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Exoneration

September 20, 2017

In 1931, two years after the death of 1st Sgt. Mingo Sanders and twelve years after Theodore Roosevelt’s passing, regarding the 1906 raid on Brownsville, author Henry F. Pringle wrote: “unknown Negroes of the Twenty-Fifth Infantry were, in all probability, guilty.”  In the 1940s, Texas: A Guide to the Lone Star State declared: “ten or fifteen Negro soldiers… stormed through the city [of Brownsville].”  The 1963 edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia states: “In 1906 a group of Negro soldiers stationed at Ft. Brown… fired indiscriminately at townspeople and houses.”

Then, in the late 1960s, author John D. Weaver wrote The Brownsville Raid, a 300-plus page book which challenged the prevailing narrative.  Weaver’s father had been the official reporter for the 1909 court of inquiry which made the final decision regarding the 167 soldiers who had been discharged without honor.  The Brownsville Raid got the attention of Congress and the White House.

Among Weaver’s readers was Congressman Augustus F. Hawkins, a Democrat from California.  He introduced a bill to re-investigate the matter, and in 1972 the Army declared the members of the 25th Infantry innocent.  Republican President Richard Nixon granted pardons and awarded the men honorable discharges.  In 1973 there was only one man still alive who could benefit from this action, and he received $25,000 from the U.S. Government.  Dorsie Willis died on August 24, 1977.  He was buried at the U.S. Military Cemetery at Fort Snelling, Minnesota with full military honors.

 

 

 

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