1940 September 27

A. Philip Randolph Confronts FDR In White House Over Segregated Military


Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House on this day to demand racial integration of the U.S. Armed forces. Congress had created a draft in response to the outbreak of war in Europe, which was to take effect on October 16, 1940. The law contained a provision prohibiting race discrimination, but Randolph felt the military was not honoring it. The meeting with Roosevelt did not go well, and afterwards the administration issued a false report that Randolph had accepted the president’s plan, for which it quickly had to apologize.

U.S. armed forces remained segregated during World War II. Winfred Lynn’s challenge to the segregated draft was unsuccessful (see December 4, 1942; February 3, 1944). After the war, Randolph confronted President Harry Truman in the White House about the segregated military, on March 22, 1948, and on July 26, 1948, Truman issued Executive Order 9981, desegregating the military.

Randolph had a long history of confronting U.S. presidents in the White House, in confrontations he usually won. He confronted President Roosevelt in the White House again, on June 18, 1941, over race discrimination in the defense industries. Roosevelt demanded that he call off his planned March of Washington to demand equal employment, scheduled for that July; when Randolph refused, the president issued Executive Order 8802, prohibiting employment discrimination in the defense industries. Having achieved his objective, Randolph called off his planned march. And on June 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy attempted to persuade civil rights leaders to cancel their planned March on Washington. Led by Randolph, they rejected his plea, and the march on August 28, 1963, became one of the iconic moments of the civil rights movement.

Listen to recordings of the 1940 meeting at the Miller Center: http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/presidentialrecordings/Roosevelt

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

Learn more at a timeline on African Americans in the U.S. Armyhttp://www.army.mil/africanamericans/timeline.html

Watch Segregated Warriors: The Black Experience in WW II:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pj8S4uObPnk

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