We are midway through Black History month and we spend Black History month trying to learn more, and grow more from learning more about Black culture, and Black history.Last weekend we watched, The 24th a movie telling the story of the all black Twenty-fourth United States Infantry Regiment, and the Houston Riot of 1917. Like most movies about black history, this one broke my heart into tiny pieces.
It’s important to note a little bit of history here. Slavery was intended to be abolished in 1865, and Jim crows laws took place as early as 1865, but officially dating in 1877. Jim Crow laws legalized racial segregation, essentially making it okay for white people to continue to treat black people as inferior, and find ways to make them slaves to the system. Racism did not go away overnight. Between the period of 1865 -1877 federal laws provided civil rights protections in the U.S. South for freedmen, African Americans who had formerly been slaves, and the minority of black people freed before the war, but Jim crow laws weren’t removed until after the Civil Rights movement dating to 1954. The math on that is roughly 80 years of legal segregation and mistreatment of the inferior class.
The Twenty-fourth United States infantry was sent to Houston, Texas to guard a construction site, and continue training. As the men received passes into the city they faced racial discrimination and harassment from civilians, and local officials. Jim Crow laws were enforced with brute force on black Army Soldiers, and these soldiers were expected to take these actions in stride, and abide by Jim Crow laws, as they were beat, battered, and thrown in jail. They watched black citizens in Houston be mistreated and were expected to stand aside. Black soldiers were constantly provoked by local police, and just as we expect in the movie the case is entirely unjust and due process is thrown out the window, along with all humanity. Too many black soldiers are hanged too rapidly to change the course of their lives by any efforts, and too many more were sentenced to life in federal prison finding 110 soldiers guilty of crimes committed on that sad night on August 23, 1917.
As if the heart break of injustice was not enough with the conclusion of the movie, I took a deeper dive into the aftermath. 63 Black soldiers all represented by the same legal counsel, Maj. Harry S. Grier, who taught law at the U.S. Military Academy but was not a lawyer and had no trial experience. All 63 pleaded not guilty, 41 men were given life sentences, 19 soldiers were convicted and sentenced to be hung, and still then the numbers don’t add up. These soldiers spent 100 without a tombstone, and we still don’t learn about events like this in school. These men were never granted clemency, and this wrong was never made right. How do we look at injustices like these and still believe in our justice system. This movie sparked a real conversation between my husband and I about reparations. Being in an interracial relationship we find ourselves on different sides of the coin sometimes. It’s nothing we can’t get through, and I’m honestly grateful to be having these conversations with an open mind and open heart. Without either, I’m not sure there can be any change made in this world. I blame the education or lack there for the lack of compassion from our non colored friends. If they knew more of these injustices, these wrongs never made right, there could be more understanding for change and compassion. We enjoy learning from movies and documentaries and are spending this month celebrating Black History by educating ourselves with movies, books, and documentaries. I picked up, Born A Crime by Trevor Noah, stories of a South African Childhood, a bonus read for me because I love memoirs, and he was born in a time where it was illegal for a mixed race child to exist. Recommend your favorite black history movies, books or shows below! I sincerely recommend everyone watch The 24th and bring a box of tissues.