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Civil Rights and Desegregation in the Department of Defense The Evolution of African-American Civil Rights in the Military.

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Presentation on theme: "Civil Rights and Desegregation in the Department of Defense The Evolution of African-American Civil Rights in the Military."— Presentation transcript:

1 Civil Rights and Desegregation in the Department of Defense The Evolution of African-American Civil Rights in the Military

2 Overview Due to space constraints, the focus of this presentation is on the integration of African- Americans in the military. Desegregation was the key Civil Rights issue in the Armed Forces.

3 Desegregation of the Armed Forces A board of three general officers were appointed to investigate the Army’s policy regarding African-Americans. This board is called the Gillem Board, named after General Alvan C. Gillem, Jr. The first meeting was held on on October 1, 1945.

4 Desegregation of the Armed Forces In April, 1946 the Gillem Board report noted that the Army’s future policies should, “Eliminate, at the earliest practicable moment, any special consideration based on race.” HOWEVER, the Gillem report did not end segregation in the Army.

5 President Truman noted that the government had, “An obligation to see that the civil rights of every citizen are fully and equally protected.” The President’s Committee on Civil Rights was appointed on December 6, 1946. Desegregation of the Armed Forces

6 In 1947, the President’s Committee on Civil Rights issued a report: “To Secure These Rights.” This report specifically condemned segregation, especially in the military. This report recommended immediate action to “end immediately all discrimination and segregation based on race, color, creed or national origin in…all branches of the Armed Services.”

7 A. Philip Randolph and Grant Reynolds form the “Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training.” Thus, we can see the military led the way in early desegregation efforts. Desegregation of the Armed Forces A. Philip Randolph

8 Message to Congress on Civil Rights 1948 The report, To Secure These Rights, established a federal agenda for ending discrimination, called for a variety of measures including federal anti-lynching legislation and a permanent commission on civil rights. In his 1948 message, President Truman outlines ten legislative objectives for strengthening constitutional rights of minorities.

9 Desegregation of the Armed Forces In 1948, President Truman announces he has, “instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the Armed Services eliminated as rapidly as possible.”

10 President Truman decided against legislation and signed Executive Order 9981 which read: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” Desegregation of the Armed Forces: 1948

11 In 1948, the Navy extends the policy of integration first begun in the waning months of WW II. Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall proposes the Army create an experimental integrated unit as a test of how integration would affect the Army. Desegregation of the Armed Forces

12 In 1949 the Fahy Committee starts hearings. The Navy and Air Force indicate they will integrate their units. Only five of 45,000 Naval officers were African-American at the time. Representatives of both branches defend their segregation policies, only one of 8,200 Marine officers was African-American at that time.

13 In September 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson approves the Army’s integration plan. However, it is a controversial because it proposed to maintain segregated units and a 10% enlistment quota for African-Americans. Desegregation of the Armed Forces

14 1950 and beyond… In April 1950, the Army abolishes its 10% recruitment quota for African-Americans. DoD announces that all basic training in the U.S. has been integrated as of March, 1951. In October 1953, the Army states that 95% of Black soldiers are serving in integrated units.

15 African American soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 9th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division on parade at Fort Lewis, Wash. before leaving for Korea, 1950. (Courtesy Fort Lewis Military Museum)

16 Korean War and the Army Integration in the Army in Korea began because commanders on the ground needed integration to continue the war. Commanders inserted Black soldiers into undermanned “white” units due to the unpredictability of the draft. This led to integration “of necessity”

17 Two Studies on Integrated Units An Army personnel research team, which left for Korea in April 1951, studied the Army's regulations for assigning men under combat conditions and study the performance of integrated units. The Operations Research Office studied how best to use Black manpower in the Army…”Project Clear” was the name of this effort.

18 Korean War and the Marine Corps The demands of war superseded policy in the Marine Corps as well as the Army— In other words, pressures of battle made integration of African-American marines with White Americans a necessity


20 Two Studies on Integrated Units Project CLEAR group concluded that segregation interfered with Army's effectiveness and integration increased it. Ironically this conclusion practically duplicated the verdict of the Army's surveys of the integration of black and white units in Europe at the end of World War II.

21 Korean War and the Marine Corps The shift to integration in Korea proved uneventful. In the words of the 7th Marines commander: “Never once did any color problem bother us.... It just wasn't any problem. ‘”

22 As a result of A Marine Corps study, “The Commandant of the Marine Corps announced a general policy of racial integration on December 13, 1951 thus abolishing the system first introduced in 1942 of designating certain units in the regular forces and organized reserves as Black” Korean War and the Marine Corps

23 The Air Force and Navy The Navy and the Air Force more readily accepted the fact that integration implied greater military efficiency. Despite their very dissimilar postwar racial practices, both branches were facing the same problem.

24 The Air Force and Navy In a period of reduced manpower and increased demand for trained men, the realization that racial distinctions were imposing unacceptable burdens and reducing fighting efficiency. Their response to the Fahy Committee was merely to expedite or revise integration policies already decided upon.

25 The Air Force in the 1950s Post war budgetary problems complicated integration however, leadership endorsed integration and ultimately it led to notable successes. Trust among African Americans had highs and lows during the efforts to reduce segregation. The number of Black Airmen rose from 5.1 % to 10.4% for enlisted and for officers.6% percent to 1.1% between 1949-1956.

26 The Navy in the 1950s In the 1940s, it was true that African American and White Americans in the Navy worked side by side But this does not quite state the whole picture – Total number of African American sailors was only 17,000—4.5% of total strength

27 Propelled by the civil rights movement of the 1960s and to counteract a national policy of segregation and inequality, the Department of Defense mandated race relations training in 1971. The violent and nonviolent disorders of the late 1960s were the catalyst that convinced military leaders that race relations education must be provided to every member of the Armed Forces. Desegregation of the Armed Forces

28 A task force examined the causes and possible cures of racial disorders within the military. The task force, chaired by then Air Force Colonel Lucius Theus, resulted in the publication of Department of Defense Directive 1322.11. Desegregation of the Armed Forces

29 This directive established the Race Relations Education Board, and on June 24,1971, created the Defense Race Relations Institute (DRRI), the original name for DEOMI. Desegregation of the Armed Forces

30 The 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond… The Armed Services continued to grapple with Civil Rights but progress has continued. Today, there is controversy and discussion about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as well as with females serving on submarines. Even so, the armed forces have come a long way over the past 64 years.

31 Prepared by Judith L. Johnson, Ph.D. on behalf of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute Patrick Air Force Base, Florida July 2010 All photographs are public domain and are from various sources as cited. Opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and should not be construed to represent the official position of DEOMI, the U.S. Military services, or the Department of Defense.

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