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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.

Oh, wait.

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.

9 comments to President Truman Put Racial Segregation up for Popular Vote by Soldiers

  • Are the president & progressives going to just let the conservatives keep pitching the DADT policy necessity to everyone then make whoever backs the conservatives the authority so they can have an excuse to maintain the status quo?
    So far I’ve heard the policy can be set by any 1 of the following:
    The generals’ recommendation (which will magically make all politicians fall in line if there needs to be a statute)
    The soldiers (by majority or unanimous consent)
    The president (who will never stand on his own)
    Congress
    The courts
    Voters

    I think only 1 or 2 of those could be true.

  • Well, Hendrix, the Irregular Times progressives certainly aren’t going to allow the right wing argument that discrimination is militarily necessary to sit without response.

  • Not related, but just so y’all know, the Green Party candidate for governor is going to be participating in a debate broadcast nationally on CNN tonight at 7 PM.

    • Jim

      Ross,

      Thanks. I just missed it. Hopefully WGBH (whose studios hosted the debate) will post archive video for us all to be able to watch… they haven’t yet. If anyone finds a link to the debate video (Massachusetts, where Jill Stein is running for Governor), please post it!

      • It turns out, it was broadcast on cnn.com, not actually on CNN. They broadcast about 8 seconds of it (literally) on CNN. But it was broadcast around the state.

        I wasn’t very impressed with Stein’s campaign until she raised $25,000 last week…so now I think she needs something like $20,000 to get to $100,000 raised, which guarantees her a spot in the debates, and she needs $125,000 for matching funds.

  • Robrob

    Iraq and Afghanistan aren’t exactly singles bars. When you are working 84 hours a week, no one cares about anything other than do you do your job and if you take more than your fair share of the ice cream at dinner. No one cares whom you daydream about on your free time.

  • Tom

    Right Rob – it’s really a non-issue that the President should make happen by executive order (if he’d just grow a pair) because gays are already in the military!

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