1948 July 26

President Truman Desegregates U. S. Military


In a historic step on this day, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, desegregating the U.S. armed forces. Segregationists dominated Congress, and they had refused to act on Truman’s civil rights program earlier in the year (January 7, 1948). In response to this obstacle, Truman decided to act through an executive order. Civil rights leaders had been pressuring him to take this step. See A. Philip Randolph’s confrontation with Truman in the White House on  March 22, 1948. Truman’s own Committee on Civil Rights had also urged him to do so in its report, “To Secure These Rights,” issued on October 29, 1947.

Truman deserves credit at the first civil rights president of modern times. He created the first presidential civil rights commission in American history (which delivered its report on October 29, 1947), delivered the first civil rights legislative program to Congress on February 2, 1948, and on this day desegregated the U.S. armed forces.

President Truman: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”

Read Executive Order 9981: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=60737

Read about the experience of one African-American in an integrated unit:

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

Learn about the road to Truman’s desegregation order at the Truman Presidential Library:

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