Originally published 08/09/2013
Last month Americans marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s signing Executive Order 9981 to desegregate America’s armed forces. African Americans had fought in every American war, including the Revolutionary War, but had done so in segregated units, often relegated to menial labor tasks. By the time President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, eliminating segregation and racial discrimination in the armed forces had become the single most important national issue to African American voters. Their cause was national in both scope and purpose.
Originally published 03/25/2013
Gregory B. Craig, a Washington lawyer, was White House counsel from January 2009 to January 2010.On Aug. 6, 1965, I was working in Coahoma County, Miss., trying to register new voters at the courthouse in Clarksdale. For many weeks, I and other civil rights workers in our project had been knocking on doors, persuading African Americans to go down to the courthouse, stand in line, risk retaliation, take a detailed written test and, inevitably, be rejected as unqualified. We would then ask each rejected applicant to sign an affidavit. We collected those affidavits and sent them in bundles to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. The purpose of this effort was to show that African Americans in the South wanted to vote and that this particular person had been prevented from registering for no reason other than his or her race. That summer, we persuaded 500 African American citizens in Coahoma County to try to register to vote. Four or five passed the test. The rest signed affidavits. We prayed that federal officials would read the affidavits and do something about the situation....