In Part 1 I told you the truth about the beginnings of the “modern” Democrat Party, which began with Woodrow Wilson. When he left office in 1921 the American public didn’t elect another Democrat until 1933 when Franklin D. Roosevelt was selected as the 32nd President of the United States. I do have to give FDR some credit on civil rights though. In 1941 Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which created the Fair Employment Practices Committee, which said that the federal government could not hire anyone based on race, color, creed, or national origin. Although this order only applied to government jobs.

In September 1942, at Eleanor’s instigation, Roosevelt met with a delegation of African-American leaders, who demanded full integration into the forces, including the right to serve in combat roles and in the Navy, the Marine Corps and the United States Army Air Forces. Roosevelt agreed, but then did nothing to implement his promise. Leaving integration up to his successor Harry Truman.

Even though I’m basing this blog on black history I feel that when talking about FDR and civil rights one must mention the internment camps set up by the War Department after Pearl Harbor. On February 19, 1942 Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which ordered Secretary of War, and military commanders to designate military areas “from which any or all persons may be excluded.” Japanese-American citizens as well as non-citizens were removed from their homes on the West coast and placed in camps until 1944. This is one of the more controversial moves made by FDR, even though there was evidence of espionage compiled by code-breakers that decrypted messages to Japan from agents in North America and Hawaii before and after Pearl Harbor. This was known only to people with the highest security clearances at the time to prevent Japan from finding out their code was cracked. Even with evidence from these messages some people still say that this move was racially motivated. In 1925 Roosevelt had written about Japanese immigration: “Californians have properly objected on the sound basic grounds that Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population… Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European and American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results”. Did Roosevelt go to the extreme with the internment camps based on racial motivation? I can’t say for sure.

Harry Truman was the next Democrat President when he replaced Roosevelt after he died in office April 12, 1945 as FDR’s third VP. Truman’s wife, Bess, told that while they were dating he told her he believed one person was as good as any other person….. as long as they aren’t black. He also criticised the Chinese in America, the Jews – to whom he referred to as “Kikes” and the Italians in America who he called “wops”. When he first entered politics he did what any good Democrat would do, he paid his $10 to join the KKK.

While running for reelection for Senator in Missouri he changed his tune a little, it’s not known if he really changed his beliefs or, if like Wilson before him, he was just pandering for the black vote. He said while running for re-election, “I believe in brotherhood….of all men before the law….if any (one) class or race can be permanently set apart from, or pushed down below the rest in politics and civil rights, so may any other class or race……and we say farewell to the principles on which we count our safety…….The majority of our Negro people find but cold comfort in our shanties and tenements. Surely, as free men, they are entitled to something better than this.” Truman never did anything about his statement but was chosen as VP by FDR anyway.

In 1945 the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC), set up by Roosevelt, was involved in a case against a Washington DC transportation company and Truman did not give the FEPC any support over this issue and nothing was done to enforce the will of the FEPC in this instance. Truman could not even persuade Congress, which was dominated by Democrats, to finance the FEPC. In 1946 Truman finally issued an executive order to desegregate the armed forces, unfortunately he did not implement this order and it wasn’t until 1948 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican) finally put the order into effect.

In Part III I’ll talk more about Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, MLK, and the role of the two parties in civil rights.

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