The U.S. Army on Monday set aside the court-martial convictions from a century ago of 110 African American soldiers, including 19 who were executed, saying they were denied fair trials in a landmark acknowledgement of official racism in America.
The Army Board for Correction of Military Records overturned the convictions, restoring their service records as having concluded honorably and making their descendants eligible for military benefits, the Army said in a statement.
“After a thorough review, the Board found that these soldiers were wrongly treated because of their race and were not given fair trials. By setting aside their convictions and granting honorable discharges, the Army is acknowledging past mistakes and setting the record straight,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement.
The reversal comes as right-wing politicians and parents banning books dealing with race and slavery in schools and the U.S. Supreme Court striking down affirmative action policies intended to promote racial equality in university admissions.
The Army convictions arose out of the Houston Riots of Aug. 23, 1917, an outbreak of violence that followed months of racist taunts against Black soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment. They were also known as the Buffalo Soldiers, a name of Native American origin that was given to Black regiments in the Army dating to the 19th Century.