Civil Rights Milestones 1939-1954

Major Wars

World War II

09/01/1939 - 09/02/1945

President Roosevelt orders the armed services to accept more African-Americans and expand job opportunities for them within the military; for the first time, the United States Marine Corps accepts African-Americans. Despite expanded opportunities, African-Americans remain in segregated units. Approximately one million African-Americans serve in the armed forces during World War II.

  • 'Minority Groups in World War II.' U.S. Army Center for Military History. www.history.army.mil. 14 May 2010.
  • McGregor, Jr., Morris J. 'INTEGRATION OF THE ARMED FORCES 1940-1965.' 1985. U.S. Army Center for Military History. www.history.army.mil. 14 May 2010.

  • Smith, Roger. 'Marines in Dress Blues in Line.' Photograph. March 1943. Montford Point Marines: Loyalty and Service in the face of Prejudice and Discrimination. Randall Library, University of North Carolina Wilmington. http://library.uncwil.edu/web/montford/index.html. 14 May 2010.

The U.S. Enters World War II

12/08/1941

One day after the Japanese military attacks Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the United States declares war on Japan. Three days later, Japan's allies, Germany and Italy, declare war on the United States.

  • Stokesbury, James L. "World War II." World Book Online Reference Center. World Book, 2010. Web. 13 May 2010.

  • U.S. Naval Historical Center photograph NH86118 dated 7 December 1942. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. www.loc.gov. 14 May 2010. .

Korean War

06/25/1950 - 07/27/1953

The military slowly continues the process of desegregation during the Korean War. Short on manpower, the Marine Corps rapidly integrates African-Americans into previously all-white units. African-American Marines earn the respect of white Marines and integration poses few problems for Marine Corps leadership.

  • McGregor, Jr., Morris J. 'INTEGRATION OF THE ARMED FORCES 1940-1965.' 1985. U.S. Army Center for Military History. www.history.army.mil. 14 May 2010.

  • Uminovicz, E. 'Department of Defense Photo (Marine Corps) A 171810.' March 5, 1953. Department of Defense.

Executive Orders

Executive Order 8802

06/25/1941

Responding to pressure from the African-American community, President F.D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 8802, banning employment discrimination by the Federal Government and in companies contracting with Federal Government. President Roosevelt also promises to expand opportunities for African-Americans in the military.

  • Executive Order 8802 dated June 25, 1941, General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives. www.archives.gov. 13 May 2010.

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left, dated December 27, 1933; Elias Goldensky, Photographer; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. www.loc.gov. 13 May 2010

Executive Order 9981

07/26/1948

With over one million African-Americans having served in the military during World War II, President Harry Truman orders the desegregation of the Armed Forces with Executive Order 9981.

  • Executive Order 9981, July 26, 1948; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives. www.archives.gov. 13 May 2010.

  • Harry Truman, half-length portrait, facing front, dated June 27, 1945; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. www.loc.gov. 13 May 2010.

Supreme Court Decisions

Sipuel v. Board of Regents of University of Oklahoma

01/12/1948

The Supreme Court Ruled that it is unconstitutional to bar a student from attending a state law school based solely on race.

  • 'SIPUEL V. BOARD OF REGENTS OF UNIVERSITY OF OKL. , 332 U.S. 631 (1948) ' Findlaw.com. www.findlaw.com. 14 May 2010.

Sweatt v. Painter and McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents

1950

The Supreme Court rules that segregation of graduate schools, including law schools, is unconstitutional. Based on this decision, the NAACP begins plans to overturn the 'separate but equal' precedent set by Plessy v. Ferguson.

  • 'Key Supreme Court Cases for Civil Rights.' The Leadership Conference. www.civilrights.org. 14 May 2010.

  • Sohm, Joe. Supreme Court of the United States, Picture. World Book 2010. 14 May 2010.

Brown v. Board of Education

05/17/1954

In a landmark case, the Supreme Court unanimously overturns the precedent created by the Plessy v. Ferguson ruling in 1896. Brown v. Board ruled that segregated public schools are unconstitutional, violating people's 14th Amendment rights. This ruling also established a precedent for desegregating society.

  • Murphy, Bruce Allen. "Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka." World Book Online InfoFinder. World Book, 2010. Web. 14 May 2010.