Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Contacts: Scott Roley, Harry S. Truman Museum & Library, (816) 833-8200
J. Anthony Snorgrass, American Jazz Museum (816) 474-8463
Event: "An Evening with Roger Wilkins"
Date: July 22, 2004
Location: Gem Theater: 18th & Vine

Roger Wilkins to speak at the Gem Theater
on Thursday, July 22, 2004, in honor of the
anniversary of the desegregation of the armed services.

Independence & Kansas City, MO -The American Jazz Museum and Harry S. Truman Presidential Museum and Library will present lawyer, author, philanthropist, journalist and educator Roger Wilkins as the featured speaker honoring the anniversary of President Truman's issuance of Executive Order 9981 which desegregated the armed services on July 26, 1948. The event will take place at the historic Gem Theater at 18th and Vine at 7:00 p.m. on July 22, 2004.

Wilkins, a native of Kansas City, is publisher of The Crisis, the NAACP's monthly journal, and professor of History and American Culture at George Mason University. In 1972 Wilkins won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Watergate during his tenure with The Washington Post. A former assistant attorney general during Lyndon Johnson's administration, Mr. Wilkins holds a law degree from the University of Michigan.

He attended Crispus Attucks elementary school in the 18th & Vine Historic district where his father Earl was business manager of The Kansas City Call newspaper. His uncle Roy, one of the 20th century's most articulate spokesmen for the Civil Rights Movement, served as The Call's managing editor before becoming executive director of the NAACP.

The Kansas City Call Newspaper will be honored as the 2004 recipient of the annual Truman & Civil Rights Community Service Award for preserving and promoting the principles and ideas Harry S. Truman started during his presidency.

President Harry S. Truman's civil rights record was groundbreaking, but represented only the barest steps in a nation that remained completely segregated in the south and largely so in states such as Missouri and Kansas. Nonetheless, there is a growing appreciation of Truman's efforts. He is perhaps best remembered for issuing Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948 declaring "there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin," and established a presidential committee to implement the order. By the end of the Korean War in 1953, 90 percent of military units were integrated, and the results were acclaimed widely as a success.

Tickets to this event at the Gem Theater are $5 each. For tickets, contact the American Jazz Museum at (816)474-8463. For more information visit www.trumanlibrary.org or www.americanjazzmuseum.org.

Additional Background information:

While this Executive Order is undeniably the most well known, President Truman played a pivotal role in the cause for civil rights on several fronts.

  • Establishing the Truman Committee on Civil Rights in 1946. The multiracial Committee's major product was a 1947 report entitled, To Secure These Rights. The report laid the foundation for establishing adequate statutes under the law to foster equal rights for all under the Constitution.
  • Being the first President to address the NAACP on June 29, 1947. Truman detailed his civil rights program and became the first U.S. President to unequivocally commit himself and the Federal government to the civil rights of black Americans.
  • Sending a special civil rights message to Congress on February 2, 1948. Truman told Congress that he was putting his legislative proposals before them to achieve his highest priority--to fully secure the essential rights of our citizens.
  • Winning the Democratic nomination for President, July 15, 1948, after 35 delegates from Alabama and Mississippi had walked out of the convention in protest against his party's strong civil rights plank, and winning the Presidential election contrary to the forecasts of newspaper editors and polltakers. The President spoke in Harlem on October 29, just four days before the election, declaring that "our determination to attain equal rights and equal opportunity must be resolute and unwavering" and we eventually "are going to have an America in which freedom and opportunity are the same for everyone." Truman later referred to this speech as the high point of the campaign.
  • Issuing simultaneous with Executive Order 9981 Executive Order 9980, on Governing Fair Employment Practices within the Federal Establishment. This Order eliminated discriminatory practices throughout the Federal government based on race, color, religion, or national origin.
  • Carrying out his vision of a colorblind judicial system by nominating a black lawyer, William H. Hastie, to the country's all-white federal court system on October 15, 1949. Two months later an unprecedented civil rights initiative was undertaken by Truman's Justice Department when the solicitor general announced that the Federal Housing Administration would refuse to provide financial aid to any project that discriminated against African Americans.
  • By the end of his administration, Truman made four appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court: Chief Justice Fred Vinson and Associate Justices Harold Burton, Tom Clark and Sherman Minton. These four made a series of civil rights decisions in education and housing that would change the lives of blacks forever. They later [without Vinson who died in 1953] joined in the historic unanimous decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, Topeka, declaring racial segregation in the public schools unconstitutional.

The American Jazz Museum is the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to the celebration and experience of jazz as an original American art form.

The Truman Presidential Museum & Library is one of ten Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. It is located at U.S. Highway 24 and Delaware in Independence, Missouri. For more information on the Museum and programs, call (816) 833-1225 or visit www.trumanlibrary.org.

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