New marker recognizes Black soldiers executed for Houston mutiny in 1917 

On Tuesday, 19 Black soldiers were honored with a marker noting their participation in what's now known as the Camp Logan Mutiny.

After leading an uprising against police harassment and violence, 19 Black soldiers were hanged in Houston on Dec. 11, 1917. 

On Tuesday, those men were honored with a marker in dedication to their lives and their participation in what is now known as the Camp Logan Mutiny. 

Three Texas Buffalo soldiers stand by the headstones of the 19 Black soldiers hung in 1917 and buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. (Photo: Screenshot/Facebook)

“Today you are not forgotten,” Jason Holt, one of the descendants, said at the dedication, according to The Houston Chronicle, addressing the executed soldiers after identifying each of them and asking their descendants to stand. “I don’t know what history’s ultimate judgment will be, but on this day, at this time, there’s an acknowledgment that your lives mattered, that your lives had impact, value and meaning, because injustice in its cataclysmic struggle with justice cannot win.”

Holt’s distant cousin, Pfc. Thomas C. Hawkins, had been in the Army for three tours. However, he was convicted for participating in the deadly riot that left 16 people dead and two dozen injured, most of them white. 

Hawkins’ last letter was to his parents, in which he wrote, “Dear mother and father, when this letter reaches you I will be beyond the veil of sorrow. I will be in heaven with the angels.”

In addition to obtaining the marker at at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery — what is now part of Memorial Park — the men’s descendants have also petitioned the Pentagon for clemency for the 19 lynched soldiers. Their rationale is that the military would not have executed so many men at once. Additionally, according to the record, the men were not identified by even a single witness, nor were they represented by an attorney. 

If the clemency petition is approved, the soldiers will be honored with headstones that list their rank, unit and — in some cases — war zones where they served. 

“Their convictions, while technically legal, were not just,” Dru Brenner-Beck, an adjunct professor at the South Texas College of Law, wrote in the petition. “It is time that the records of these men reflect the service they rendered to their nation and continue the legacy of honor, patriotism and valor that mark the history of the 24th Infantry Regiment.”

Holt, who is also an attorney, notes that his distant cousin wrote about the case in his final letter home. 

“He says, ‘I’m sentenced to be hanged for the trouble that happened in Houston, Texas,’” Holt read Tuesday from Hawkins’ last letter. “’Although I am not guilty of the crime that I am accused of, but mother, if it is God’s will that I go now, it is God’s will that I go now, and in this way.’”

“How would you like to be a mother and get that?” he asked.

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