In 1917, the US entered the First World War on the side of the Allies against the Central Powers led by Kaiser Wilhelm’s Germany. In the same year, a platoon of black soldiers was sent to guard a depot in the deep south. To the White Supremacists, seeing black soldiers strutting about carrying rifles and guns was like a red rag to a bull. They were incensed and the police began to take it out on the local blacks. One of the soldiers who was witness to the beating of a black woman intervened and was beaten-up and arrested. This enraged the black soldiers, who came in a group with the specific intent of killing the policemen responsible.

It led to a fire-fight and 15 whites and four blacks were killed.

The incident was treated as a mutiny and 63 blacks were court martialed. After a trial lasting 22 days, where the laws of evidence were studiously ignored and 63 defendants were represented by just one lawyer, 13 were sentenced to be hanged. There was no appeal or review and all 13 were summarily executed. The incident showed the hostility between blacks and white supremacists, commented The Washinton Post.

Washington reacts

The hangings led to a hue and cry all over the USA and the President was approached. The secretary of defence was disturbed that due process of law was not followed and passed a strict order, that henceforth there would be no hangings without reference to Washington.

It was also realised, that an appellate review of military courts judgments was essential

Racial divide

The racial divide so evident at that time has not gone away. Charlottesville is a symptom and part of a disease in the USA. There are reports, that even now many whites move away if blacks or coloureds come and settle in their neighbourhood and many will not send their children to schools where black children also study.

The events in Charlottesville, have brought to the fore the simmering problems among the white supremacists and the blacks

Healing the rift

In 1917, the secretary defence took some strict steps that brought a reform in military law. Later President Wilson, commuted the life terms of 10 soldiers but presently the lead expected from the president to defuse the tensions have not happened.

There is widespread anger against Trump but many on the far-right are happy.

Last word

A president has to heal the racial divide but this does not seem to be happening. The fact is there are too many blacks who will fight for their rights and the old days of white supremacy are over