President's Committee on Civil Rights


President's Committee on Civil Rights

The President's Committee on Civil Rights was established by U.S. President Harry Truman's Executive Order 9808 on December 5, 1946. The committee was instructed to investigate the status of civil rights in the United States and propose measures to strengthen and protect the civil rights of American citizens. After the committee submitted a report of its findings to President Truman, it disbanded December 1947ref|executive_order_9809.

The committee was composed of 15 members: Charles E. Wilson (Chairman), Sadie T. Alexander, James B. Carey, John S. Dickey, Morris L Ernst, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, Dr. Frank P. Graham, Reverend Francis J. Haas, Charles Luckman, Francis P. Matthews, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., Reverend Henry Knox Sherrill, Boris Shishkin, M.E. Tilly, and Channing H. Tobiasref|committee_members.

The committee was charged with: (1) examining the condition of civil rights in the United States, (2) producing a written report of their findings, and (3) submitting recommendations on improving civil rights in the United States. In December 1947, the committee produced a 178 page report entitled "". In the report, it proposed to improve the existing civil rights laws; to establish a permanent Civil Rights Commission, Joint Congressional Committee on Civil Rights, and a Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice; to develop federal protection from lynching; to create a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC); to abolish poll taxes; and urged other measuresref|committee_instructions.

On July 26, 1948, President Truman advanced the recommendations of the report by signing executive orders 9980 and 9981. Executive Order 9980 ordered the desegregation of the federal work force and Executive Order 9981 ordered the desegregation of the armed servicesref|executive_orders. He also sent a special message to Congress on February 2, 1948 to implement the recommendations of the President’s Committee on Civil Rightsref|special_message_to_congress.

Impact on Civil Rights

The president’s Committee on Civil Rights was proactive in addressing the burgeoning issue of racism in post-war America. Protection from lynching and desegregation in the work force was a triumph of conscience for Truman; as he recalled in his farewell address:

There has been a tremendous awakening of the American conscience on the great issues of civil rights--equal economic opportunities, equal rights of citizenship, and equal educational opportunities for all our people, whatever their race or religion or status of birth ref|Truman_library_1.
However morally vindicating, the committee’s policies also addressed how the United States were to be received as a world powerref|Zinn1. As stated by the committe:
Our position in the postwar world is so vital to the future that our smallest actions have far-reaching effects. We have come to know that our own security in a highly interdependent world is inextricably tied to the security and well-being of all people and all countries. Our foreign policy is designed to make the United States an enormous, positive influence for peace and progress throughout the world. We have tried to let nothing, not even extreme political differences between ourselves and foreign nations, stand in the way of this goal. But our domestic civil rights shortcomings are a serious obstacle. ref|Truman_library_2.
These "small actions" culminated into the signing of the two executive orders mentioned above by Truman in 1948, an election year. With the latter, in light of the growing possibility of war, addressing the state of black morale the armed forces. The far reaching effects that the committee had hoped for had little impact on the civil rights of black Americans in the late 1940's. The president failed to use the power given to him by the 14th and 15th amendments to execute laws strong enough to combat discriminationref|Zinn2.It was not until the landmark "Brown vs. Board of Education" decision of 1954 that the separate but equal doctrine would be overturned and that segregation be officially outlawed by the U.S. government.

Notes

# [http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/1948.html "Executive Order 9808, Establishing the President's Committee on Civil Rights, Harry S Truman"] from Federal Register, retrieved January 23, 2006. For more details on the assigned tasks of the committee, see President's Committee on Civil Rights. "To Secure These Rights: The Report of Harry S. Truman's Committee on Civil Rights". Boston: St. Martin's, 2004. ISBN 0-312-40214-7
# [http://www.trumanlibrary.org/hstpaper/pccr.htm "Agency History, Records of the President's Committee on Civil Rights Record Group 220"] from the Truman Presidential Museum & Library, retrieved January 23, 2006
#President's Committee on Civil Rights. "To Secure These Rights" (2004).
# [http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/1948.html "Executive Order 9980, Regulations Governing Fair Employment Practices Within the Federal Establishment,"] and [http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/1948.html "Executive Order 9981, Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, Harry S Truman"] from Federal Register, retrieved January 23, 2006. For more details on the desegregation of the armed forces see, [http://www.trumanlibrarypoop.org/deseg1.htm "The Truman Administration, and the Desegregation of the Armed Forces: A Chronology"] from the Truman Presidential Museum & Library, retrieved January 21, 2006
# [http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=1380&st=&st1= "Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights, Public Papers of the Presidents, Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953"] on February 2, 1948, from the Truman Presidential Museum & Library, retrieved January 21, 2006
# http://trumanlibrary.org/calendar/viewpapers.php?pid=2059
# Howard Zinn (2003) The Twentieth Century: A People's History p. 189
# http://www.trumanlibrary.org/civilrights/srights4.html
# Howard Zinn (2003) The Twentieth Century: A People's History p.190

External sources

*" [http://www.trumanlibrary.org/civilrights/srights1.htm To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights] " Full text of document available from the [http://www.trumanlibrary.org/index.php Truman Presidential Museum & Library}

econdary sources

*Berman, William C. "The Politics of Civil Rights in the Truman Administration". Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1970. ISBN 0-8142-0142-3
*Hamby, Alonzo L. "Beyond the New Deal: Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism". New York: Columbia University Press, 1976. ISBN 0-231-08344-0
*McCoy, Donald R. and Richard T. Ruetten. "Quest and Response: Minority Rights and the Truman Administration". Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1973. ISBN 0-7006-0099-X
*Vaughan, Philip H. "The Truman Administration's Legacy for Black America". Reseda, California: Mojave Books, 1976. ISBN 0-87881-047-1

Primary sources

* [http://www.trumanlibrary.org/hstpaper/civilrights.htm Civil Rights Archival Materials] at the Truman Presidential Museum & Library retrieved January 21, 2006
*President's Committee on Civil Rights. "To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President's Committee on Civil Rights". Washington: GPO, 1947.


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