I just picked up the most recent issue this evening, and before I could even settle down to peruse the lead article (“Lost Riot,” 4/3), I felt compelled
My grandfather was a member of the colored infantry during World War I. He dropped out of undergraduate school at Howard University to go “fight the Kaiser.” Fortunately, before his platoon was shipped to the front in France, amnesty was declared, and he and my family were spared the horrors of the Great War. He is very proud of his participation in the colored infantry in President Wilson’s Peace Parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
In 1919, when he was 19 years old, he thankfully did not fall victim to the violence and terror of racial rioting. One of his classmates, however, was not so lucky. He tells the tale of a young man who worked at the Treasury Department as a security guard and attended college in the evening. When the riot broke out by the Treasury Department, the young man ran to lend his aid and assistance. He was immediately seized by rioters and in the melee discharged his sidearm, injuring a white sailor. The young man was incarcerated and was denied habeas corpus; he languished in prison for a year before he was released. According to my grandfather, his friend never fully recuperated from the attack. Although he went on to attend medical school and had a successful career, my grandfather said the young man’s hair turned completely white from his frightful and harrowing experiences.
I hope I have the details right according to my grandfather’s telling; at 97-and-a-half years old, his memory tends to be more intact than mine! I share this story with you because remembering our history should serve as a lesson and grounding of whence we come. Unfortunately, the lessons are sometimes lost and are unheeded. Hence, the repeating cycle from the summer of 1919 to the spring of 1968 in Washington, D.C.
Thanks for your insight into the importance of our past. I am looking forward to sharing this article with my granddad.
via the Internet