Harry Truman’s Civil Rights legislation. It was the fulfillment of a promise Truman made while campaigning for election (re-election) in 1948. It succeeded in alienating the South. So much so, that the Dixiecrat vote openly boycotted the election; in some states eliminating Truman’s name from the ballot, replacing it was Strom Thurmond, who was a solid supporter of Segregation and Jim Crow laws.
But even with Truman’s victory, and his promise of making-good his commitment to improving race relations in this country, it was a straight uphill fight. It was Truman who banned segregation in the Armed Forces and it was Truman who actively campaigned for voting rights, particularly in the South, where Poll Taxes, Jim Crow laws and a vast range of restrictions made the African-American vote in the South practically impossible to achieve.
It was all fodder for discussion, debate and argument. And even though the instances of Segregation and open racism were the most visible in the South, it was widespread; in just about every state and city in the Country. The South could take the blame, but it was a problem just as prevalent in the North and West.
This episode of The Chicago University Roundtable features a discussion, debate is more like it, between Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey and Louisiana Senator Allen J. Ellender. At issue was the introduction of Civil Rights measures, initially introduced by Truman during the 80th Congress, and re-introduced by way of his State of The Union Address, to the 81st Congress.
Listening to this debate, you realize just how deeply entrenched institutionalized discrimination was throughout the U.S. And how, even as recently as 1948, lynching was still being practiced throughout the South. Knowing this was based on actions proposed by President Truman, it wasn’t until five years later that an issue like School Desegregation would be argued before The Supreme Court and it wouldn’t be until years after that desegregation was started, that you start to understand the issue of Civil Rights didn’t happen overnight – it was a long, intense and bloody struggle – and whatever progress was made was hard fought.
In case you forgot, here is a sample of what the state of America’s Civil Rights position was 67 years ago. Here is that discussion between Senator Hubert Humphrey and Senator Allen Ellender from February 6, 1949.