African American Heritage Month
1945-1950

DESEGREGATION OF THE ARMED FORCES

1947
1948



1947DESEGREGATION OF THE ARMED FORCES

May: The President's Advisory Commission on Universal Training gives a report to the President in which it concludes that "nothing could be more tragic for the future attitude of our people, and for the unity of our Nation, than a program [referring to the Truman administration's proposed Universal Military Training program] in which our Federal Government forced our young manhood to live for a period of time in an atmosphere which emphasized or bred class or racial difference."

October 29: The President's Committee on Civil Rights issues its landmark report, To Secure These Rights. The report condemns segregation wherever it exists and criticizes specifically segregation in the armed forces. 

The report recommends legislation and administrative action "to end immediately all discrimination and segregation based on race, color, creed or national origin in... all branches of the Armed Services."

November: Clark Clifford presents a lengthy memorandum to President Truman which argues that the civil rights issue and the African-American vote are important elements in a winning strategy for the 1948 campaign.

November: A. Philip Randolph and Grant Reynolds organize the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training.

(Caption: 
Stressing the need for interracial solidarity in the post-war world, African-American and white soldiers got together as part of the army's general educational program at a heavy bomber base in Italy. Arranged by Colonel David C. Epps (third from left standing) of Portland, Oregon, the participants heard informal speeches by 2nd Lieutenant Sidney Thompson, Jr, (to right of Epps) of Cleveland, Ohio; S/Sgt. Ernest J. Henderson (second from left sitting in second row) of Springfield, Massachusetts and Sergeant Robert Williams (extreme right, foreground) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. courtesy photo from Harry S. Truman Library & Museum)


1948: DESEGREGATION OF THE ARMED FORCES

January: President Truman decides to end segregation in the armed forces and the civil service through administrative action (executive order) rather than through legislation.

February 2: President Truman announces in a special message to Congress on civil rights issues that he has "instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the armed services eliminated as rapidly as possible."

March 22: African-American leaders meet with President Truman and urge him to insist on anti-segregation amendments in the legislation being considered in Congress that would reinstitute the draft.

April 26: Sixteen African-American leaders tell Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal that African-Americans will react strongly unless the armed forces end segregation.

June 26: A. Philip Randolph announces the formation of the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation. Randolph informed President Truman on June 29, 1948 that unless the President issued an executive order ending segregation in the armed forces, African-American youth would resist the draft law.

July 26: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, which states, "It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The order also establishes the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.

August 2: Democratic National Committee chairman J. Howard McGrath meets with A. Philip Randolph and other leaders representing an organization called the League for Non-violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation and assures them that the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services would seek to end segregation in the armed forces. A short time after this meeting, Randolph announced that his organization's civil disobedience campaign had ended.

December: Secretary of the Air Force Stuart Symington submits an integration plan to President Truman that proposes assigning African-Americans on the basis of merit alone.