1948 March 22

A. Philip Randolph Confronts Truman Over Segregated Military


Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph on this day confronted President Harry Truman in the White House over racial segregation in the U.S. military. He told Truman that if segregation continued, he would advise young African-American men not to cooperate with the draft. The threat was relevant because the government was in the process of establishing a peacetime draft as part of the Cold War. Urging people not to register for the draft almost certainly would have led to Randolph’s arrest for violating the Selective Service and Training Act (enacted September 16, 1940). Randolph’s strong words had some impact. On July 26, 1948, Truman issued the historic Executive Order 9981, ending racial segregation in the U.S. Military.

Randolph is famous for confronting presidents in the White House. He had previously confronted President Franklin D. Roosevelt over segregation in the military on September 27, 1940. And on June 18, 1941, he had a dramatic clash with Roosevelt over employment discrimination in the defense industries. The confrontation forced Roosevelt to issue an executive order create a fair employment practices commission. Finally, on June 22, 1963, he rebuked President John F. Kennedy who was trying to talk civil rights leaders into not holding the March on Washington being planned for that August. In each of these events, Randolph was proven to have been on the right side of history by subsequent events.

Read: Andrew Edmund Kersten, A. Philip Randolph: A Life in the Vanguard (2006)

Watch a video about A. Philip Randolph: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjxN2XjUo0U

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

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