1941 June 18

A. Philip Randolph Confronts FDR: Wins EEO Order


Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph on January 14, 1941 had announced a plan for a March on Washington to demand an executive order banning race discrimination in employment in the defense industries. (The Depression had ended and full employment had returned because of the war in Europe.) The plan caused President Franklin D. Roosevelt to panic, because he did not want to be pressured by anyone, much less by thousands of African-Americans. He was also dependent on the votes of Southern segregationists for defense-related programs and did not want to alienate them. When the pleas of the president’s allies did not dissuade Randolph, Roosevelt invited him to the White House on this day for a meeting, in which he hoped his personal charm would work. It didn’t. Randolph refused to budge, and Roosevelt finally backed down and agreed to sign what became Executive Order 8802, issued on June 25, 1941. Randolph in return cancelled the march.

Randolph’s dream of a civil rights march on Washington came true 22 years later, on August 28, 1963.

Randolph had an extraordinary career in confronting presidents in the White House. He had previously confronted Roosevelt, on September 27, 1940, over racial segregation in the military. He confronted President Harry Truman over segregation in a proposed military draft law, on March 22, 1948. And finally, on June 22, 1963, he dismissed, to his face, President John F. Kennedy’s plea to cancel the proposed March on Washington scheduled for that August.

Read the historic EEO 8802: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=16134

Learn more about the planned march: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrTd_bXsZVM

Read about the proposed march: Herbert Garfinkel, When Negroes March (1959)

Read: Andrew Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (2007)

Read an oral history interview with Randolph: http://www.lbjlibrary.net/collections/oral-histories/randolph-philip-a.html

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