1948 March 30

A. Philip Randolph Threatens to Advise Young African-American Men Not to Register for a Segregated Draft


Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph testified before the Senate on this day, arguing for the racial integration of the U.S. armed forces. If the military remained segregated, he threatened to advise young African-American men not to register for the draft. He had made the same threat to President Harry Truman eight days earlier, on March 22, 1948, greatly angering him. Advising people to violate federal law would probably have resulted in Randolph being prosecuted, particularly because of the sensitivity of the issue of the draft during the Cold War. Under pressure from civil rights leaders and others, Truman four months later ordered an end to racial segregation in the armed forces on July 26, 1948.

A. Philip Randolph had White House confrontations with three U.S. presidents. On September 27, 1940, he confronted Franklin D. Roosevelt over his failure to implement a non-discrimination clause in the 1940 selective service act. The following year on June 18, 1941 he confronted Roosevelt again over race discrimination in the defense industries, forcing FDR to issue a fair employment practices executive order. On March 22, 1948 he gave Truman the same message he gave on this day about the segregated armed services. An on June 22, 1963 he rebuffed President John F. Kennedy’s effort to have civil rights leaders cancel their proposed march on Washington.

Learn more about desegregating the military at the Truman Presidential Library: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/desegregation/large/index.php

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

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

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