1949 February 5

President Truman Calls for a Program of Civil Liberties for “All People”


President Harry Truman on this day called for a “program of civil liberties” to guarantee to “all people the heritage of freedom which we have received from the founders of this nation.” Truman’s call came in a letter to the National Citizens Conference on Civil Liberties, scheduled to be held 10 days later in Washington, D.C. Representatives of over 150 organizations were invited to the conference, which planned to develop a set of proposals for the president.

President Truman’s overall record on civil liberties was very mixed, however. He was very strong on racial justice, creating the first presidential Civil Rights Committee (September 19, 1946) and desegregating the armed forces (July 26, 1948). His Loyalty Program, which he announced on March 21, 1947, enshrined guilt-by-association as official policy and was a direct assault on freedom of belief and association. It is often overlooked that Truman’s Loyalty Program preceded the advent of Senator Joe McCarthy and “McCarthyism” by three years.

Learn more about President Truman and civil rights and civil liberties: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

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

Watch a discussion of Presidents Truman and Eisenhower on civil rights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0LcLbgepXQ

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