1948 January 7

President Truman Promises Civil Rights Message


In his State of the Union Address on this day, President Harry Truman promised to send Congress a separate Civil Rights message based on the report of his President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which had been released on October 29, 1947. Truman delivered his legislative proposal to Congress on February 2, 1948. Congress, dominated by southern segregationists, did not act on any of his proposals.

Despite the logjam in Congress, Truman and the Democratic national party took the first important steps on behalf of civil rights. On July 14, 1948, the Democratic Party adopted a strong civil rights plank in its party Platform. The plank caused the segregationist Southern Democrats to leave the party and create the independent States’ Rights Party, committed to racial segregation, also on July 14, 1948. More important, President Truman by executive order on  July 26, 1948 desegregated the U.S. armed forces. This action was one of several that earned Truman a reputation for strong presidential leadership.

Read Truman’s Special Message on Civil Rights on February 2, 1948: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=13006

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

Read the Civil Rights Committee’s final report: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/civilrights/srights1.htm

Read: Steven F. Lawson, To Secure These Rights: The Report of Harry S Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights (2004)

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