The Brownsville Affair

The Brownsville Affair

Written on 06/09/2022

Based on an incident that grew out of tensions between whites in Brownsville, Tex., and black infantrymen stationed at nearby Fort Brown. On Aug 14, 1906, rifle shots on a street in Brownsville killed one white man and wounded another.

White commanders at Fort Brown believed all the black soldiers were in their barracks at the time of the shooting, but the city’s mayor and other whites asserted that they had seen black soldiers on the street firing indiscriminately, and they produced spent shells from army rifles to support their statements. Despite evidence that the shells had been planted as part of a frame-up, investigators accepted the statements of the mayor and the white citizens.

When the black soldiers insisted that they had no knowledge of the shooting, President Roosevelt ordered 167 black infantrymen dishonorably discharged. His action caused much resentment among blacks and drew some criticism from whites, but a U.S. Senate committee, which investigated the episode in 1907–08, upheld Roosevelt’s action.

After the publication in 1970 of John D. Weaver’s The Brownsville Raid, which argued that the discharged soldiers had been innocent, the U. S. Army conducted a new investigation and, in 1972, reversed the order.

"In 1970, historian John D. Weaver published The Brownsville Raid, which investigated the affair in depth. Weaver argued that the accused members of the 25th Infantry were innocent and that they were discharged without benefit of due process of law as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. After reading his book, Congressman Augustus F. Hawkins of Los Angeles introduced a bill to have the Defense Department re-investigate the matter to provide justice to the accused soldiers."

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