1947 June 29

Truman First President to Address NAACP


President Harry Truman was the first president to address the NAACP, the nation’s leading civil rights organization. Delivered at the Lincoln Memorial, his speech on this day was broadcast to a national radio audience. Eleanor Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, and Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson sat with the president on the dais, and their presence undoubtedly added to the political and legal significance of the president’s remarks.

The speech was one part of President Truman’s civil rights campaign in 1946–1948. His President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which delivered its report on October 29, 1947, he was the first presidential civil rights commission in American history. His civil rights message to Congress, on February 2, 1948, was the first-ever presidential civil rights legislative program. And on July 26, 1948, by executive order, Truman desegregated the U.S. armed services. Although these important events were overshadowed by the subsequent events of the civil rights movement, Truman was the first civil rights president in modern American history.

Truman: “I should like to talk to you briefly about civil rights and human freedom. It is my deep conviction that we have reached a turning point in the long history of our country’s efforts to guarantee freedom and equality to all our citizens. Recent events in the United States and abroad have made us realize that it is more important today than ever before to insure that all Americans enjoy these rights… [And] When I say all Americans I mean all Americans.”

Read Truman’s entire speech: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/harrystrumannaacp.htm

Learn more: Michael Gardner, Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks (2002)

Read: Gilbert Jones, Freedom’s Sword: The NAACP and the Struggle Against Racism in America, 1909–1969 (2012)

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