African American Odyssey Home Page | Introduction

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Civil Rights

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President Harry Truman Wipes Out Military Segregation

On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman issued two executive orders. One instituted fair employment practices in the civilian agencies of the federal government; the other provided for "equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." This was a major victory for civil rights advocates in the quest for full citizenship.
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Press release for Executive Order No. 9981, establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces, July 16, 1948
Typescript document
NAACP Collection, Manuscript Division (9-1)

Daisy Bates and the Little Rock Nine

Arkansas-born Daisy Bates worked as a crusading newspaper owner-journalist, becoming president of the Arkansas NAACP. After the 1954 Brown school-desegregation decision, Little Rock school board officials decided to begin desegregation of Central High School in September 1957. Arkansas governor Orval Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to preserve order, a euphemism for keeping the nine prospective African American students out. However, on September 25, 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard and deployed paratroopers to carry out the desegregation orders of the federal courts. Bates supported the students throughout the year and with them received the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 1958.
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Daisy Bates to Roy Wilkins
Letter on the treatment of the Little Rock Nine, December 17, 1957
Holograph letter
NAACP Collection, Manuscript Division (9-18a)

Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-In

In 1960 four freshmen from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro strolled into the F. W. Woolworth store and quietly sat down at the lunch counter. They were not served, but they stayed until closing time. The next morning they came with twenty-five more students. Two weeks later similar demonstrations had spread to several cities, and within a year, to more than a hundred cities, North and South. At Shaw University, in Raleigh, North Carolina, the students formed their own organization, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced "Snick"). The students' bravery in the face of verbal and physical abuse led to integration in many stores even before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
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Lunch Counter Sit-In, Greensboro, North Carolina, 1960
New York World--Telegram & Sun Photograph Collection, Prints and Photographs Division (9-9)

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