Photo credits: The Bettman Archive
The U.S. President’s Committee on Civil Rights was a Presidential Commission established by President Harry Truman in 1946.
The committee was created by Executive Order 9808 on December 5, 1946. It instructed an investigation of the status of civil rights in the nation and proposed measures to strengthen and protect them. After the committee submitted a report of its findings to President Truman, the Presidential Commission was disbanded in December 1947.
However, given the widespread civil interposition, which Black Americans were still experiencing in the U.S. at the time, it would have been better policy for President Truman’s committee to continue its work beyond his presidency. The oppression of Black Americans has not just been a matter of societal circumstances.
It was a matter of legally-implemented governmental policy in areas, such as housing.
Truman’s committee was charged with examining the condition of civil rights in the United States, producing a written report of key findings, and submitting recommendations on improving civil rights in the United States. In December 1947, the committee produced a 178-page report entitled To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights.
In the report, the committee proposed to establish a permanent Civil Rights Commission, a Joint Congressional Committee on Civil Rights, and a Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, which was required to grant Black Americans federal protection from lynching.
The committee report also called for a permanent fair employment practice commission, the abolition of poll taxes, as well as other urgent measures. Furthermore, the report raised the distinct possibility that the UN Charter from 1945 could legitimately be used as a source of law to fight persistent racial discrimination in the US.
On July 26, 1948, President Truman advanced the recommendations of the report by signing Executive Order 9980 and Executive Order 9981. Executive Order 9980 ordered the desegregation of the federal workforce and Executive Order 9981 ordered the desegregation of the armed services.
President Truman also sent a special message to the U.S. Congress on February 2, 1948, to implement the recommendations of his Committee on Civil Rights.