Deconstructing Harry: Harry Truman and the Cold War

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the University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast|
Deconstructing Harry|
Harry S. Truman and Civil Rights during the Cold War|
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Exploring the Impact of Cold War Politics on Executive Order 9981 When President Truman and his adminstartion desegregated the military by Executive Order 9981 in 1948, he was seizing the unique opportunity presented by the changing nature of race and its influence on politics at the close of WWII to elevate the nation above the crippling racism that had permeated its history since Liconln’s failed reconstruction. The authors of Foxholes and Color Lines: also noted that “a new, more liberal perspective on racial issues gained enough strength within the white general public to become an important element in national culture and political debate during the war years.” The changing attitudes about race in Armed Services after their exposure to European culture after WWII, the changing role of race in foreign policy and the increasingly powerful influence of race on international affairs during the Truman Adminstation compelled Truman to follow the advice of his The report entitled, “To Secure These Rights” was issued on 29 October 1947 and detailed the deplorable status of race relations in America at the time. It admitted the failure of ‘separate but equal” tolerated Northern states stood out in prominence and federal intervention was judged the only solution. They recommended federal measures to protect the civil rights of African-Americans in the Post WWII society. Federal intervention in the form of would protect African-Americans from continued disenfranchisement in the Jim Crow south and curtail the renewed lynching activities of the KKK. Truman is also credited with also credited with in iating the legacy of Plessy V Fergusson in public education and federal employment. President Truman’s legislative actions in desegregating the military and federal service set the precedent of active federal protection of civil rights and replacing the memory of the failed Reconstruction Era and is credited with intervention action on the reports legislation n active and mandatory federal When President Truman federally mandated the integration of the Armed Services in 1948 he many characterized it as the ‘Second Reconstruction’ for this country, but with a reluctant Congress and his blunt, Midwestern persona, the ‘Accidental President’ merely delayed the inevitable zenith of racial tension that erupted in the 1960s. This paper will explore the origins of President Truman’s strong policies on civil rights from the initial report of the Gillem Board in 1945, to his revulsion of the racial violence aimed at returning WWII African-American Service members and the eventual decision to desegregate the Armed Services in 1948. President Truman’s legislative actions ignited a firestorm of social and political backlash led by Southern Democrats. And although he did win his reelection, the stagnate nature of civil rights legislation after Truman left office attests to the fact the he had set a benchmark of laissez-faire commitment concerning civil rights that gave his predecessors political motivation to continue the legacy of Plessy v Ferguson ruling; a ruling in which Congress had made state sponsored racism the law de jour of the land. The moral roots of the man who would come to represent the quintessential ‘Midwestern Democrat’ were planted in Jackson County Missouri. Born on May 8, 1884 in Lamar, Missouri, he enjoyed the ‘happiest childhood imaginable’ with brother, John Vivian, simply called Vivian, and sister, Mary Jane. The first of three children resulting from the union of John and Martha Ellen Truman, the President was quoted as saying about his father, “…his code was honesty and integrity. His word was good…he raised me and my brother to put honor above profit.” And of his mother he says, she “taught us the moral code”, a lesson that the bespectacled, serious...
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