1948 February 19

Virginia Senator Byrd Compares President Truman’s Civil Rights Plan to Hitler and Stalin


Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. (D–Virginia) was one of the most conservative senators in the Senate and a leader of the Southern segregationists. President Harry Truman sent a civil rights program to the Senate on February 2, 1948, the first president ever to do so. His legislative program was a reaction to the recommendations of his President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which was issued on October 29, 1947. Senator Byrd denounced the program on this day as representing a “dictatorship,” similar to those of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Byrd also coined the phrase “Massive Resistance” to characterize Southern resistance to racial integration.

Despite the opposition from southern segregationists, President Truman moved forward with his efforts on civil rights. The Democratic Party adopted a strong civil rights plank at its Convention on July 14, 1948; and in a historic decision, Truman ordered the desegregation of the armed forces on July 26, 1948.

Read President Truman’s civil rights program: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=13006&st=&st1=

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

View documents on President Truman and civil rights at the Truman Library: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/desegregation/large/index.php

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