1948 April 8

Southern Leaders Attack President Truman’s 1948 Civil Rights Speech


Southern Democrats, committed to preserving racial segregation, attacked President Harry Truman on this day for his February 2, 1948, message to Congress on civil rights. Truman’s message was the first time in American history that a president presented a package of civil rights legislation to Congress.

The conflict between President Truman and southern segregationist Democrats over civil rights escalated later in the year. On July 14, 1948, the Southern Democrats walked out of the Democratic Party Convention because of Truman and the Party’s strong civil rights platform and formed an independent, pro-segregation States’ Rights Party. On July 26, 1948, however, President Truman by executive order desegregated the U.S. armed forces, in one of the most notable actions of his presidency.

Read the Southern Response to Truman’s Civil Rights Speech: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/primary-resources/truman-south48/

Watch Truman’s 1947 speech to the NAACP: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZdOj5vK7Kw

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

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