Black troops have fought in every major U.S. war since the American Revolution, coping with disparities in training, equipment, and opportunity through World War II. Following the Allied victory in WWII, black civil rights leaders, led by A. Philip Randolph, pressured President Harry S. Truman to abolish racial discrimination within the military by threatening to pull their support of his re-election bid.
President Truman asked Congress to pass comprehensive civil rights legislation, but legislators failed to act. On July 26, 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, the integration of the United States Armed Forces. That desegregation order moved forward the campaign for equal rights, fair opportunities, and promotions for minority troops in the military. Truman won his re-election bid, winning 77 percent of the black vote.
The last all-black military unit was disbanded in 1954.
Hosted by the late D’Army Bailey, Moments in Civil Rights History is produced in collaboration with the Equal Justice Initiative and is part of Comcast NBCUniversal’s “His Dream, Our Stories” project. Visit http://www.HisDreamOurStories.com for more Civil Rights History, first-hand accounts from those who led, participate in or benefited from the Movement, or to share a civil rights story of your own (or that of a loved one).
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