There is a great initiative that is taking place to honor those blacks that were brutally killed by racists during the time frame between the Civil War and World War II. Thousands of blacks were lynched by mobs or legally lynched by a racist criminal justice system in the United States. These acts of extreme brutality and torture were at its highest between the late 1800s and the period just before the beginning of the Second World War. Black men, women and children suffered from the inhumanity of white supremacy in which government officials either turned a blind eye or participated in these horrors. This country has yet to be honest with itself about the terrible crimes it has committed against blacks, Mexican Americans, Indigenous People, Jews, poor whites, and others, but the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is attempting to do just that with a series of actions, monuments, and educationals aimed at Truth Commissions, the racist use of the death penalty, police violence, mental illness, mass incarceration of blacks and others, and children being railroaded to prison.
In the words of the organization, “The Equal Justice Initiative is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.” Furthermore, the organization believes that America’s “history of racial inequality and economic injustice in the United States has created continuing challenges for all Americans. EJI believes more must be done to advance our collective goal of equal justice for all. The United States has done very little to acknowledge the legacy of genocide, slavery, lynching, and racial segregation. As a result, people of color are marginalized, disadvantaged, and disproportionately impoverished; the criminal justice system is infected with racial bias; and a presumption of guilt and dangerousness has led to unjustified police violence against black and brown people.
Blacks were lynched in San Antonio, but the preferred tactic was legal lynching. This often took the form of blacks being charged with striking a police officer, raping white women, or being accused of killing a white person. It also involved arresting blacks in the military that often were jeered and accused of coming to the aid of a fellow black person that was being brutalized by white police officers or groups of whites roaming Bexar County during Reconstruction.
The owners and staff of the San Antonio Herald Newspaper were KKK members. Their efforts led to members of the Union army’s 35th Infantry, stationed at Fort Sam Houston to become racist sympathizers. According to Express News accounts of 1868, during Reconstruction, armed gangs of white racists roamed Bexar County in an attempt to keep blacks from voting. In 1865 the city government enacted a curfew to keep blacks from coming into the city and used vagrancy laws to punish blacks and prevent them from voting. Bexar county planters were able to capture free labor even after slavery by having the legal system sentence violators of various laws to work details. Some Bexar County roads were actually constructed using the black labor of men that were falsely arrested. Hence, San Antonio was as racist as any Deep South city during slavery and after slavery.
The Equal Justice Initiative should erect a monument on the Salado Creek at Martin Luther King Park to honor those that were victims of San Antonio’s white supremacist gangs and a corrupt racist legal system. It would be an appropriate location as slaves were sold on the Salado Creek in Bexar County.