lynching seriously. In 1952, for the first time since record keeping began seventy years earlier, no lynchings took place in the United States. In another indication that race relations were in flux, the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 challenged the long-standing exclusion of black players from major league baseball by adding Jackie Robinson to their team. Robinson, who possessed both remarkable athletic ability and a passion for 9 6 8 Ch. 23 The United States and the Cold War, 1945–1953 T H E T R U M A N P R E S I D E N C Y Racial segregation and exclusion were not confined to the South in the post–World War II period. Here, in 1947, picketers stand outside a Seattle grocery store that refused to serve non-whites. A campaign by black activists supported by a coalition of unions, church groups, Jewish organizations, and communists forced most of the city’s stores and restaurants to treat customers on an equal basis.
equality, had been tried and acquitted for insubor- dination in 1944 when he refused to move to the back of a bus at Fort Hood, Texas, while serving in the army. But he promised Dodger owner Branch Rickey that he would not retaliate when subjected to racist taunts by opposing fans and players. His dignity in the face of constant verbal abuse won Robinson nationwide respect, and his baseball prowess earned him the Rookie of the Year award. His success opened the door to the integration of baseball and led to the demise of the Negro Leagues, to which black players had previously been confined. T O S E C U R E T H E S E R I G H T S In October 1947, a Commission on Civil Rights appointed by the president issued To Secure These Rights , one of the most devastating indictments ever published of racial inequality in America. It called on the federal govern- ment to assume the responsibility for abolishing segregation and ensuring equal treatment in housing, employment, education, and the criminal jus- tice system. Truman hailed the report as “an American charter of human freedom.” The impact of America’s race system on the nation’s ability to con- duct the Cold War was not far from his mind. Truman noted that if the United States were to offer the “peoples of the world” a “choice of freedom or enslavement,” it must “correct the remaining imperfections in our practice of democracy.” In February 1948, Truman presented an ambitious civil rights program to Congress, calling for a permanent federal civil rights commission, national laws against lynching and the poll tax, and action to ensure equal access to jobs and education. Congress, as Truman anticipated, approved none of his proposals. But in July 1948, just as the presidential campaign was getting under way, Truman issued an executive order deseg- regating the armed forces. The armed services became the first large institution in American life to promote racial integration actively and to attempt to root out long-standing racist practices. The Korean War would be the first American conflict fought by an integrated army since the War of Independence.
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