Truman Civil Rights Symposium



Executive Order 9981
Desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces

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United States Air Force Staff Sergeant Edward Williams (right) of St. Louis, Missouri, exchanges a handshake with his Commander-in-Chief, President Harry S. Truman.
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Stressing the need for interracial solidarity, Black and white soldiers unite for this photo at a heavy bomber base in Italy, March 1, 1945.
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President Harry S. Truman and Secretary of the Army Frank Pace, Jr. (front row, second from the right) with members of the 82nd Airborne in the Rose Garden behind the White House.
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President Truman (shown between flags) becomes the first president to address the NAACP, Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C., June 29, 1947.
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President Truman addresses the closing session of the 38th annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
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Another angle of President Truman delivering an historic civil rights address at the 38th annual conference of the NAACP.
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Troops in Burma stop work briefly to read President Truman’s Proclamation of Victory in Europe (May 9, 1945, National Archives)
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Somewhere in England, Maj. Charity E. Adams and Capt. Abbie N. Campbell inspect the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion–the first contingent of Black members of the Women’s Army Corps assigned to overseas service.
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On parade, the 41st Engineers at Ft. Bragg, NC, in color guard ceremony (World War, 1939-1945, National Archives)
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Black Marines in dress uniforms (ca. May 1943)
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A group of Black Marines aboard a U.S. Coast Guard-manned transport somewhere in the Pacific (ca. 1941-ca. 1945, National Archives)
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A gun crew of six Black servicemembers who were given the Navy Cross for standing by their gun when their ship was damaged by enemy attack in the Philippine area (ca. 1945, National Archives)
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The Negro Seabees, members of Naval Construction Battalions, whose training center is at Camp Allen and Camp Bradford, near Norfolk, Virginia, are trained in landing tactics as well as in general military drill. Ca 1942, National Archives
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New York’s Black Regiment returns home to Stockholm; some of the Black men on 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action. (World War 1, Feb. 12, 1919, National Archives)
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Truman’s Address Before the NAACP at Lincoln Memorial, June 29, 1947
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Executive Order 9980 (Desegregating the Federal Workforce)
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Truman Civil Rights Timeline
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To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights
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Archival Book PDF

Freedom to Serve: Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services
Full Report

Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights, February 2, 1948

Records of the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services

Truman’s Bold Strides for Civil Rights
By Judge Richard Gergel, Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sgt. Isaac Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S. Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring
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Correspondence Between President Harry S. Truman and Ernie Roberts
This letter is President Harry S. Truman’s response to a letter from his friend, Ernie Roberts, in which Roberts criticized Truman’s civil rights program. In his reply, Truman describes some outrageous acts of violence and discrimination against Black Americans. He insists that he will continue to fight for equality of opportunity for all citizens, regardless of race, even if this results in his defeat in the upcoming presidential election.
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To Secure These Rights: The Civil Rights Report behind President Truman’s Executive Order 9981
By Steven F. Lawson, Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University
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Videos adapted from The Blinding of Isaac Woodard, an Ark Media Production for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. Third-party materials courtesy of: Alamy Stock Photo, AP Archive, AP Photo, Batesburg-Leesville Police Department, Fox Movietone News, Carnegie Museum of Art, Cecil J. Williams, Charles “Teenie” Harris Archive, Criticalpast, Getty Images, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum, Historic Films Archive, H. Lee Waters Film Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, Kinolibrary, Library of Congress, Pond5, Prelinger Archives, Richland Library, Columbia, S.C., Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Sherman Grinberg Film Library, Streamline Films, Inc., Shutterstock, The WPA Film Library, Walter J. Brown Media Archives, University of Georgia.


Vanessa Bonavia: Vanessa@VCommunications.LLC •  913.980.3167