1946 December 5

Truman Creates Historic President’s Committee on Civil Rights


In response to his alarm about violent attacks on African-American veterans in the Deep South, President Harry Truman on this day created the President’s Committee on Civil Rights. It was a historic event, as the first federal civil rights commission in American history. Truman had promised to create the committee in a meeting with NAACP leaders on September 19, 1946. The Committee’s issued its report, To Secure These Rights, on October 29, 1947, and its recommendations charted the direction of the civil rights movement over the next twenty years.

Truman followed up by sending Congress a civil rights legislative program on February 2, 1948 (Congress was dominated by southern segregationists and ignored his recommendations) and then by desegregating the U.S. armed forces by executive order on July 26, 1948. Although his actions have been overshadowed by the dramatic events of the civil rights movement, Truman was the first civil rights president in modern times.

Truman: “The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to inquire into and to determine whether and in what respect current law-enforcement measures and the authority and means possessed by Federal, State, and local governments may be strengthened and improved to safeguard the civil rights of the people.”

Read the 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)

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

Learn more about President Truman and civil rights at the Truman Presidential Library: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/desegregation/large/index.php

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