1942 December 4

Challenge to Segregated WW II Draft Rejected


Winfred Lynn, an African-American landscape gardener on Long Island, New York, challenged the racially segregated draft in World War II. Lynn’s challenge cited the 1940 Selective Service Act, which included a racial non-discrimination clause. Although rarely mentioned by historians, the clause in the Selective Service Act was arguably the first federal civil rights law of the twentieth century. (On September 27, 1940, civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph confronted President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the White House about his failure to implement the non-discrimination clause of the law, but without success.)

The NAACP refused to take Lynn’s case, regarding it as too controversial in the midst of wartime. Arthur Garfield Hays, general counsel for the ACLU, agreed to handle the case. The Federal District Court in Brooklyn on this day denied Lynn’s writ of habeas corpus and dismissed the case. On February 3, 1944 the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 vote, upheld the lower court decision.

The Lynn Defense Committee changed its name after the war and continued to challenge the segregated military. Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph returned to the White House on March 22, 1948 and confronted President Harry Truman about the segregated military and promised that if the draft was reinstated he would advise young African-American men not to register. Four months later, President Truman finally ordered the U.S. Armed Forces desegregated with Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948.

Read an obituary of Winfred Lynn: http://www.itkowitz.com/mam1965text.php?aid=251

Learn about the ACLU’s role in the case: https://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/aclu-history-soldiers-story

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

Read about segregation at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina:

Learn about President Truman’s desegregation of the armed forces in 1948: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/desegregation/large/index.php

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!