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Empathy and Politics


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Empathy and Politics

Master thesis highlighting the decision-making process of US President Harry S. Truman to issue Executive Order 9981,

which desegregated the armed forces

Maarten (M.A.) Vleeming, MA 10512462 m.a.vleeming@gmail.com Master thesis Military History Military History, University of Amsterdam (UvA) Mentor: Dhr. dr. R. (Ruud) van Dijk, PhD Second assessor: Dr. C.S.M. (Katy) Hull, PhD 02-09-2021



In the thesis the decision-making process to issue the Executive Order 9981 by US President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1948 is reviewed in a historical way researching primary sources and secondary literature. Although Black Americans were able to serve during times of need, they were not treated equal to their White colleagues. Executive Order 9981 stated the equal treatment of all men in the armed forces, without regard of race, color, religion or national origin. Several aspects in the literature are presented as reasons why Truman decided to issue this policy. The main reasons which can be found are: The importance of the post WWII era;

international criticism on America’s racial politics; political pressure from civil rights movements in the USA and within the Administration itself; and the unique strategy for the Presidential campaign of 1948 are presented as the factor why Truman moved to act against racial inequality in the military. However, I will argue that not only the combination of these factors made Truman decide to reform the troops. To understand why this racial reform was especially pointed at the armed forces, information on Truman’s background is indispensable as the President’s personal motives deserve greater attention here.


Table of contents

• Introduction 4

1. The path to become Harry S. Truman 12

2. Circles 24

3. Race and civil rights 41

• Conclusion 57

• Bibliography 64



“Always do right; this will gratify some people and astonish the rest” is a quote by Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain.1 Twain was not only an abolitionist, but he also supported Black Americans to study and to develop themselves. Although Missouri is considered to be a conservative state, it was not only the birthplace of this novelist but also of Harry S. Truman, a noteworthy President because of his revolutionary stance on civil rights.2 It was Truman, who on July 26, 1948, issued Executive Order 9981. In this Presidential order a new policy granted Black Americans the right to serve and be treated in the military equal to their White colleagues. At the time it was a controversial decision, made even more

remarkable considering the man who issued this reform. Growing up in Missouri, Truman was from a young age exposed to the Jim Crow way of life. Using words like “nigger” and

“coon” were everyday business and considered normal in the neighborhood of the future President, who would use throughout his life these kinds of words and was not afraid to make racist jokes.3 At first glance, Truman would not fit the picture of a progressive President, but some of his political actions show otherwise. So, the question arises what led Truman to issue Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the military?

This question will be the main focus for my research and as can be seen with the 2020-2021 United States racial protests, it is a topic with its ties to present day. The relationship between the state and its citizens has once again become a topic of discussion because questions were raised about the treatment of minorities, in particular by the

government. Due to the military plays an important role within American society the thesis can provide a source of information how a man, who grew up in a racist environment, decided to make an end to the segregation on the basis of race in the troops. The armed forces can play an important role in people’s perception on society; however, it is as social theorist Thomas Sowell explains not a mirror of the society itself, because it doesn't have the same percentages in terms of racial groups.4 Even though the importance and especially the effect of Executive

1 Note from Mark Twain to the Young People's Society, Greenpoint Presbyterian Church, 1901. Mark Twain quotations - Right, http://www.twainquotes.com/Right.html (consulted December 16, 2020).

2 Richard J. Hardy, Richard R. Dohm, and David A. Leuthold, Missouri Government and Politics (Columbia, Missouri, University of Missouri Press: 1995), 25–27. Missouri is nicknamed the Show-Me state, because it is skeptic for change.

3 David McCullough, Truman (New York, New York 10020: Simon and Schuster, 2003), 95–97; For this thesis, an e-book is used and therefore the page numbering may differ from a hard-copy version.

4 Thomas Sowell, Discrimination and Disparities (New York, New York 10104: Hachette Book Group Inc., 2019), 23. Sowell is referring to Cynthia H. Enloe, Police, Military and Ethnicity: Foundations of State Power (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1980), 143.


Order 9981 is an interesting topic, it is not part of this research. Instead, Harry Truman’s decision to issue this policy is the main material which will be discussed. But what makes this decision so interesting, besides Truman’s racist background? As Sowell explains in his book Intellectuals and Society, Truman was a unique man.5 Sowell describes how Truman was not only voracious reader, who knew every detail from the top of his head, but also was not afraid to ask for help.6 Truman’s knowledge on certain topics and his humanistic side are also discussed in the Pulitzer winning biography Truman, by historian and Pulitzer prize winner David Gaub McCullough.7 McCullough presents Truman as a President, whose humanistic side was an important factor in his decision-making process. The decisions Truman made in regard to civil rights are important and should be seen in the time when these were made.

The claim that the issuing Executive Order 9981 was Truman’s own decision is predominant among the so-called humanistic scholars. Historian Richard M. Dalfiume discusses in his book Desegregation of the US Armed Forces; Fighting on Two Fronts how Truman was sympathetic towards civil rights and thus when in position as the President of the United States was possible to make these changes.8 Dalfiume’s statement is agreed upon by Micheal R. Gardner. In his book Harry Truman and Civil Rights Gardner describes how the Black Community should be appreciative of Truman as, “black Americans knew with certainty that their full civil rights under the Constitution had been an absolute goal for the morally courageous and politically reckless Truman.”9 Others, within the humanistic scholars’

camp are more critical than Dalfiume and Garnder. Historian William Leuchtenburg argues Truman did set the basis for civil rights changes.10 In the collective idea the humanistic scholars present Truman’s humanistic side as the dominant factor when discussing his civil rights legacy. However, this is not a unanimous claim as there are also scholars who see this as a purely political decision. Authors, such as historian William C. Berman, make a more critical claim and see Truman’s civil rights in a broader political perspective.

In his book The Politics of Civil Rights in the Truman Administration, Berman argues

5 Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Society (New York, New York 10104: Hachette Book Group Inc., 2012).

6 Sowell, Intellectuals and Society, 149–50.

7 McCullough, Truman.

8 Richard M. Dalfiume, Desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces: Fighting on Two Fronts, 1939-1953 (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1969).

9 Michael R. Gardner, Harry Truman and Civil Rights (Carbondale and Edwardsville, Southern Illinois:

Southern Illinois University Press, 2002), 228.

10 Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff, Black Culture and the New Deal: The Quest for Civil Rights in the Roosevelt Era (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 388.


that Truman used the civil rights agenda as a tool to use for political benefit.11 According to the historian Executive Order 9981 was not issued due to Truman’s humanistic side, but rather to political pressure. With the start of the Cold War and the Presidential campaign of 1948 a demanding political time was happening. Truman needed to make the right calls to be elected as the President and as will discussed further on in the thesis the political climate had its influence on Truman’s decisions. Berman is not the only one who claims that the political side of the question whether or not to issue Executive Order 9981 is more important than the humanistic side. He is supported by civil rights historian Mary L. Dudziak and historian Andrew Busch, whose theories will be discussed in short in the end of this introduction and in depth in the third chapter.12 However, as I will argue it was a combination of humanistic and political decisions which made Truman decide to issue Executive Order 9981. What is missing in these scholarly debates is the question why Truman decided to issue an Executive Order specifically targeting the military. I will show that even though it was the least popular civil rights policy Truman could make, Truman’s time in the Army influenced this specific political decision.13

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the renovation of the Truman Library and Museum, I was bound to the online collections of the organization to use primary sources.

Three online collections were crucial for this thesis, the Harry S. Truman and Civil Rights collection, The President’s Committee on Civil Rights collection and especially

Desegregation of the Armed Forces collection.14 These collections give a unique insight in the correspondence within Truman’s Government but also input of information from outside the Government. The Harry S. Truman and Civil Rights collection provides an overview of several documents regarding civil rights, for example the letter of Albert Winston Henderson, Jr. to Harry S. Truman, February on 11, 1948. In this letter Winston Henderson Jr. praises

11 William C. Berman, The Politics of Civil Rights in the Truman Administration (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1970).

12 Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2011); Andrew Busch, Truman’s Triumphs: The 1948 Election and the Making of Postwar America (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2012).

13 Steven White, World War II and American Racial Politics: Public Opinion, the Presidency, and Civil Rights Advocacy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108596756.

14 Truman Library, Harry S. Truman and Civil Rights, https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/education/presidential- inquiries/harry-s-truman-and-civil-rights (consulted October 10, 2020); Truman Library, The President’s Committee on Civil Rights, https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/library/online-collections/presidents-committee-on- civil-rights (consulted April 6, 2021); Truman Library, Desegregation of the Armed Forces,

https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/library/online-collections/desegregation-of-armed-forces (consulted October 14, 2020).


Truman for his actions in the civil rights area.15 The tone of approval for Truman’s actions can found throughout the collection and therefore questions can be raised about this selection of sources. Also unfortunately is the fact that there are not enough sources available from before Executive Order 9981 was issued. However, the collection provides some insight in Truman’s civil rights policy decisions. More useful is The President’s Committee on Civil Rights

collection, because it has a lot of the documentation in regard to The President’s Committee on Civil Rights, which was created by Executive Order 9808 on December 5, 1946. The committee was raised to investigate the status of civil rights and if necessary, make

recommendations for change. Recommendations by this committee have influenced Truman’s decisions in regard to civil rights and sources from this specific collection have mainly be used in the second chapter. The most useful collection of the Truman Library was the Desegregation of the Armed Forces collection because it focusses specifically on the development and aftermath of Executive Order 9981. Therefore, all available sources have been studied, however not all of them had usable information. Sources which had been used can just as the other online collections be found in the second chapter of this thesis. The online Truman Library collections are not the only sources which have been used. Others like the Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States have been used as well.16 However, in these papers little can be found Executive Order 9981. This is nevertheless interesting as will be shown in the third chapter of the thesis. In the third chapter the influence of foreign politics on domestic issues and the Presidential Elections of 1948 will be discussed. However, to use these kinds of sources Truman’s background and personal development needs to be discussed first. A chronological setup is therefore provided to create a more controlled overview of the decision-making process.

In the first chapter, Truman’s youth and his path to become the US President are described. Central for this part is Truman’s personal growth, but what is personal

development? The concept of personal growth has a long history in psychological science, tracing back to Confucius and Aristotle. Professor of Psychological & Brain Sciences Randy Larsen and evolutionary psychologist David Buss describe such a transformation as: “The personality changes that did take place from adolescence to adulthood reflect growth in the direction of greater maturity; many adolescents become more controlled and socially more

15 Albert Winston Henderson, Jr. to Harry S. Truman, February 11, 1948. Truman Library, Harry S. Truman and Civil Rights, https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/library/research-files/albert-winston-henderson-jr-harry-s-

truman?documentid=NA&pagenumber=3 (consulted July 14, 2021).

16 The Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Harry S. Truman

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/p/ppotpus?key=title;page=browse;value=h (consulted July 14, 2021).


confident and less angry and alienated.”17 Growing into adulthood, decisions are less based on emotions but rather on a rational process. However, as social psychologists Miles Hewstone, Wolfgang Stroebe, and Klaus Jonas demonstrate, empathy is “the experience of understanding or sharing the emotional state of another person.”18 Empathy can create a situation, whereby the rational is overshadowed by the emotional and thus have its own influence on the process of rational thinking. The concept of personal development and the influence of empathy is crucial to understand why Truman issued Executive Order 9981, as I will show Truman’s emphatic side is the essential factor in figuring out why Truman’s Executive Order specifically targeted the military.

As will be shown in the first chapter of the thesis, Truman grew up in Missouri and during this time he became used to racist slang. Nevertheless, he developed his social skills and an important influence on this growth was his time in the Army. Truman’s time in the Army and his personal development will be discussed in the first chapter of the thesis.

However, by trying to understand Truman’s decisions, it is crucial to discuss his

characteristics. Not afraid to stand behind his own opinion he made his decisions, but when proved wrong he was also willing to change this opinion. This flexibility was essential to get to the political top and become President. And even though Truman did not have the physical display of a leader, he was respected as one. His strength in leading people in a certain direction came mainly because he was able to understand others and their social ties to one and each other. Being a social leader is a completely different role than one which powerbase is built upon strength for example. Especially in modern days politics, someone’s physics is less important than his or her social skills. As will be shown in the first chapter, Truman’s first steps into his political career path were though and some harsh decisions needed to be made. Truman’s personal growth and his time in the Army will be thus discussed in depth as, throughout the rest of the thesis, the aforementioned factors influenced Truman’s decisions.

Truman became President of the United States after his predecessor Franklin Delano Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945. Especially in his first term as President, Truman relied on his team to help him make decisions and, when a decision is made by a leader, his

rationalization process can be influenced by his inner circle.19 Therefore it is important to

17 Randy Larsen and David Buss, Personality Psychology: Domains of Knowledge About Human Nature (New York, New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2009), 151.

18 Miles Hewstone, Wolfgang Stroebe, and Klaus Jonas, An Introduction to Social Psychology (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2012), 340, 604.

19 Ethan R. Burris e.a., "Playing Favorites: The Influence of Leaders’ Inner Circle on Group Processes and Performance." In: Michael D. Robinson e.a., Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin vol. 35, nr. 9


establish, who were part of his inner circle and what was the interaction with the outer circle.

As will be discussed in depth in the second chapter, the members of the inner circle were Truman’s close advisors, but also other politicians. Extra focus has been placed on the names that often reappear in the online databases of the Truman Library and other sources, as a more complete picture can be drawn on these men and women their positions in the debate whether or not the desegregation policy needed to be issued. Within the inner circle three camps can be distinguished, those in favor of the policy change, those opposing such an adaptation and others, who for example do not think it is the right timing. Advisors, such as Clark Clifford and staff members like David Niles and Philleo Nash, look like they were supportive for a progressive policy change during their time they were working for Truman. Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, did favor a desegregation policy, but he was not sure about the timing of this project. Others, for example Kenneth C. Royall, the Secretary of the Army, opposed the policy change. In a memorandum sent to Clark Clifford on March 29, 1949, almost a year after Executive Order 9981 was issued, Royall argues that the Army will not participate in the “test” as “the Army is not an instrument for social evolution.”20 According to Royall, the morale of the troops will be affected due to the fact that a large part of the men is from the South and “close personal association with Negroes is distasteful to a large

percentage of Southern Whites.”21 The political discussions within Truman’s team are interesting, however, due to the reopening of the Truman Museum and Library and the COVID-19 pandemic, I was bound to the online collections and in these selections of sources there was no documentation of discussions between, for example, Royall and others in the run-up to establishment of Executive Order 9981. Therefore, the usable sources from this era are presented in the second chapter, but material on discussions within the Administration before July 26, 1948, are rare. To provide a more complete overview the aforementioned diary of Forestall and the biography of Clifford will be used to give a better insight.

However, the inner circle did not act alone and the outer circle had its own influence on the President and his team. Many people can be seen as a part of the outer circle, but for this research the focus is on civil rights advocates. The main reason is because they have a long history campaigning for the idea of the desegregation of the military. Books, such as,

(Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publishing September 1, 2009): 1255, https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167209338747.

20 Kenneth Royall to Clark Clifford, with attached statement, March 29, 1949, Truman Library, Desegregation of the Armed Forces, https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/library/research-files/kenneth-royall-clark-clifford-attached- statement?documentid=NA&pagenumber=2, 2 (consulted July 24, 2021).

21 Ibid., 3.


The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America by political scientists Philip A. Klinkner and Rogers M. Smith; Fog of War: The Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement edited by historians Kevin M. Kruse and Stephen Tuck; Divided Arsenal: Race and the American State During World War by political scientist Daniel Kryder and Fighting for Rights: Military Service and the Politics of Citizenship by political scientist Ronald R. Krebs have been used to study this group. 22 Even though multiple civil rights protagonists were active throughout the years to persuade several Administrations to

desegregate the military, two names seem to reoccur in the period Truman made the decision, namely Asa Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Walter Francis White, executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Both these men had their own strategy to convince Truman of the importance of social reforms and they were able to push these ideas to get noticed by the inner circle.

In the last chapter, the focus on the political time period in which the decision was made to issue EO 9981 will be examined. Not only the start of the Cold War, but also the importance of the Presidential election of 1948 will be discussed. With the start of the Cold War, the former World War II ally the Soviet Union became the US rival. Despite physical direct attacks on each other did not occur, a propaganda war did arise. Dudziak explains in her book Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy, how the new world order influenced American domestic politics.23 She explains “Racism might be an international embarrassment. Class-based inequality, however, was a feature of capitalism, an economic system Americans were proud of.”24 Even though a “perfect” democracy, with equal treatment of its citizens, seems preferable, the capitalist economical system was dominant for the decisions made by the government according to Dudziak. Her view on American social politics is supported by others such as historian Michael L. Krenn, who explain the changes made as “tokens” or small gifts to silence the claim for change.25 Their point of view in the debate will be further discussed in the third chapter as not only a light

22 Philip A. Klinkner and Rogers M. Smith, The Unsteady March; The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America (Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Kevin Michael Kruse e.a., Fog of War: The Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); Daniel Kryder, Divided Arsenal: Race and the American State During World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Ronald R. Krebs, Fighting for Rights: Military Service and the Politics of Citizenship (Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 2011).

23 Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights.

24 Dudziak, 252.

25 Michael L. Krenn, “Token Diplomacy; The United States, Race, and the Cold War.” In Philip Emil Muehlenbeck, Race, Ethnicity, and the Cold War: A Global Perspective (Nashville, Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press, 2012), 3-32, 22.


needs to be shed on the international political situation but also on the Presidential campaign of 1948.

Historian Busch claims in his book Truman’s Triumphs: The 1948 Election and the Making of Postwar America how the decision to issue Executive Order 9981 was due to the Presidential Election of 1948.26 In the polls Truman was behind his main opponent Thomas E.

Dewey, Governor of New York and with this decision Truman and his team tried to win over the Black Vote. However, others such as historian Alonzo L. Hamby explain Truman’s victory due to his tirelessly campaigning.27 He argues Truman’s motivation to win, even though the odds were heavenly stacked against him, granted him in the end the victory. With the usage of this argument, as presented by Hamby, the importance of Executive Order 9981 as a crucial winning factor diminishes as it was only part of the bigger picture. Instead, according to Hamby a combination of factors led to victory in the Elections. The discussion about the importance of Executive Order 9981 in relationship to the Presidential campaign of 1948 will be discussed in depth in the last chapter. By shedding a light on this last

interpretation of the reason why it was decided by Truman to make an end to the segregation in the armed forces an argument can be made that the combination of the aforementioned reasons, as discussed in all three chapters, are irrevocably linked to each other and therefore need to be seen as a complete explanation instead of a single reason. Besides making clear that it was a combination of the previously mentioned reasons, studying Truman’s

characteristics and emphatic side clarify the reason why specifically the military was targeted by Truman’s decision.

26 Andrew Busch, Truman’s Triumphs: The 1948 Election and the Making of Postwar America (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2012), 125-126.

27 Alonzo L. Hamby, “The Politics of Democracy: Harry S. Truman and the American People.” In Richard Stewart Kirkendall, Harry’s Farewell: Interpreting and Teaching the Truman Presidency (Columbia, Missouri:

University of Missouri Press, 2004), 32–59, 48.


1. The path to become Harry S. Truman

Born in a family of farmers in the conservative state of Missouri, Harry S. Truman became not only U.S. President, but also one of the most progressive ones in history. In this first chapter a closer look will be shed upon his life leading up to the presidency. From his birth Truman grew up in area where the old-fashioned way of life was normal, but as he grew older the world and his view on it changed. As will be shown, his time in the Army contributed to this dynamic world perspective, because it was during this period that he transformed from a

“sissy” to a leader.28 This metamorphosis would be a crucial step in his development, because it also had an effect on his later life. Being able to take decisions is the first step in the process to answer the question, as discussed in the introduction. The second step to digest the main question is taking a closer look into Truman’s political career. The fact that he did not finish college was just one of the odds stacked against Truman on his track to becoming the

President. It shows the bumpy ride it was. Making and breaking alliances during his time as a politician show that Truman’s political career can be seen as a typical one, but what made his journey interesting is the reason why he made such decisions. By studying his political judgements, the revision in his world view can be examined. In doing so, Truman’s personal growth can not only be discovered, but also explained.

1.1. The path to become a leader

Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, in the small village of Lamar, Missouri. Child of a farming couple he grew up in contact with the land, close to the nature and animals, but he did not go to school regularly. Only from the age of eight years old, Truman went to school frequently and he enjoyed this new experience from the start. Despite learning new things such as math and science, the most fascinating analysis made by Truman was about people.

Later he recalled on this specific study: “When I was growing up it occurred to me to watch the people around me to find out what they thought and what pleased them most…. I used to watch my father and mother closely to learn what I could do to please them, just as I did with my schoolteachers and playmates.”29 Due to his specific interest in human habits Truman concluded that the carrot is always more efficient than the stick and getting along with people is more productive to achieve goals. Although the future President became more aware of the importance of working together with other people, he still grew up in the “Old South.” In

28 McCullough, Truman, 86.

29 Ibid., 80.


Independence, where the family moved after Truman was six years old, the Jim Crow laws were strictly enforced, and racism was every day’s business. The Black community of Independence lived for the most part in a special part of the town: the so-called “Nigger Neck.” Historian McCullough describes how words like “nigger” and “coon” were used as a matter of course in the so-called “polite society,” and although for some Black servants some form of affection was created, they were still seen as less.30 Growing up in such an

environment made sure that even later in life Truman did not shy away from using this kind of jargon. He even did consider joining the Ku Klux Klan because, as McCullough explains “the Klan in 1922 still seemed a fairly harmless organization to which a good God-fearing patriot might naturally be attracted, that it offered a way for those who felt at odds with the changes sweeping the country to make known their views,” but during an initial meeting Truman decided to back out of this idea.31

After Truman graduated from Independence High School in 1901, he enrolled in Spalding's Commercial College, to study credit bookkeeping, Isaac Pitman shorthand, and typewriting. After a year, he left to help with the farm, which was necessary after his father had built a giant debt with speculations over grain prices.32 Truman’s hobbies, such as reading the works of Twain, were not considered cool in this phase of his life and the nerdy

appearance was reinforced by the fact that Truman needed to wear glasses because, as he would say himself, he was “blind as a mole.”33 Hamby explains how this (self-)image had great impact on his self-esteem and this depressing picture of being a loser was further

illustrated in his business career.34 As an entrepreneur, Truman was bad at doing business and despite the few times he had some success, in the end being a businessman was not

sustainable enough to survive. So, considering his rather modest career until now, how did this man rise from the bottom to the top? Historian Robert H. Ferrell argues that the period that most shaped Truman was his time in the military, because during this period he found out that he was able to be a leader.35 Part of the Missouri National Guard since 1905 and serving in the Kansas City-based Battery B, 2nd Missouri Field Artillery Regiment until 1911, Truman saw it as his patriotic duty to reenter the Army after the United States entered World

30 McCullough, 95-97.

31 Ibid., 325–26. Although there is much documentation on Truman’s life, information on his youth and especially during this time his interactions with the Black community are limited.

32 Robert H. Ferrell, Harry S. Truman: A Life (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2013), 25–26.

33 Hamby, Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 12;

McCullough, Truman, 77 & 162.

34 Hamby, Man of the People, 635–36.

35 Ferrell, Harry S. Truman, 56–57.


War I. Gifted with the task to assign new recruits, he became the first lieutenant of the newly formed unit. During his time in the Army, Truman discovered that he had a special talent for organizing.

Being charged to run the camp canteen in Camp Doniphan, Truman met Edward

“Eddie” Jacobson, who the lieutenant described as “a Jew in charge of the canteen by the name of Jacobson and he is a crackerjack."36 They became a successful business duo and, in the process, good friends as well. Whereas most of the time the military canteens were poorly stocked and losing money, the (mobile) kitchen of Truman and Jacobson became a hit among the ranks. Truman did not seem to mind Jacobson’s cultural background and they stayed close friends until Eddie’s death in 1955. Truman also befriended then major Robert M. Danford, whom Truman credited for: “He taught me more about handling men and the fundamentals of artillery fire in six weeks than I’d learned in the six months I’d been going over to the school of fire and attending the regimental schools.”37 Danford, who was reassigned to another unit, recommended to promote Truman and two others to the rank of captain on February 22, 1918, but just before this raise was granted, his unit was shipped off to France.

Once arrived in France Truman was schooled to become a captain and after his graduation assigned as the commanding officer of Battery D, 129th Field Artillery, 35th

Division. Battery D was known to have disciplinary problems. Best illustrated by the words of Vere C. "Pup" Leigh, one of its soldiers: “He [Truman] stood there and he was kind of a rather short fellow, compact, serious face, wearing glasses … the First Sergeant told us to fall out, and then we gave Captain Truman the Bronx cheer, that's a fact.”38 But the newly

appointed captain did not let himself be fooled and after this incident he reorganized the non- commissioned officers so that they would be loyal to him in the future. Such a reconstruction of his division also influenced the privates, who became loyal to their captain as they would follow all his orders without complains. The social tools Truman had acquired during his high school years also had a positive influence on his Army years as private Arthur Wilson


“He was not in any way the arrogant, bossy type, or Prussian type of officer. A lot of us youngsters, you know, when they put gold bars on our shoulders, why we thought that we sort of ruled the world. And he had, as an older man, a very quiet sort of a way

36 Ferrell, 61.

37 Hamby, Man of the People, 62.

38 Ferrell, Harry S. Truman, 65; McCullough, Truman, 232.


of serving as a leader…. And he was a disciplinarian but he was very fair. I don’t know, I can’t describe what the personal magnetism was except that he had it.”39

Truman’s way of peoples management became crucial during the Meuse-Argonne offensive where the 129th Field Artillery was deployed. Under his leadership none of the soldiers of the D battery died and after the Armistice the unit returned on American ground on April 20, 1919.

For Truman, his Army days were a significant part of his life and made a lot of impact on his human being, but also on his further career. During the inaugural parade the D Battery marched in single file on each side of the President's automobile.40 His time and friendships with the men of D Battery would always be very precious to Truman as this bond also

transformed him into a leader with a strong will and not afraid to make decisions. Where most times leadership is built upon strength or other physical aspects, this captain gained the

respect of his men by his people management and his kindness. Truman’s characteristics can be traced back to his days in school, where he already understood the importance of working together with others. But he could not fulfill his aspirations on his own and, like in a game of chess, the king can survive best with the help of his most loyal supporter: the queen. For Truman, his queen was his wife Elizabeth “Bess” Virginia Truman-Wallace. The pair both attended the same school in Independence, but they truly met when Truman returned a borrowed cake plate and Bess opened the door.41 This was said to be the romantic start to an exemplary relationship which would last until Truman’s death in 1972.

Bess Truman-Wallace was the oldest of four kids and born in Independence, Missouri.

When her father committed suicide in 1903 the family moved to 219 North Delaware Street in Independence, which would remain the family house for the rest of her life. As a child Bess was, according to her and Truman’s daughter Margaret, “virtually impossible for anyone not to love.”42 She was into fashion, and especially fond of hats, but rather than a girly girl Bess was more a “tomboy.”43 Although she was one of the boys, initially Bess had no interest in Truman, because he was not athletic and mostly because they were from different social standings. Bess was part of the upper-class of Independence, whereas Truman was a poor

39 McCullough, Truman, 233.

40 Ferrell, Harry S. Truman, 71.

41 Harry S. Truman and Robert H. Ferrell, Dear Bess: The Letters from Harry to Bess Truman, 1910-1959 (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1998), 16.

42 Margaret Truman, Bess Truman (Boston, Massachusetts: New Word City, 2014), 11.

43 McCullough, Truman, 371.


farm kid who needed to contribute to the family financially with his jobs the family

financially with jobs.44 This changed after Bess her father, just as Truman’s father, build up an immense debt which would have great influence on Bess her social life. Growing up and not being able to attend college changed her view on the world and, when Truman returned the plate in 1910, she saw him in a totally different light. Although still wearing glasses Truman had grown up and become a “rugged looking specimen of vitality.”45 Truman’s returning of the plate would take up to two hours and during this time they sat on the porch and talked about the past. After the visit Truman started writing letters to Bess and with these letters he tried to impress her, not only speaking of the physical work on the farm, but also of his interests in literature, music and art.46

Their romance grew and in June 1911 Truman proposed via a letter, where he besides proposing also explained his worldview:

“Uncle Will says that the Lord made a white man from dust, a nigger from mud, then threw up what was left and it came down a Chinaman. He does hate Chinese and Japs.

So do I. It is race prejudice I guess. But I am strongly of the opinion that negroes ought to be in Africa, yellow men in Asia, and white men in Europe and America.”47

Maybe this statement did not contribute to the power of the proposal, because Bess turned him down. Even though she was not afraid to use these kinds of terms herself.48 Despite the failed proposal their romance continued, and after Truman returned from the front, they married on June 28, 1919 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Independence. It was a typical small- town wedding, with Truman and his sister picking the flowers the day before the wedding.49 Afterwards the happily married couple went on a honeymoon, where they stopped at Chicago, Detroit, and Port Huron, Michigan. In 1924 they got a daughter: Mary Margaret Truman.

Truman was as Margaret explained a “demon letter writer,” because he liked to write letters and a lot of these are preserved.50 Although some of the letters are lost, most remain and they provide a unique insight into the thoughts of the Truman(s). These letters will be examined

44 Truman, Bess Truman, 26–27.

45 Ibid., 65.

46 Ibid., 72.

47 Truman and Ferrell, Dear Bess, 39.

48 McCullough, Truman, 1191–92.

49 Ferrell, Harry S. Truman, 73.

50 Truman and Ferrell, Dear Bess, ix.


further on in this paper, but to be able to use them in context, first the political career of Truman needs to be discussed.

1.2. The path to become the U.S. president

Truman’s political path can be traced back to the 1900 Democratic national convention where he served as a page.51 Due to his father’s relationship with William T. Kemper, the owner of Commerce Trust of Kansas City, young Truman made his first steps in politics, but the true leap forward came after the First World War. During his time in the Army, Truman

befriended several people and among them was Jim Pendergast. It was Jim, who suggested Truman to run for a “judgeship” in eastern Jackson County. Although Truman studied law during night courses at the Kansas City Law School, he did not finish his study because it was not necessary to do so for the position Jim suggested. It was an administrative rather than a juridical position. With the help of Jim’s uncle T.J. Pendergast, who was the political boss of the Democratic Party chapter of Kansas City and Jackson County, Missouri, Truman was elected County Court judge of Jackson County's eastern district.52 Although Truman lost his reelection in 1924, he concluded that a public service career was the best option; an ambition which was supported by the Pendergast family.

In 1926 Truman met with T.J. for the first time and despite Truman’s wish to run for another job, the Pendergast political machine decided that he would become a presiding judge.53 Because of the backing of the Pendergasts, Truman was elected as the Democratic candidate for the position of presiding judge during the elections of 1926 and 1930. In the capacity as a presiding judge, and later several political jobs on federal level, Truman was the name on everybody’s lips and he considered himself ready for the bigger job. Unfortunately, T.J. did not agree and Truman feared that his political career was over before he was able to enter the grand stage.54 However, T.J.’s own position on local level was indisputable but he needed to reaffirm his grip on the federal level of politics and after T.J.’s other candidates declined, the choice was for Truman to run for the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate from Missouri.55 Thanks to the support of the voters in Jackson County, Truman was able to win the primary and in the general election he won by a landslide of 20 percent on January 3,

51 Ferrell, Harry S. Truman, 88.

52 McCullough, Truman, 318–28.

53 Ibid., 341–42.

54 Ferrell, Harry S. Truman, 116.

55 Hamby, Man of the People, 176; McCullough, Truman, 427–28. For example Joe Shannon declined, because he did not agree with the New Deal and he wanted to not leave the House of Representatives.


1935. Although his official title was United States Senator from Missouri, his opponents derisively called him “the Senator of Pendergast.”56 Even though he needed the connection with the Pendergasts in the early stages of his career, right now this connection became more and more of a burden. Finally, the political relationship ended when T.J. was convicted of tax evasion in 1939. The following mess this judicial decision caused also spread out on to Truman, who was on the eve of a possible re-election as Senator.57

In his first period Truman, as member of the Senate, supported legislation for the improvement of the civil rights (of the Black community); for example the proposed anti- lynching law of 1938.58 But whether he really supported this progressive is the question, as Hamby recalls later in his career, Truman himself wrote a speech which ended with the call to lynch “a few traitors.”59 Due to his team the speech was toned down, but the first draft shows that Truman was not fully convinced of an anti-lynching law. Even though Truman was associated publicly more and more in favor for the improvement of civil rights, behind the scenes rumors were still that he did not fully support this movement. When Truman became the new US President, Senator Burnet Maybank of South Carolina confided to a friend,

“Everything’s going to be all right … the new President knows how to handle the niggers.”60 McCullough explains the difference between Truman’s political view and his own opinion, as he argues:

“Privately, like the country people whose votes he was courting, he still used the word

“nigger” and enjoyed the kind of racial jokes commonly exchanged over drinks in Senate hideaways. He did not favor social equality for blacks and he said so. But he wanted fairness, equality before the law. He had been outraged by reports of black troops being discriminated against at Fort Leavenworth and used his office to put a stop to it.”61

Truman’s political position on civil rights was clear, but his own opinion seemed more discussable. Especially, until what extend where more rights for the Black community acceptable for Truman? What exactly is “equality before the law?” Maybe the political

56 Ferrell, Harry S. Truman, 124.

57 Hamby, Man of the People, 232–33.

58 McCullough, Truman, 454.

59 Hamby, Man of the People, 378.

60 Krebs, Fighting for Rights, 154.

61 McCullough, Truman, 514.


decision would be more important to Truman than the personal choice as he was working on his career, or perhaps there is a certain personal growth in his choice to support civil rights which makes it differ over time. As discussed in the introduction, being a politician there is always a (internal) discussion between personal motive and representing the ones who voted for you. Political positions taken in the past can differ over time as growth and change are crucial in the personal development of someone.62 To understand the growth of Truman in a political way and as an individual, his career path leading up to the presidency needs to be further examined.

During the 1940 Senate elections, Truman was contested in the primary by the governor of Missouri Lloyd Crow Stark and U.S. Attorney Maurice Morton Milligan, who were both responsible for the downfall of T.J. Pendergast. Because they both wanted the seat in the Senate, the anti-Pendergast vote was split up between the two. The final blow for Stark and Milligan was the lack of support from Senator Bennett Champ Clark and Robert Emmet Hannegan, who was a power broker in the St. Louis Democratic Party. Clark and Hannegan decided at the very last moment to pledge their support to Truman and with a difference of 8,000 votes the latter managed to claim the victory. Even though he just won the hardest battle of his political career, he still needed to be reelected in the general election of

November, but once again Truman was victorious albeit once again with a small margin of only 44,000 votes.63 There was no time to take a break, because of the invasion of Poland by Nazi-Germany on the first of September 1939 led to another great war. Although the U.S. was not officially a participating war party, the government needed to decide on how to support the Allies. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was clear in what needed to be done: “It was not war he [Roosevelt] wanted, but all-out, massive production for war to supply those nations under Nazi attack. “We must become the great arsenal of democracy. For this is an emergency as serious as war itself.””64 In spite of the support of Clark for his reelection for the seat in the Senate, Truman supported the concept of President Roosevelt and not the opinion of Clark, who had become the face of the America First Movement.

The decision to support FDR instead of his former comrades was another vital choice Truman made. Truman was already focusing on the organizational structure of the Defense program and on February 10, 1941 he proposed to create a special committee, which would research the awarding of defense contracts. The Defense program was already the highest bill

62 Larsen and Buss, Personality Psychology, 151 & 282. See page 7-8 for more information.

63 McCullough, Truman, 520–24.

64 McCullough, 528.


of the U.S. payroll, especially because of the poor management of the contracts. As Senator of Missouri Truman proposed the motion for creating a board of investigators, which was

unanimously accepted, and in a couple of days the establishment of the Senate Special Committee to investigate the National Defense Program was a fact. Of course, the committee was led by the man who proposed this policy. Truman flourished in his role as chairman of the newly formed commission and his performances were noticed by many. Time magazine characterized Truman as ““a personally honest, courageous man” untouched by scandal, still a Pendergast loyalist because he would not kick a friend who was down, and a crusader for an effective war effort.”65 Truman’s star was rising and even though President Roosevelt hardly knew who Truman was in July 1944, the Presidential advisors surely did. Already in the summer of 1943 he was tipped by some to become the next Vice President.66 Vice President Henry Wallace was, according to the conspirators, led by the political boss Edward Joseph Flynn of the Bronx; “too remote, too controversial, too liberal—much too liberal,” even for the Democratic party.67 As a result of Truman’s excellent work as head of the committee it was estimated that the commission contributed to save an estimated $10–15 billion in military spending and thousands of lives of U.S. servicemen. Truman was consequently considered by the group of Flynn as the dream candidate for the vice-presidency leading up to the

Presidential election of 1944.

With a lot of political pressure from the group of Flynn, Truman was selected as the Vice President nominee for the 1944 Presidential campaign.68 Contributing to the firmness over the hard-fought battle for the vice-presidency was the declining health of Roosevelt, who became more and more ill and the person who was selected as the new vice president would likely be the next president. After FDR and Truman as his running mate won the election, Truman was sworn in as the new Vice President on January 20, 1945. Rather uneventful was his time as the Vice President, except for the death of T.J. Pendergast. T.J. died on January 26, 1945 and as a good friend Truman was attending the funeral, which was questioned by some reporters but never resulted in any political trouble. Although Truman was busy as the Vice President, it was not comparable to his days as head of the commission; a position from which he in earlier days already had resigned to fully focus on the campaign to become the new Vice President.69 Because his time as Vice President is too short to make a good

65 Hamby, Man of the People, 260.

66 McCullough, Truman, 625.

67 Ibid., 630.

68 Ibid., 625–688.

69 Ferrell, Harry S. Truman, 174.


observation on his attitude to the Black community, a change in his time as a Senator can be identified. Hamby describes how Truman’s vision on Black Americans changed over time, as he argues:

“What changed during the war was his level of sensitivity. In his private life, it consisted of little things, such as a tendency to use the word “Negro” more frequently in his personal correspondence. In public, it meant a willingness to associate himself more clearly than ever with civil rights causes, despite private ambivalence. Late in his first term in the Senate and throughout his second term, he signed on as a sponsor of numerous bills designed to promote more equality for blacks.”70

This tendency to be more supportive of the Black Americans seems to continue after Truman became President. When Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, Truman was informed by Eleanor Roosevelt in person when they met in the White House:

“Harry, the President is dead.’

Truman was unable to speak.

‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ he said at last.

‘Is there anything we can do for you,’ she said.

‘For you are the one in trouble now.’”71

A couple of hours after Truman was notified of the death of Roosevelt, he was sworn in at the Oval office as the 33rd President of the United States of America. Truman’s presidency would differ in several ways in comparison to his predecessor’s reign. Not only because it was a totally new period, but also due to the different opinions and views of both men. In the comparison of the political styles of Roosevelt and Truman differences and subsequent questions can be found. One of such points of investigation, and for this thesis the most important interesting mark is: Would Truman differ from FDR in regard to civil right policies, and how would he do so, or would he continue the policies of the former President? An answer for this question will be provided in the next chapter, when a closer look is taken on

70 Hamby, Man of the People, 272.

71 McCullough, Truman, 724–25.


the policies both Presidents had in regard to the improvement of the position of the Black Americans and how Truman was being influenced by his (professional) inner and outer circle.

1.3. Conclusion

Harry S. Truman grew up as a small-town kid, raised on a farm, and only going to school from eight years old. He ended up as one of the most innovative presidents on the area of civil rights. As a kid Truman’s interests were not only focused on the standard school subjects, but particularly on the interaction between people. Being able to put oneself in the service of another but still being able to achieve one's own goal became the focus of Truman's

childhood. Even though Truman was able to get what he wanted from others, he was initially not able to find his path in life. Being considered somewhat of a sissy, as noted by Truman himself, he was not the man.72 Without finishing college and incapable of starting a successful business, the cards were not stacked in Truman’s favor. According to Ferrell, the change came when he (re)joined the Army during the First World War. Being an American patriot, he was sent oversees to fight the Germans in Europe. During this time, he became a leader, a man respected by men, someone who could direct soldiers into battle and one who others trusted their lives to. His character was strong enough to reorganize one of the toughest regiments in the US army and this experience would be of influence on him for the rest of his life, not only in his self-esteem, but also due to the connections he made in those days. Men like Eddie Jacobsen and Robert Danford became close friends, but probably one of the most important contacts for his further career during his Army was Jim Pendergast.

Jim Pendergast was the nephew of T.J. Pendergast, the political boss of the

Democratic Party chapter of Kansas City and Jackson County, Missouri, and T.J. would guide Truman on his early political path. Jim suggested Truman should run for a “judgeship” in eastern Jackson County. With the support of T.J., Truman was elected County Court judge of Jackson County's eastern district. Although Truman lost the reelection in 1924, he became convinced that a public service career was his best future hope. This ambition was supported by the Pendergast family and T.J. foresaw a rising career for Truman. Even though sometimes they did not agree with each other’s plans, they worked well together. As a result of this alliance Truman went on to become pressing judge and Senator, but when T.J. was convicted of tax evasion, Truman was on his own. The fall of Pendergast had consequences for the Senator, who was battling to be reelected. Albeit with a very small margin of winning votes

72 McCullough, Truman, 86.


Truman was able to get a second term as Senator of Missouri. During this second term he became one of the most influential members of the Senate, due to the committee of which he was chairman. Truman’s star was rising, which resulted in being the next Vice President nominee in the 1944 Presidential campaign. After President Roosevelt was reelected, Truman was installed as the new Vice President. Due to the death of FDR, he only took up this

position for 82 days. On April 12, 1945 Truman was sworn in as the new President of the United States and he was confronted to face total new challenges in comparison to his predecessor. One of these challenges was the position of the Black community, something that the Roosevelt administration avoided so they would not burn their fingers on it.73 Taking a closer look to Truman’s position on the Black community a change can be defined. At first, as can be seen in Truman’s statement over Uncle Will, he was not afraid to express his racial worldview, but over time he became politically more and more invested in the idea that the Black community needed equal rights. If this was a political choice or it was a personal development is the question, especially taking in consideration Truman’s liberal kind of policies. Therefore, the question arises, why did Truman follow such a liberal kind of politics for the improvement of the position of Black Americans? In the next chapter this question will be further examined by taking a closer look at Truman’s (professional) surroundings. Being influenced by someone’s connections is, as explained in the

introduction, something which needs to be taken into consideration, particularly with such a radical decision. Thus, a light will be shed on the advisors and civil rights activists who affected the decision to issue Executive Order 9981.

73 Sklaroff, Black Culture and the New Deal.


2. Circles

As discussed in the introduction, making a decision is not a self-contained process, but it is subject to several influencing factors. In the first chapter a closeup of Truman’s character and career is presented, which gave a first insight into the development to issue Executive Order 9981 to desegregate the military. Someone’s character and motivation have their effect(s) on someone’s decision-making process, but the (social) environment in which a character moves will also have an influence on the judgment. Therefore, this chapter will provide a first outline of Truman's social environment, focusing on his “professional” environment. By analyzing the social professional environment of Truman, a distinction is made between the “inner” and the “outer” circle. Although friends and family are mostly put in the “inner” circle in general life, in this chapter the focus will be on the working life of Truman with different inner and outer circles.74 When a decision is to be made, a leader can be influenced by the people surrounding him. Especially in his first term as president, Truman relied for help on his advisors to make a decision, thus they will be seen as the inner circle.The outer circle will consist of the main civil rights lobbyists and their groups, which means the focus will be on Walter Francis White of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Asa Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP).

A special place is reserved for the former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, because especially at the beginning of Truman’s presidency she assisted him in making his judgements.

2.1. The influence of the inner circle

During his presidency Truman relied on several advisors to help him make up his mind to make the right decision and also on the experience of Eleanor Roosevelt, although her influence diminished over time.75 The main reason for her diminishing influence is that Truman wanted to achieve his own vision and not become Franklin Delano Roosevelt the 2nd. Mrs. Roosevelt, on the other hand, wanted to pursue her own strategy and the legacy of her fallen husband, resulting sometimes in disagreements between her and Truman. But in the end, they respected each other and their (occasionally opposing) opinions. In his book Eleanor and Harry: The Correspondence of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman,

74 Burris, ‘Playing Favorites,’ 1244–57.

75 Steve Neal, Eleanor and Harry: The Correspondence of Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman (New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002); Steve Neal, ‘“Eleanor and Harry”’, The New York Times, August 25, 2002, Books, https://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/25/books/chapters/eleanor-and-harry.html (consulted March 5, 2021).


historian Steve Neal takes a closer look to the interaction between the Former First Lady and the new President. The mutual respect between the two is striking even though they

sometimes had different opinions about certain subjects. Even though this can be considered as quite remarkable, historian William Leuchtenburg noted: “Truman understood that if he was to win acceptance as FDR’s heir, he needed to please one person beyond all others:

Eleanor Roosevelt.”76 Mrs. Roosevelt, already during FDR’s presidency, pursued a very progressive agenda which, as argued in the first chapter, was even too progressive for her deceased husband. After his death Eleanor kept pushing her vision and was heavily involved in the setup of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the approval of President Truman. However, Truman and Mrs. Roosevelt had their own ideas for the future and on September 6, 1945 Truman presented his own twenty-one-point plan, a program which was also based on his predecessor’s policies.77 In his vision Truman describes how “a second bill of rights” is necessary to establish a “lasting peace in the world.”78 The content of the proposed second bill of rights was not yet determined, but a first step for change was made.

Even though Mrs. Roosevelt wanted to help, Truman understood that he needed to build his own legacy and subsequently he chose to work with his own team and got rid of two-thirds of FDR’s former team.79 Even though a substantial support staff was available, not all members had the same expertise. Looking at racial politics and the military, four names seem to keep returning in this area of interest. Truman’s main advisors on this specific topic, leading to the issue of Executive Order 9981, were White House Counsel Clark Clifford, Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, and the most important involved employees

Administrative Assistant to the President David K. Niles and Special Assistant to President for minority problems Philleo Nash. All four of them had different point of interest for supporting an integrating policy (for the troops). In this part of the chapter each of them will be further examined and interactions between them and the President will also be revealed.

Sources made available by the Truman Library will be discussed, whereafter the

(auto)biographies of Clifford and Forrestal will be examined to provide a further insight into the dynamics of the inner circle of Truman.

Although Truman was the one who made the final decision to desegregate the armed

76 William E. Leuchtenburg, In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan (Ithaca, New York:

Cornell University Press, 1983), 10.

77 Sklaroff, Black Culture and the New Deal, 241; Leuchtenburg, In the Shadow of FDR, 12.

78 Neal, Eleanor and Harry, 39.

79 Neal, "Eleanor and Harry", New York Times, August 25, 2002.


forces, a long history came beforehand. The Desegregation of the Armed Forces collection starts in 1938 with a letter addressed to doctor Ernest H. Wilkens of the Oberlin College. In the letter, written by editor R.L.Vann of the prominent Black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier, the question is raised whether Black Americans should be able to be part of the Armed Forces and, if so, how they should be organized. Even though the Desegregation of the Armed Forces collection starts with this letter, there was an even longer history than was presented in this collection(s) as will be explained later in this chapter when Asa Philip Randolph and Walter White will be discussed.80 Randolph and White can be considered as part of the outer circle, because even though they were not part of the Administration, they had their influence on the President(s). This pressure can be seen in the first ideas to

desegregate the military. The voices raised by people, such as Randolph and White, to use the manpower of the Black community, led to several research projects, because the Government was in doubt over the success of the desegregation of the troops. One of the research projects was titled the The Negroes' Historical and Contemporary Role In National Defense by colonel reservist West A. Hamilton. In this document, presented November 26, 1940, Hamilton describes the history of the role of Black Americans in the US military, and he presents an interesting conclusion. The colonel argues that “America must not and will not fail her humblest citizen. I offer the challenge to the government, I offer it to the Negroes of America. United we stand, dived, we fall.”81

The quote and the rest of the document shows the interest to use the manpower of the Black community at the start of the Second World War, but it is especially because of a possible American participation in the war that Hamilton urges to use the Black Americans.

He also argues: “Let us join hands with all who would in this hour of peril hasten the making up of the deficiencies of the past; let us remove purely academic argument from the very practical matter of meeting America’s peril.”82 It is unclear what Hamilton referrers to with the “purely academic argument”, because as he claims that the Negro combat units used in the First World War showed “a fine page in the rolls of America’s fighting men” and “the

contribution of the thousands of Negroes in the Service of Supply in France was a major

80 R.L. Vann to Ernest H. Wilkins, March 4, 1938. Truman Library, Desegregation of the Armed Forces, https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/library/research-files/rl-vann-ernest-h-wilkins (consulted July 2, 2021).

81 'The Negroes' Historical and Contemporary Role In National Defense, November 26, 1940. Report by Colonel reservist West A. Hamilton, Truman Library, Desegregation of the Armed Forces,

https://www.trumanlibrary.gov/library/research-files/negroes-historical-and-contemporary-role-national- defense?documentid=NA&pagenumber=8, 8 (consulted October 4, 2020).

82 Ibid., 8.



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