DOC A – Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace, June 22, 1911, www.trumanlibary.org
• DOC B – Taylor (book), pages 45-46, Roy Wilkins speaking of Judge Harry Truman, 1931
• DOC C – Taylor (book), page 48, Brotherhood of Man speech, June 15, 1940
• DOC D – Address Before the NAACP, June 29, 1947, http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=2115&st=130&st1=
• DOC E – Taylor (book), pages 128-29, letters between Truman & Ernie Roberts (1948)
• DOC F – Special Message to Congress on Civil Rights, February 2, 1948, http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=1380&st=&st1=
• DOC G – Executive Order 9981, July 26, 1948, https://www.trumanlibrary.org/9981a.htm
• DOC H – Taylor (book), pages 127-28, outtakes from Decision: the Conflicts of Harry S. Truman,
DOC A: Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace, June 22, 1911
From Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, Truman Papers, Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace, June 22,
1911. Grandview, Mo. June 22, 1911
From all appearances I am not such a very pious person am I? The elements evidently mistook one of my wishes for dry instead of wet. I guess we'll all have to go to drinking whiskey if it doesn't rain very soon. Water and potatoes will soon be as much of a luxury as pineapples and diamonds.
Speaking of diamonds, would you wear a solitaire on your left hand should I get it? Now that is a rather personal or pointed question provided you take it for all it means. You know, were I an Italian or a poet I would commence and use all the luscious language of two continents. I am not either but only a kind of good-for-nothing American farmer. I always had a sneaking notion that some day maybe I'd amount to something. I doubt it now though like everything. It is a family failing of ours to be poor financiers. I am blest that way. Still that doesn't keep me from having always thought that you were all that a girl could be possibly and impossibly. You may not have guessed it
but I've been crazy about you ever since we went to Sunday school together. But I never had the nerve to think you'd even look at me. I don't think so now but I can't keep from telling you what I think of you.
Perhaps you can guess what my other eight wishes are now. If they had no more effect than the one for rain, I am badly off indeed. You said you were tired of these kind of stories in books so I am trying one from real life on you. I guess it sounds funny to you, but you must bear in mind that this is my first experience in this line and also it is very real to me. Therefore I can't make it look or sound so well as Rex Beach or Harold Mac might.
I am going to send you the book number of Life. There is a page of books in it that look good. Don't get Ashes of God, for I am going to get it and I'll let you have it. Every review I have read on it says it is fine. I have thrown my sticks away and use only a cane now. I told Ethel I am going to get me a gold-headed one and an eyeglass, if some one of my friends lent me the coin, and pretend that I had been to Georgie V's crowning. Don't you abhor snobs? Think of such men as Morgan paying to be allowed to dance with royalty. You know there isn't a royal family in Europe that wouldn't disgrace any good citizen to belong to. I think one man is just as good as another so long as he's honest and decent and not a nigger or a Chinaman. Uncle Wills says that the Lord made a white man from dust, a nigger from mud, and then threw 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 Arica, yellow men in Asia, and white men in Europe and America.
I guess if Frank won't be satisfied with Kansas City, Memphis is as good as any of them. It is at least in a good old Southern state. Then it only takes one night to get back home. That is better than Mexico or California. I hope he has all kinds of success.
Everybody's came at last and there was plenty of action, wasn't there? I am dying to know if he got her. Say, Bessie, you'll at least let me keep on being good friends won't you? I know I am not good enough to be anything more but you don't know how I'd like to be. Maybe you think I won't wait your answer to this in suspense.
Still if you turn me down, I'll not be thoroughly disappointed for it's no more than I expect.
I have just heard that the Masonic Lodge I was telling you of is a success. There won't be two in our town. The one I
belong to is in Belton six miles away. This one is in Grandview, only one mile. Please write as soon as you feel that way. The sooner, the better pleased I am. More than sincerely, Harry
Jackson County Court, 1931
From Freedom to Serve: Truman, Civil Rights, and Executive Order 9981 by Jon E. Taylor, pages 45 – 46
I had known him when he was a judge back in Kansas City, and one of the things he had done back then was to save a home for Negro boys that the white folks thought was too good for colored children … It was true that he had been a creature of Tom Pendergast’s Democratic machine in Kansas City … but I also knew that Truman’s own views on race were border state, not Deep Dixie: he didn’t believe in social equality, but he did believe in fair play. No one had ever convinced him that the Bill of Rights was a document for white folks only.
*NOTE – The Kansas City Call was a newspaper publication begun in 1919 for the African American community. It reported on topics specifically of interest to African American people. By 1950, The Call had become one of the six largest black weekly papers in the country and one of the largest black enterprises in the Midwest. Roy Wilkins, journalist for The Call, later became a national NAACP leader.
DOC C: Excerpts from “Brotherhood of Man” Senate campaign speech, Senator Harry Truman, Sedalia, MO, June 15, 1940
From Freedom to Serve: Truman, Civil Rights, and Executive Order 9981 by Jon E. Taylor, page 48
I believe in the brotherhood of man; not merely the brotherhood of white men, but the brotherhood of all men before law. I believe in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In giving to the Negroes the rights that are theirs, we are only acting in accord with our ideals of a true democracy. If any class or race can be permanently set apart from, or pushed down below, the rest in political and civil rights, so may any other class or race when it shall incur the displeasure of its more powerful associates, and we may say farewell to the principles on which we count our safety.
During the World War the need of men for an Army and for war industries brought more and more of the Negroes from rural areas to the cities. In the years past, lynching and mob violence, lack of schools, and countless other equally unfair conditions, hastened the progress of the Negro from the country to the city. In these centers the Negroes have never had much choice in regard to work or anything else. By and large, they work mainly as unskilled laborers and domestic servants. They have been forced to live in segregated slums, neglected by the authorities. Negroes have been preyed upon by all types of exploiters, from the installment salesman of clothing, pianos, and furniture to the vendors of vice. The majority of our Negro people find but cold comfort in shanties and tenements. Surely, as freemen, they are entitled to something better than this.
From Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, the Public Papers of the Presidents, Harry S. Truman, 1945-âï¿½ï¿½1953, http://www.trumanlibrary.org/publicpapers/index.php?pid=2115&st=130&st1=
June 29, 1947
Mr. Chairman, Mrs. Roosevelt, Senator Morse, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
I am happy to be present at the closing session of the 38th Annual Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The occasion of meeting with you here at the Lincoln Memorial affords me the opportunity to congratulate the association upon its effective work for the improvement of our democratic processes.
I should like to talk to you briefly about civil rights and human freedom. It is my deep conviction that we have reached a turning point in the long history of our country's efforts to guarantee freedom and equality to all our citizens. Recent events in the United States and abroad have made us realize that it is more important today than ever before to insure that all Americans enjoy these rights.
When I say all Americans I mean all Americans.
The civil rights laws written in the early years of our Republic, and the traditions which have been built upon them, are precious to us. Those laws were drawn up with the memory still fresh in men's minds of the tyranny of an absentee government. They were written to protect the citizen against any possible tyrannical act by the new government in this country.
But we cannot be content with a civil liberties program which emphasizes only the need of protection against the possibility of tyranny by the Government. We cannot stop there.
We must keep moving forward, with new concepts of civil rights to safeguard our heritage. The extension of civil rights today means, not protection of the people against the Government, but protection of the people by the Government.
We must make the Federal Government a friendly, vigilant defender of the rights and equalities of all
Americans. And again I mean all Americans. . . .
Our immediate task is to remove the last remnants of the barriers which stand between millions of our citizens and their birthright. There is no justifiable reason for discrimination because of ancestry, or religion, or race, or color.
We must not tolerate such limitations on the freedom of any of our people and on their enjoyment of basic rights which every citizen in a truly democratic society must possess.
Every man should have the right to a decent home, the right to an education, the right to adequate medical care, the right to a worthwhile job, the right to an equal share in making the public decisions through the ballot, and the fight to a fair trial in a fair court.
We must insure that these rights-âï¿½ï¿½-âï¿½ï¿½on equal terms-âï¿½ï¿½-âï¿½ï¿½are enjoyed by every citizen. To these principles I pledge my full and continued support….
NOTE: The President spoke at the Lincoln Memorial at 4:30 p.m. In his opening words he referred to Walter F. White, Executive Secretary
of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who served as chairman of the conference, and to Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Senator Wayne Morse who also spoke. The address was carried on a nationwide radio broadcast.
and President Harry Truman during the 1948 election campaign.
From Freedom to Serve: Truman, Civil Rights, and Executive Order 9981 by Jon E. Taylor, pages 128 – 129
Ernie Roberts’ letter to President Truman (1948):
You can win the South without the “Equal Rights Bill” but you cannot win the South with it. Just why? Well you, Bess and Margaret, and shall I say, myself, are all Southerners and we have been raised with the Negroes and know the term “Equal Rights.” Harry, let us let the South take care of the Niggers, which they have done, and if the Niggers do not like the Southern treatment, let them come to Mrs. Roosevelt.
Harry, you are a Southerner and a D -âï¿½ï¿½ -âï¿½ï¿½ -âï¿½ï¿½ good one so listen to me. I can see, you do not talk domestic problems over with Bess? You put equal rights in Independence and Bess will not live with you, will you Bess?
President Truman’s response to Ernie Roberts (1948):
I am going to send you a copy of the report of my Commission on Civil Rights and then if you still have that antebellum proslavery outlook, I’ll be thoroughly disappointed in you.
The main difficulty with the South is that they are living eighty years behind the times and the sooner they come out of it the better it will be for the country and themselves. I am not asking for equality of opportunity for all human beings and, as long as I stay here, I am going to continue that fight. When the mob gangs can
take four people out and shoot them in the back, and everybody in the country is acquainted with who did the shooting and nothing is done about it, that country is in [a] pretty bad fix from a law enforcement standpoint.
When a Mayor and a City Marshal can take a Negro Sergeant off a bus in South Carolina, beat him up and put one of the eyes, and nothing is done about it by the state authorities, something is radically wrong with the system.
. . . I can’t approve of such goings on and I shall never approve it, as long as I am here, as I told you before. I am going to try to remedy it and if that ends up in my failure to be reelected, that failure to be reelected, that failure will be in a good cause.
February 2, 1948
To the Congress of the United States:
In the State of the Union Message on January 7, 1948, I spoke of five great goals toward which we should strive in our constant effort to strengthen our democracy and improve the welfare of our people. The first of these is to secure fully our essential human rights. I am now presenting to the Congress my recommendations for legislation to carry us forward toward that goal. . . .
. . .[T]here still are examples-âï¿½ï¿½-âï¿½ï¿½flagrant examples-âï¿½ï¿½-âï¿½ï¿½of discrimination which are utterly contrary to our ideals. Not all groups of our population are free from the fear of violence. Not all groups are free to live and work where they please or to improve their conditions of life by their own efforts. Not all groups enjoy the full privileges of citizenship and participation in the government under which they live.
We cannot be satisfied until all our people have equal opportunities for jobs, for homes, for education, for health, and for political expression, and until all our people have equal protection under the law.
One year ago I appointed a committee of fifteen distinguished Americans and asked them to appraise the condition of our civil rights and to recommend appropriate action by Federal, state and local governments.
The committee's appraisal has resulted in a frank and revealing report. This report emphasizes that our basic human freedoms are better cared for and more vigilantly defended than ever before. But it also makes clear that there is a serious gap between our ideals and some of our practices. This gap must be closed.
This will take the strong efforts of each of us individually, and all of us acting together through voluntary organizations and our governments.
The protection of civil rights begins with the mutual respect for the rights of others which all of us should practice in our daily lives. Through organizations in every community-âï¿½ï¿½-âï¿½ï¿½in all parts of the country-âï¿½ï¿½-âï¿½ï¿½we must continue to develop practical, workable arrangements for achieving greater tolerance and brotherhood.
The protection of civil rights is the duty of every government which derives its powers from the consent of
the people. This is equally true of local, state, and national governments. There is much that the states can and should do at this time to extend their protection of civil rights. Wherever the law enforcement measures of state and local governments are inadequate to discharge this primary function of government, these
measures should be strengthened and improved.
The Federal Government has a clear duty to see that Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the laws are not denied or abridged anywhere in our Union. That duty is shared by all three branches of the Government, but it can be fulfilled only if the Congress enacts modern, comprehensive civil rights laws, adequate to the needs of the day, and demonstrating our continuing faith in the free way of life.
I recommend, therefore, that the Congress enact legislation at this session directed toward the following specific objectives:
1. Establishing a permanent Commission on Civil Rights, a Joint Congressional Committee on Civil Rights, and a Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice.
2. Strengthening existing civil rights statutes.
3. Providing Federal protection against lynching.
4. Protecting more adequately the right to vote.
5. Establishing a Fair Employment Practice Commission to prevent unfair discrimination in employment.
6. Prohibiting discrimination in interstate transportation facilities.
7. Providing home-âï¿½ï¿½rule and suffrage in Presidential elections for the residents of the District of Columbia.
8. Providing Statehood for Hawaii and Alaska and a greater measure of self-âï¿½ï¿½government for our island possessions.
9. Equalizing the opportunities for residents of the United States to become naturalized citizens.
10. Settling the evacuation claims of Japanese-âï¿½ï¿½Americans. . . .
The legislation I have recommended for enactment by the Congress at the present session is a minimum program if the Federal Government is to fulfill its obligation of insuring the Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and of equal protection under the law.
Under the authority of existing law, the Executive branch is taking every possible action to improve the enforcement of the civil rights statutes and to eliminate discrimination in Federal employment, in providing Federal services and facilities, and in the armed forces. . . .
It is the settled policy of the United States Government that there shall be no discrimination in Federal employment or in providing Federal services and facilities. Steady progress has been made toward this objective in recent years. I shall shortly issue an Executive Order containing a comprehensive restatement of the Federal non-âï¿½ï¿½discrimination policy, together with appropriate measures to ensure compliance.
During the recent war and in the years since its dose we have made much progress toward equality of opportunity in our armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. I have instructed the Secretary of Defense to take steps to have the remaining instances of discrimination in the armed services eliminated as rapidly as possible. The personnel policies and practices of all the services in this regard will be made consistent. . . .
We have played a leading role in this undertaking designed to create a world order of law and justice fully protective of the rights and the dignity of the individual.
To be effective in those efforts, we must protect our civil rights so that by providing all our people with the maximum enjoyment of personal freedom and personal opportunity we shall be a stronger nation-âï¿½ï¿½-âï¿½ï¿½stronger in our leadership, stronger in our moral position, stronger in the deeper satisfactions of a united citizenry. . . .
We know the way. We need only the will. HARRY S. TRUMAN
NOTE: The President's Committee on Civil Rights was established on December 5, 1946, by Executive Order 9808 (3 CFR, 1943-âï¿½ï¿½1948
Comp., p. 590). The Committee's report, entitled "To Secure These Rights," was made public October 29, 1947 (Government Printing
Office, 178 pp. )
On July 2, 1948, the President signed a bill in. response to his request for legislation dealing with evacuation claims of Japanese-âï¿½ï¿½ Americans (62 Stat. 1231). On July 26 he issued Executive Order 9980 relating to fair employment practices in the Federal service, and Executive Order 9981 establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services (3 CFR,
1943-âï¿½ï¿½1948 Comp., pp. 720, 722).
DOC G: Executive Order 9981, July 26, 1948
From Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, Executive Orders, Harry S. Truman, 1945-âï¿½ï¿½1953, https://www.trumanlibrary.org/9981a.htm
ESTABLISHING THE PRESIDENT'S COMMITTEE ON EQUALITY OF TREATMENT AND OPPORTUNITY IN THE ARMED SERVICES
WHEREAS it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense:
NOW, THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States, and as Commander in Chief of the armed services, it is hereby ordered s follows:
1. 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. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.
2. There shall be created in the national Military Establishment an advisory committee to be known as the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, which shall be composed of seven members to be designated by the President.
3. The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the armed services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order. The Committee shall confer and advise with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force, and shall make such recommendations to the President and to said Secretaries as in the judgment of the Committee will effectuate the policy hereof.
4. All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee in its work, and to furnish the Committee such information or the services of such persons as the Committee may require in the performance of its duties.
5. When requested by the Committee to do so, persons in the armed services or in any of the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall testify before the committee and shall make available for the use of the Committee such documents and other information as the Committee may require.
6. The Committee shall continue to exist until such time as the President shall terminate its existence by
HARRY S. TRUMAN THE WHITE HOUSE, July 26, 1948.
DOC H: Excerpt from outtakes of the television series Decision: the Conflicts of Harry S. Truman (1963)
From Freedom to Serve: Truman, Civil Rights, and Executive Order 9981 by Jon E. Taylor, pages 127 – 128
A foreigner, when he comes to this country, is usually always puzzled to find that there is to some extent bigotry in regard to the treatment of the Negro. Usually, the matter is explained to him on this basis, which I expect to do now and I hope it’ll explain a great many things to people. He’ll understand the situation. The South in the War Between the States . . . eleven of those states left the Union, and about three and a half million Negroes were freed and turned loose. And Abraham Lincoln was assassinated before he had a chance to implement the situation that he had in mind. And the freed Negroes felt that due to their emancipation and the amendments to the Constitution that were passed in 1868 [they] had the same rights as the white people.
Well, the Southerners, having been raised in the slave time, just couldn’t see it. And if the men from the North would have patience and stay out of the situation down South—they’re always sticking their noses in someplace where they’re not wanted and stirrin’ up trouble. The Southerners are not bigots. They understand the situation. They know that eventually the situation will have to develop so there is equality among the races, and when that equality comes you’ll find those Southern Negroes who came up here to New York— there’s a million of ‘em here—and who went to Chicago—there’s a million and a half of ‘em in Chicago—are now wishing they were back home, for the simple reason that they found that they don’t get any better treatment from these so-âï¿½ï¿½called Northern friends of theirs, not half as good treatment as they get down South because a Southerner understands ‘em, and if they’ll approach this thing in a level-âï¿½ï¿½headed, easy manner, in
the long run the whole thing will work out as it should.
The Southerners believe in the equality of opportunity. They believe in equality of the political approach to the Government of the United States, and they understand that the constitution provides for just that, and that the civil rights law which had been passed to implement that—and I got that law through the Congress after about four years fight—and it has now been, to some extent but not entirely, implemented. There is another civil rights law now in contemplation, and eventually the whole situation will be worked out. But it takes patience and understanding, and the people in New York, Chicago, and Boston, particularly, can’t understand the attitude of the Southerners in this matter. If they’d stayed home and tended their own
business and the niggers who’d been invited to go up there and have find [sic] out that they’re not half as well treated as they are down South. And after a while, there won’t be any difficulty with it because I know—I come from a state, as I told you, a Southern state.