Ceremony at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery dedicates new headstones for 17 Black World War I soldiers

Soldiers were wrongly treated because of race, were not given fair trials

SAN ANTONIO – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday held a memorial ceremony dedicating new headstones for 17 Black World War I soldiers, who were wrongly court-martialed back in 1917.

The ceremony took place at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery and honored the soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment.

“Today, we right the wrongs of the past and honor the service of these soldiers – who served our country with honor,” said VA Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs Matthew Quinn. “We are proud to dedicate new engraved headstones that include these Army soldiers’ ranks, regimental unit, and home states, demonstrating our full commitment to helping correct the injustice of that era.”

On Thursday, the VA provided the soldiers with new headstones that fully honor their service – including names, state, rank, unit, and date of death – and an updated interpretive sign sharing their story, educating the public, and providing closure for the next of kin.

A press release said the soldiers were among those executed following the courts martial of 110 Black soldiers charged with murder and mutiny in the 1917 “Houston Riots.” At the time of their death, their graves were only marked with headstones that listed only their names and year of death – as opposed to full honors.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said the Army reviewed the cases of the 17 men in 2023 and found the trials to be unfair, saying that “these Soldiers were wrongly treated because of their race and were not given fair trials.”

The convictions were set aside by the Secretary of the Army and the records of the soldiers altered to show honorable discharges.

About the Author

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.

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