On this Day in 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed executive order 9981, which desegregated the U.S. military
An event every year that begins at 12:00 am on day 26 of July, repeating indefinitely
General Colin Powell, speaking on the 50th anniversary of the executive order, remarked on the measure: “The military was the only institution in all of America—because of Harry Truman—where a young Black kid, now 21 years old, could dream the dream he dared not think about at age 11. It was the one place where the only thing that counted was courage, where the color of your guts and the color of your blood was more important than the color of your skin.”
Did you know? President Truman was an unlikely candidate to improve race relations. Despite being raised by Confederate-sympathizers (Truman’s own mother refused to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom), many of his policies defied the racist beliefs of his upbringing.
Truman was particularly disturbed by the racially charged beating and blinding of Isaac Woodard, a black WWII veteran who was brutally assaulted on his way home from being discharged. The incident helped motivate Truman to seek better, fairer treatment for minorities in the military.
Members of the 332nd Fighter Group attending a briefing in Ramitelli, Italy, Toni Frissell, March 1945