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Truman And Civil Rights

March 2023
1min read

Leuchtenburg’s thesis diminishes the import of Truman’s intense hostility to civil rights by omitting mention of what Truman did as President to destroy the movement of the 1940s.

In 1947 Truman’s adviser Clark Clifford helped draft Executive Order 9835 to purge Communists from the civil service. Not only did the hearings of the suspected subversives violate American notions of ex post facto law and civil liberties, but one way of determining if accused workers were subversive was to ascertain if they had friends of another race. In addition, Truman’s Attorney General’s list of subversive organizations included many that had been engaged in the civil rights movement—the Southern Conference of Human Welfare, the National Negro Congress, and the Civil Rights Congress (successor to the International Labor Defense, which had saved the Scottsboro Boys in the 1930s). The hostility of Truman and his administration did much to cripple and destroy the organizations most active in integration activities in the South. Indeed, if the NAACP had not fired W. E. B. Du Bois in the fall of 1948, one wonders if that organization would not have also been placed on the Attorney General’s list. And it was under Truman that the aged civil rights fighter W. E. B. Du Bois was arrested as a foreign agent.

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