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Letters: Truman and civil rights

February 20, 2013
  • President Harry S. Truman ordered the desegregation of America's armed forces in 1948.
President Harry S. Truman ordered the desegregation of America's… (Getty Images )

Re "Harry Truman, Lincoln's heir," Opinion, Feb. 17

Robert Shogan is correct that President Harry S. Truman did more for the cause of African American rights than his predecessor Franklin D. Roosevelt or his successor Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Yet Shogan is unfair to Lincoln's Republican successors, who had better records than Democratic presidents before Roosevelt. He quotes W.E.B. DuBois in 1922 as commenting that neither Republican nor Democratic presidential candidates were to be trusted, without noting that DuBois in 1912 made the mistake of supporting Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who segregated the federal civil service — the worst act of any post-Civil War president.

Shogan also fails to points out that Truman, as late as the 1950s, called Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. the "N-word." Like Abraham Lincoln, Truman's support for civil rights was a triumph of principle (plus a measure of political calculation) over personal prejudice.

Harold Brackman

San Diego

Shogun makes a puzzling reference to Eisenhower's "consternation" at the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown vs. Board of Education.

In fact, Eisenhower implemented the 1948 executive order that Truman had issued desegregating the military. He then went on to federalize Democratic Gov. Orval Faubus' Arkansas National Guard to keep it from blocking integration in Arkansas and sent in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army to forcibly integrate Little Rock Central High School.

Is that the "consternation" Shogun had in mind?

Patrick M. Dempsey

Granada Hills

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