How Harry S. Truman went from being a racist to desegregating the military
Retro pod is sponsored by Tito's handmade vodka drink responsibly. Hey history lovers. I'm Mike Rosen walled with retro pod a show about the past rediscovered in an age of fierce polarization in politics takes. It seems particularly impossible to change anyone's minds but history has shown that in politics sometimes mines do change take President Harry Truman for example his transformation transformation from segregationists to civil rights advocate was nothing short of astonishing Truman was born nearly twenty years after the end of the civil war he was a farm boy raised in a segregated town in Missouri. which was once pro slavery? His grandparents had been slave owners. His mother hated President Abraham Lincoln proven himself had horribly racist views in his letters he would often refer to people of Color <unk> by derogatory slurs so when he became president in one thousand nine hundred forty five after Franklin Roosevelt's death southern members of Congress were delighted. They thought he'd be sympathetic to segregationists. They were wrong. The pivotal moment came in the summer of nineteen forty six when a black military officer named are right wrote a letter to Truitt right informed the president of an attack act on black world war veteran named Isaac Wooder woodard had been pulled off a bus in South Carolina months earlier and was beaten and blinded by the police chief. That letter struck a nerve with Truman. He had a soft spot for soldiers. Kerry Frederickson the author of the Dixie Crat revolt in the end of the solid south wrote that from that point on Truman changed course in September of that year Truman met with the National Emergency Committee against mob violence composed of civil rights labor and religious leaders during the meeting N. Double A._C._p.. Executive Secretary Walter White who had gone undercover in the south to investigate lynchings read a list of lynchings had occurred across the country. Truman was astonished. He exclaimed everyone nearby. My God I had no idea it was as terrible as that. We've got to do something three months later. On December Fifth Nineteen Forty six Truman issued an executive order. He called freedom from fear which created the president's Committee on Civil Rights. The committee was tasked with analyzing the state of civil rights in the country investigating mob violence in proposing legislation to protect civil rights then the next summer. Truman became the first U._S. president to address the end of A._C._p.. He knew his family wouldn't approve. He wrote to his sister quote. Mama won't like what I say because I wind up up quoting old Abe but I believe what I say and I'm hopeful we may implement it. A crowd of more than three thousand people gathered along the reflecting pool as he spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Here's here's what he said. The recent events in the United States and abroad have made us realize that it is more important today than ever before to ensure that all Americans. And Joy these rights I say all Americans I mean Oh America that's right all Americans in one thousand nine hundred forty eight Truman signed executive order nine nine eight one he declared quote there shelby equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the Armed Services Without <unk> out regard to race color religion or national origin that same day he also signed an executive order to desegregate the federal workforce. How could a president who was raised with such racist beliefs they go on to become according to the Harry Truman Library and museum the first American President to declare the equality of blacks well at the time the political climate was changing Truman was on? On the receiving end of pressure from black voters and civil rights activists urging the president to address the rise in violence against Black Truman was a Democrat and black voters had largely voted Republican until his predecessor Franklin Delano Roosevelt but there was also a more personal reason Truman never graduated from college and he was an advocate for the underdog Kirk Graham the director of the Truman Library Museum said quote he knew what it was like to come from nowhere of course while Truman was able to change his own mind about race relations in the United States he wasn't able to change everyone's minds including his mother when she visited him at the White House. She told him she'd rather sleep on the floor then sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom. I'm Mike Rosenthal. Thanks for listening special. Thanks to Deneen Brown for reporting this.