Military

The Military and Jim Crow

When was racial segregation in the U.S. military outlawed?

President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, signaling an end to legal segregation in the U.S. military. The order read, “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.” Increasingly the demand for desegregation of the military became a key political issue in black America. Although blacks had served in the military, they did so in racially segregated units. When the Korean War (1950–1953) was fought, it was a “battlefield test of integration in the making.” The integration of blacks in military units in Korea rose from 9 percent to 30 percent between May and August 1951. By then there was also an overall gain of blacks in the army. For the first time in America’s history, the military officially accepted blacks as an integral part of its service units.



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