When Pvt. Felix Hall was discovered hanging from a tree on a Georgia military base 80 years ago, he was only 19 years old. According to Northeastern University’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project, Hall was last seen alive in an all-White neighborhood in February 1941, making him the only known victim of a lynching on a U.S. military installation.
He was deemed a deserter a month after his absence. On March 28, 1941, while training at Fort Benning, a group of soldiers discovered him in a wooded area.
According to Northeastern University, “Hall had been hung in a shallow ravine in a jack-knife posture, with his neck chained to one tree, his hands shackled, and his feet bound to other trees, dangling him in the air.” Hall managed to release his feet and left hand, but died with a noose around his neck, according to the report.
His assailants have yet to be brought to justice. To put it another way, his case is still unsolved. After Lauren Hughes, a former staffer in Rep. Sanford Bishop’s office led attempts to ensure Hall’s recognition, the US Army unveiled a memorial to honor the Black soldier on Tuesday. Bishop is a member of Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, which covers Fort Benning.
The memorial honoring Hall was unveiled by Bishop and US Army authorities at Fort Benning, where the Black soldier was last seen in February. “Our country struggled and frequently failed to uphold equal protection under the law, let alone the decency of respect and dignity for African-Americans as valued members of the human family,” Bishop stated. “Felix Hall was assassinated. His wrists and feet were chained together and he was strung up by his neck till he died.”
In a statement, Bishop said, “Though Pvt. Hall was taken from us decades ago, this wound has been open for far too long.” “Thank God, we’re here to heal today,” he added, adding that the memorial serves as a reminder that racism is a “continuous issue.”
Hall enrolled in the Army at the age of 18 in August 1940. According to CNN, the Montgomery, Alabama native was assigned to the 24th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, one of the first post-Civil War all-Black groups known as “Buffalo Soldiers.” According to Northeastern, when his body was discovered, the soldiers originally rejected the hanging as a suicide. His death, however, was declared a homicide by a doctor. Following the NAACP’s and other organizations’ demands for justice, the FBI launched a 17-month investigation.
Following an incident with a White civilian foreman at a sawmill who was enraged Hall refused to address him as “sir,” Black troops told investigators Hall feared for his life.
According to Northeastern, the FBI identified two individuals, but no one was charged.
According to Bishop’s assertion, President Harry Truman desegregated the military forces in 1948 as a result of Hall’s death and other circumstances. “But we won’t be happy until we have a generation serving in uniform that can look at the memorial we’ll unveil and declare to themselves, ‘Never again in my nation, never again in my Army,’” said Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, commanding general of the US Army Combined Arms Center, in a statement.
“I wish today felt like we were righting a wrong, but I know today what we are really doing is just acknowledging one,” Martin stated, posting a photo of the memorial to his Twitter account.
Fort Benning is named for Henry L. Benning, a Confederate officer from Columbus, and is located on the Georgia-Alabama border. It is one of many military bases named after Confederate officers across the South.
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