Why FDR Chose Not to Desegregate the Military

Franklin Delano Roosevelt circa 1933 (Library of Congress)
An Oval Office recording from 1940 reveals how Roosevelt resisted the demands of black leaders for integration of the armed services at the outset of World War II.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE E ighty years ago, on September 27, 1940, two of the most influential civil-rights leaders in the country sat across the desk from President Franklin Roosevelt in the Oval Office. Asa Philip Randolph was the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Walter White was the secretary of the NAACP. Eleven days earlier, Roosevelt had signed the Selective Service Act, the first peacetime draft in the country’s history. Randolph and White seized the opportunity to come talk to him about desegregating the military. Which was about the last issue Franklin Roosevelt wanted to address in September 1940.

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John Strausbaugh — Mr. Strausbaugh is the author of City of Sedition: The History of New York City During the Civil War and Victory City: A History of New York and New Yorkers During World War II.

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