President Truman Put Racial Segregation up for Popular Vote by Soldiers
I was reading an interesting piece of history today when I was scanning back through old copies of the Congressional Record. In a 1948 volume I found a speech by President Harry S. Truman to a joint session of Congress:
The Defense authorization bill is coming to the Senate floor tomorrow, and we have a policy change within the bill that basically says we are going to change the law that would get rid of racial segregation in units, a policy that has worked very well. We are going to change the law before we ask our men and women in uniform about their opinion? That is a huge mistake…. We should not repeal racial segregation in the military until we get input from our men and women who are serving.
And so President Truman announced that he would implement a policy in which the question of racial segregation would be put up for a vote by soldiers. Only if a majority of soldiers voted to end white-only and black-only units would desegregation proceed.
My, what an embarrassment. It seems I mixed up some papers after I spilled a bottle of white-out, and I got the quotation horribly confused. Apparently, this was a speech by Senator Lindsey Graham just yesterday, and the bits of the speech referring to racial discrimination were actually about discrimination according to sexual orientation.
Returning to the original microfiche, I see that Harry S. Truman actually ordered the racial desegregation of the U.S. military against the objection of military officials, on the grounds that discrimination is wrong regardless of soldiers’ personal opinions and prejudices. Well, golly. I guess he wasn’t that much of a True Patriot.