months of racial tensions, including the violent arrest and assault of two black soldiers.
The incident occurred within a climate of overt hostility from members of the all-white Houston Police Department (HPD) against members of the local black community and black soldiers stationed at Camp Logan.
Following an incident where police officers arrested and assaulted some black soldiers, many of their comrades mutinied and marched to Houston, where they opened fire and killed eleven civilians and five policemen. Five soldiers were also killed, some by friendly fire.
Twenty-one people died in the violence, including civilians.
The army convicted 110 soldiers from the regiment on charges including disobedience of lawful orders, mutiny, and assault with intent to commit murder.
Prior to the riot, the soldiers were involved in a number of “clashes” with members of the Houston Police Department (HPD), several of which resulted in the soldiers sustaining injuries after being beaten and attacked.
At the time Houston was strictly racially segregated and ‘Jim Crow’ laws were enforced by police.
Ultimately, nineteen soldiers were executed, including 13 who were executed in secrecy within a day of being sentenced. Others were sentenced to life behind bars.
The first set of executions occurred in secrecy and within a day of sentencing, leading the Army to implement an immediate regulatory change which prohibited future executions without review by the War Department and the President.
Historians say the process was “characterised by numerous irregularities”, the Army said.
In October 2020 and December 2021, the Army received petitions from retired general officers requesting clemency for all the soldiers.
Under Secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo said: “We cannot change the past; however, this decision provides the Army and the American people an opportunity to learn from this difficult moment in our history.”
The Army has said relatives of the soldiers may be entitled to compensation and should apply including documentary evidence that they are related to the deceased soldier.
Sources: BBC, US Army, Wikepedia.