The online tool for teaching with documents, from the National Archives

Integration of the U.S. Armed Forces

Making Connections

All documents and text associated with this activity are printed below, followed by a worksheet for student responses.

Introduction

African Americans have served in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War. The military was almost always racially segregated during this time. As you look at the documents and photographs, focus on the issues of segregation and integration.

  • What connections can you find between the documents?
  • To what extent did one event or person make another event possible?
  • What similarities or differences do you see between the documents or photographs?


Name:
Class:

Worksheet

Integration of the U.S. Armed Forces

Making Connections

Examine the documents and text included in this activity. Fill in any blanks in the sequence with your thoughts and write your conclusion response in the space provided.

Deck of Gun Boat, probably "Mendota"


Photograph of United States Colored Troops at Port Hudson, Louisiana


Enter your response

American Negro infantry in France. American Negro infantrymen at roll call somewhere in France


Crews of U.S. light tanks stand by awaiting call to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany


Harry S. Truman and Other Officers of Battery D


Enter your response

Letter from Grant Reynolds and A. Philip Randolph to Harry S. Truman


Executive Order 9981 dated July 26, 1948 in which President Harry S Truman bans the segregation of the Armed Forces


Enter your response

Photograph of President George H. W. Bush Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with Troops





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Activity Element

Deck of Gun Boat, probably "Mendota"

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2

Activity Element

Photograph of United States Colored Troops at Port Hudson, Louisiana

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3

Activity Element

American Negro infantry in France. American Negro infantrymen at roll call somewhere in France

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4

Activity Element

Crews of U.S. light tanks stand by awaiting call to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany

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5

Activity Element

Harry S. Truman and Other Officers of Battery D

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Activity Element

Letter from Grant Reynolds and A. Philip Randolph to Harry S. Truman

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7

Activity Element

Executive Order 9981 dated July 26, 1948 in which President Harry S Truman bans the segregation of the Armed Forces

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Activity Element

Photograph of President George H. W. Bush Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with Troops

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Conclusion

Integration of the U.S. Armed Forces

Making Connections

In the response section below, describe the history of the integration of the U.S. armed forces.  Use specific examples from the documents presented in this activity.

  • What major changes occurred throughout history?
  • When did these changes occur?
  • Who or what helped bring about these changes?


Your Response




Document

Deck of Gun Boat, probably "Mendota"

ca. 1860 - 1865

An integrated crew served on this U.S. gunboat, probably the Mendota. During the Civil War, 18,000 black men<&ndash>and more than a dozen women<&ndash> served in the U.S. Navy. However, black sailors served only in the lowest ranks. On the Mendota, many of the black crew members were recently freed slaves.
This primary source comes from the Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer.
National Archives Identifier: 524548
Full Citation: Deck of Gun Boat, probably "Mendota"; ca. 1860 - 1865; Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, 1921 - 1940; Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/deck-of-gun-boat-probably-mendota, September 23, 2021]


Deck of Gun Boat, probably "Mendota"

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Document

Photograph of United States Colored Troops at Port Hudson, Louisiana

1864

Tens of thousands of freedmen and runaway slaves served in the regiments of the United States Colored Troops and other state units. The men in this photograph, taken in 1864, were probably members of one of these units, the Corps d’Afrique. The Corps was organized in 1863 from men who served in Union General Benjamin Butler’s Louisiana Native Guard regiments.
This primary source comes from the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs.
National Archives Identifier: 594179
Full Citation: Photograph of United States Colored Troops at Port Hudson, Louisiana; 1864; Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/usct-port-hudson, September 23, 2021]


Photograph of United States Colored Troops at Port Hudson, Louisiana

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Document

American Negro infantry in France. American Negro infantrymen at roll call somewhere in France

1917 - ca. 1919

This primary source comes from the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs.
National Archives Identifier: 533604
Full Citation: American Negro infantry in France. American Negro infantrymen at roll call somewhere in France; 1917 - ca. 1919; Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/american-negro-infantry-in-france-american-negro-infantrymen-at-roll-call-somewhere-in-france, September 23, 2021]


American Negro infantry in France. American Negro infantrymen at roll call somewhere in France

Page 2



Document

Crews of U.S. light tanks stand by awaiting call to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany

4/25/1945

This primary source comes from the Records of the Office of War Information.
National Archives Identifier: 535534
Full Citation: Crews of U.S. light tanks stand by awaiting call to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany; 4/25/1945; Records of the Office of War Information, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/crews-of-us-light-tanks-stand-by-awaiting-call-to-clean-out-scattered-nazi-machine-gun-nests-in-coburg-germany, September 23, 2021]


Crews of U.S. light tanks stand by awaiting call to clean out scattered Nazi machine gun nests in Coburg, Germany

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Document

Harry S. Truman and Other Officers of Battery D

ca. 1918

This primary source comes from the Collection HST-AVC: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman.
National Archives Identifier: 5633948
Full Citation: Harry S. Truman and Other Officers of Battery D; ca. 1918; Collection HST-AVC: Photographs Relating to the Administration, Family, and Personal Life of Harry S. Truman, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/harry-s-truman-and-other-officers-of-battery-d, September 23, 2021]


Harry S. Truman and Other Officers of Battery D

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Document

Letter from Grant Reynolds and A. Philip Randolph to Harry S. Truman

7/15/1948

This primary source comes from the Collection HST-OFF: Official Files (Truman Administration).
National Archives Identifier: 201129
Full Citation: Letter from Grant Reynolds and A. Philip Randolph to Harry S. Truman; 7/15/1948; Collection HST-OFF: Official Files (Truman Administration), . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/letter-from-grant-reynolds-and-a-philip-randolph-to-harry-s-truman, September 23, 2021]


Letter from Grant Reynolds and A. Philip Randolph to Harry S. Truman

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Document

Executive Order 9981 dated July 26, 1948 in which President Harry S Truman bans the segregation of the Armed Forces

7/26/1948

With this executive order, President Harry S. Truman banned the segregation of the Armed Forces.

The order also established the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services. It recommended revisions to military regulations in order to implement the government policy of equal treatment and opportunity for all members of the armed forces, regardless of race, color, religion or national original. The committee, chaired by Charles Fahy, was terminated upon submission of its final report, entitled Freedom to Serve, on May 22, 1950.

Back in 1940, African-Americans made up almost 10 percent of the total U.S. population (12.6 million people out of a total population of 131 million). During World War II, the Army became the nation's largest minority employer. Of the 2.5 million African-Americas males who registered for the draft through December 31, 1945, more than one million were inducted into the armed forces. Along with thousands of Black women, these inductees served in all branches of service and in all theaters of operation during World War II.

During WWII, President Roosevelt had responded to complaints about discrimination at home against African Americans by issuing Executive Order 8802 in June 1941, directing that Black Americans be accepted into job-training programs in defense plants, forbidding discrimination by defense contractors, and establishing a Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).

After the war, President Harry Truman, Roosevelt's successor, faced a multitude of problems and allowed Congress to terminate the FEPC. However, in December 1946, Truman appointed a distinguished panel to serve as the President's Commission on Civil Rights, which recommended "more adequate means and procedures for the protection of the civil rights of the people of the United States." When the commission issued its report, "To Secure These Rights," in October 1947, among its proposals were anti-lynching and anti-poll tax laws, a permanent FEPC, and strengthening the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.

In February 1948, President Truman called on Congress to enact all of these recommendations. When Southern Senators immediately threatened a filibuster, Truman moved ahead on civil rights by using his executive powers. Among other things, Truman bolstered the civil rights division, appointed the first African-American judge to the Federal bench, named several other African-Americans to high-ranking administration positions, and on July 26, 1948, he issued an executive order abolishing segregation in the armed forces and ordering full integration of all branches.

Executive Order 9981 stated that "there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin." The advisory committee examined the rules, practices, and procedures of the armed services and recommend ways to make desegregation a reality. There was considerable resistance to the executive order from the military, but by the end of the Korean conflict, almost all the military was integrated.

Transcript

Establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity In the Armed Forces.

WHEREAS it is essential that there be maintained in the armed services of the United States the highest standards of democracy, with equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense:

NOW THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States, and as Commander in Chief of the armed services, it is hereby ordered as follows:

1. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.

2. There shall be created in the National Military Establishment an advisory committee to be known as the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, which shall be composed of seven members to be designated by the President.

3. The Committee is authorized on behalf of the President to examine into the rules, procedures and practices of the Armed Services in order to determine in what respect such rules, procedures and practices may be altered or improved with a view to carrying out the policy of this order. The Committee shall confer and advise the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary
of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Air Force, and shall make such recommendations to the President and to said Secretaries as in the judgment of the Committee will effectuate the policy hereof.

4. All executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government are authorized and directed to cooperate with the Committee in its work, and to furnish the Committee such information or the services of such persons as the Committee may require in the performance of its duties.

5. When requested by the Committee to do so, persons in the armed services or in any of the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Governemt shall testify before the Committee and shall make available for use of the Committee such documents and other information as the Committee may require.

6. The Committee shall continue to exist until such time as the President shall terminate its existence by Executive order.

Harry Truman

The White House
July 26, 1948
This primary source comes from the General Records of the United States Government.
National Archives Identifier: 300009
Full Citation: Executive Order 9981 dated July 26, 1948 in which President Harry S Truman bans the segregation of the Armed Forces; 7/26/1948; Executive Orders, 1862 - 2011; General Records of the United States Government, ; National Archives Building, Washington, DC. [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/executive-order-9981, September 23, 2021]


Executive Order 9981 dated July 26, 1948 in which President Harry S Truman bans the segregation of the Armed Forces

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Executive Order 9981 dated July 26, 1948 in which President Harry S Truman bans the segregation of the Armed Forces

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Document

Photograph of President George H. W. Bush Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with Troops

11/22/1990

President George H. W. Bush shared 1990 Thanksgiving dinner while visiting U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia during the first Persian Gulf War.
This primary source comes from the Records of the White House Photograph Office.
National Archives Identifier: 186423
Full Citation: Photograph of President George H. W. Bush Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with Troops; 11/22/1990; Records of the White House Photograph Office, . [Online Version, https://www.docsteach.org/documents/document/photograph-of-president-george-h-w-bush-enjoying-thanksgiving-dinner-with-troops, September 23, 2021]


Photograph of President George H. W. Bush Enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with Troops

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