1943 January 18

William H. Hastie Resigns as War Dept. Aide; Sec of War Stimson Refuses to Integrate Military


William H. Hastie, African American lawyer and civil rights activist, resigned as an Aide in the War Department on this day because Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson refused to end racial segregation the armed forces. The U.S. was in the midst of World War II at this point, and the armed forces were segregated. There were growing protests among civil rights groups and leaders to desegregate the military, but Stimson refused and President Franklin D. Roosevelt supported his decision.

Hastie had a long and successful career. From 1933 t0 1937 he maintained a private law practice in Washington, DC with Charles Hamilton Houston. Together, the worked with Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP on civil rights cases. In 1937, Hastie was appointed Governor of the Virgin Islands. In 1939 he resigned to become Dean of Howard University in Washington. He was took a leave from Howard to become an aide to Secretary of War Stimson. In 1949 President Harry Truman appointed Hastie to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the first African American to serve on an appellate court.

During the war,Winfred Lynn, an African American landscape gardener from Long Island, New York, was drafted and he challenged racial segregation in the military. The courts rejected his challenge, however. The Lynn Defense Committee continued after the war under a different name, and led the lobbying that led to President Harry Truman ordering the racial desegregation of the military.

Read: Gilbert Ware, William Hastie: Grace Under Pressure (1984)

Learn more about Judge Hastie: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/hastie-william-henry-1904-1976

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