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The Brownville Affair of 1906: A Black History Nugget -- Part 1 of 2

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Richard O. Jones
Prior to the following incident, most Blacks were supportive of the Republican Party. However, it was the seemingly the racist actions of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 against Black soldiers that caused Blacks to switch to the Democratic Party in droves to never return.  The Brownsville Affair arose out of racial tensions between the white residents of Brownsville, Texas and the all Black infantryman of the 25th United States Regiment at nearby Fort Brown.

Since arriving at Fort Brown, the Black soldiers were subject to intense racial discrimination and hatred from the white citizens of Brownsville. As a result of these racial tensions, a fight broke out between a Black soldier and a local Brownsville merchant. The city of Brownsville barred members of the 25th U.S. Regiment from setting foot in the city again.

On the night of August 13, 1906, shots rang out on a street near Brownsville, killing a white bartender and wounding a white police officer.  Immediately the citizens of Brownsville cast the blame on the Black soldiers of the 25th Regiment at Fort Brown. With the soldiers of the 25th Regiment being accused of the shootings, the all white commanders at Fort Brown confirmed that, in fact, all of the soldiers were in their barracks at the time of the shootings.

However, this was not enough to deter local whites, including Brownsville’s mayor, from claiming that some of the Black soldiers participated in the shootings.

Local townspeople of Brownsville began providing “evidence” of the 25th Regiment’s part in the shooting by producing spent bullet cartridges from Army rifles that they said belonged to the 25th’s men. Despite the contradictory evidence that demonstrated the spent shells were actually planted in order to frame the 25th Regiment’s role in the shootings, investigators accepted the statements of the local whites and the Brownsville mayor.

When soldiers of the 25th Regiment were pressured to name that fired the shots, they insisted that they had no idea who had committed the crime.  The soldiers were not given any type of hearing, trial, or the opportunity to confront their accusers (all rights guaranteed to U.S. Citizens in the Constitution).

Email: richardojones1@verizon.net

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