Today’s post comes from Tammy Williams, archivist at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library
President Harry S. Truman spent his entire young adulthood in Missouri, a border state during the Civil War. Both of his sets of grandparents owned slaves. Many voters and politicians believed that Truman would carry his region’s prejudices to the White House and would do comparatively little to advance the cause of civil rights. And so Truman’s decision to issue Executive Order 9981 to provide for equality of treatment and opportunity in the military surprised many people.
What led President Truman to this decision? As African American soldiers returned to the United States from fighting overseas in World War II, they hoped to return to a more equitable society. However, many soldiers experienced openly hostile reactions from white Southerners as they wore their uniforms in their hometowns.
Two such cases made national headlines. In Aiken, South Carolina, a bus driver kicked Sergeant Isaac Woodward off a bus for allegedly being disruptive, and a police officer beat him and gouged out his eyes, blinding him. In Monroe, Georgia, a group of white men dragged two soldiers and their wives from a car and shot them.
In September 1946, shortly … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on September 24, 2013, under - Civil Rights, - Presidents.
Tags: African Americans, army, black history, desegretation, Frank Pace, NAACP, Records of Rights, segregation, Truman, veterans, WWII