Thursday, February 2, 2023

Quote of the Day (Harry Truman, With a Historic Call for Civil-Rights Protections)

“We shall not…finally achieve the ideals for which this Nation was rounded so long as any American suffers discrimination as a result of his race, or religion, or color, or the land of origin of his forefathers.

“Unfortunately, there still are examples—flagrant examples—of discrimination which are utterly contrary to our ideals. Not all groups of our population are free from the fear of violence. Not all groups are free to live and work where they please or to improve their conditions of life by their own efforts. Not all groups enjoy the full privileges of citizenship and participation in the government under which they live.

“We cannot be satisfied until all our people have equal opportunities for jobs, for homes, for education, for health, and for political expression, and until all our people have equal protection under the law.”—Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States (1884-1972), “Special Message to the Congress on Civil Rights,” Feb. 2, 1948

Seventy-five years ago today, Harry Truman called on Congress to pass 10 civil-rights measures. Only one was passed during his Presidency: the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act, a flawed piece of legislation that did not come close to fulfilling its aim of redressing the wrongs suffered by Japanese Americans forced to evacuate their homes because of wartime hysteria.

But a few months later, Truman overrode stiff opposition within his own administration to issue an executive order integrating America’s armed forces, and he lived to see Lyndon Johnson push through legislation guaranteeing the rights long denied African-Americans.

Nevertheless, we forget, at our peril, how strenuously some in this country tried to perpetuate denial of “the full privileges of citizenship and participation in the government.” So long as that history is neglected, the fierce struggle it took to win those rights will have to be fought anew.

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