Desegregation in the United States

Desegregation is the process of ending the separation of two groups usually referring to races. This is most commonly used in reference to the United States. Desegregation was long a focus of the Civil Rights Movement, both before and after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, particularly desegregation of the school systems and the military (see Military history of African Americans). Racial integration of society was a closely related goal.

In the U.S. military

Early history

Starting with King Philip's War in the 17th century, blacks served alongside whites in an integrated environment in the North American colonies. They continued to fight in every American war integrated with whites up until the War of 1812. They would not fight in integrated units again until the Korean War.[1] Thousands of black men fought on the side of rebellious colonists in the American Revolutionary War, many in the new Continental Navy. Their names, accomplishments or total numbers are unknown because of poor record keeping.

During the American Civil War, Blacks enlisted in large numbers. They were mostly enslaved blacks who escaped in the South, although there were many northern black Unionists as well. More than 180,000 blacks served with the Union Army and Navy during the Civil War, in segregated units known as the United States Colored Troops, under the command of white officers. They were recorded and are part of the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System (CWSS).[2]

Around 18,000 black people also joined the Union Navy as sailors. They were recorded and are part of the National Park Service's War Soldiers & Sailors System (CWSS).[2]

World Wars I and II

While a handful of Blacks were commissioned as officers in World War I, blacks were severely underrepresented throughout the conflict, though the NAACP lobbied for the commission of greater numbers of black officers. Upon entering office, President Woodrow Wilson segregated the United States Navy; previously the U.S. Navy had never been officially segregated.

During World War II, most officers were white and most black troops still served only as truck drivers and as stevedores.[3] The Red Ball Express, which was instrumental in facilitating the rapid advance of Allied forces across France after D-Day, was operated almost exclusively by African-American truck drivers. In the midst of the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was severely short of replacement troops for existing military units—all of which were totally white in composition, so he made the decision to allow African-American soldiers to join the white military units to fight in combat for the first time—the first step toward a desegregated United States military. Eisenhower's decision in this case was strongly opposed by his own army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, who was outraged by the decision and said that the American public would take offense with the integration of the military units.[3]

For the Army Air Corps see the Tuskegee Airmen.

For the U.S. Army see the 761st Tank Battalion (United States).

In World War II, the U.S. Navy first experimented with integration aboard USCGC Sea Cloud, then later on USS Mason, (both commanded by Carlton Skinner) a ship with black crew members and commanded by white officers. Some called it "Eleanor's folly", after President Franklin Roosevelt's wife.[4] Mason's purpose had been to allow black sailors to serve in the full range of billets (positions) rather than being restricted to stewards and messmen, as they were on most ships. The Navy was pressured to train black sailors for billets by Eleanor Roosevelt, who insisted that they be given the jobs they had trained for.

"Group of CBs acting as stretcher bearers for the 7th Marines. Peleliu.", 09-1944 - NARA - 532537
"17th Special" Seabees with the 7th Marines on Peleliu made national news in an official U.S.Navy press release.[5] NARA-532537

The U.S. Navy's newest component, the Seabees, had the same ingrained attitudes and approaches but ended up at the forefront of change. In February 1942 CNO Admiral Harold Rainsford Stark recommended African Americans for ratings in the construction trades. In April the Navy announced it would enlist African Americans in the Seabees. Even so, those men were put into segregated units, the 34th[6] and 80th[7] Naval Construction Battalions (NCBs). Both had white Southern officers and black enlisted. Both battalions experienced problems with that arrangement that led to the replacement of the officers. In addition, many of the stevedore battalions(called Special Construction Battalions) were segregated. However, by wars end many of those Special Construction Battalions were the first fully integrated units in the U.S. Navy.[8] The wars end also brought the decommissioning of every one of those units.

Modern history

In 1948, President Harry S. Truman's Executive Order 9981 ordered the integration of the armed forces following World War II, a major advance in civil rights.[9] Using the Executive Order meant that Truman could bypass Congress. Representatives of the Solid South, all white Democrats, would likely have stonewalled related legislation.

For instance, in May 1948, Richard B. Russell, Democratic Senator from Georgia, attached an amendment granting draftees and new inductees the opportunity to choose whether or not they wanted to serve in segregated military units to the Selective Service Act that was being debated in Congress, but it was defeated in committee. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948. In June 1950 when the Selective Services Law came up for renewal, Russell unsuccessfully tried again to attach his segregation amendment.

At the end of June 1950, the Korean War broke out. The U.S. Army had accomplished little desegregation in peacetime and sent the segregated Eighth Army to defend South Korea. Most black soldiers served in segregated support units in the rear. The remainder served in segregated combat units, most notably the 24th Infantry Regiment. The first months of the Korean War were some of the most disastrous in U.S. military history. The North Korean People's Army nearly drove the American-led United Nations forces off the Korean peninsula. Faced with staggering losses in white units, commanders on the ground began accepting black replacements, thus integrating their units. The practice occurred all over the Korean battle lines and proved that integrated combat units could perform under fire. The Army high command took notice. On July 26, 1951, the U.S. Army formally announced its plans to desegregate, exactly three years after Truman issued Executive Order 9981.

Soon Army officials required Morning Reports (the daily report of strength accounting and unit activity required of every unit in the Army on active duty) of units in Korea to include the line "NEM XX OTHER EM XX TOTAL EM XX", where NEM was the number of Negro Enlisted Men, in the section on enlisted strength. The Form 20s for enlisted personnel recorded race. For example, the percentage of Black Enlisted Personnel in the 4th Signal Battalion was maintained at about 14% from September 1951 to November 1952, mostly by clerks' selectively assigning replacements by race. Morning Report clerks of this battalion assumed that all units in Korea were doing the same. The Morning Reports were classified "RESTRICTED" in those years.

On October 12, 1972, a racially fraught riot occurred on the USS Kitty Hawk.[10] "Despite the presence of a black executive officer, the ship's second-in-command, many black sailors felt they were dealt harsher punishments and menial assignments because of their race".[11]

In U.S. housing law

The practice of segregating and discriminating in housing opportunity based on race has a long history in the United States. Up until the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, segregated neighborhoods were enforceable by law. The Fair Housing Act, which was the first national law to outlaw housing discrimination, ended discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, color, religion, and national origin. The passage of the Act was contentious. The Fair Housing Act was meant to be a direct follow up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however from 1966 to 1967 United States Congress failed to garner enough political support for its passage. At that time several states had passed their own fair housing laws and Congress was not convinced that a federal law was necessary.

It was only after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968, and the ensuing riots that Legislation finally passed the bill and was signed into law on April 11, 1968, by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was one of the law's strongest proponents. He called the new law one of the "promises of a century…it proclaims that fair housing for all—all human beings who live in this country—is now a part of the American way of life". Since the act's passage in 1968, it has been amended to include sex, familial status, and disability. The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is charged with administering and enforcing this law.

In the U.S. education system

The Legacy Project It Happened in Little Rock
Hate mail written in the late 1950s regarding desegregation of Little Rock Central High School is projected over actresses Mary-Pat Green and Gia McGlone in Arkansas Repertory Theatre's 2007 production of The Legacy Project: It Happened in Little Rock.

In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education (1971), the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that forced busing of students may be ordered to achieve racial desegregation. However, court-enforced school desegregation efforts have decreased over time.

A major decline in manufacturing in northern cities, with a shift of jobs to suburbs, the South and overseas, has led shifts in numbers of residents of all races increasing in suburbs, plus major shifts in population from the North to the Southwest, Pacific Northwest, and South. Left behind in many northern and midwestern inner cities have been the poorest blacks and other minorities. According to Jonathan Kozol, in the early 21st century, U.S. schools have become as segregated as they were in the late 1960s.[12]

According to the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, desegregation of U.S. public schools peaked in 1988. As of 2005, the proportion of black students at majority-white schools was at "a level lower than in any year since 1968".[13]

Some critics of school desegregation have argued that court-enforced desegregation efforts were either unnecessary or self-defeating. Numerous middle-class and wealthy white people continued moving from cities to suburbs during the 1970s and later, in part to escape certain integrated school systems, but also as part of the suburbanization caused by movement of jobs to suburbs, continuing state and federal support for expansion of highways, and changes in the economy.

Some white parents in Louisiana said that they were afraid to drop their children off because of all the mobs surrounding the desegregated schools.[14]

Sociologist David Armor states in his 1995 book Forced Justice: School Desegregation and the Law that efforts to change the racial compositions of schools had not contributed substantially to academic achievement by minorities. Carl L. Bankston and Stephen J. Caldas, in their books A Troubled Dream: The Promise and Failure of School Desegregation in Louisiana (2002) and Forced to Fail: The Paradox of School Desegregation (2005), argued that continuing racial inequality in the larger American society had undermined efforts to force schools to desegregate.[15] They maintained that racial inequality had resulted in popular associations between school achievement and race. Therefore, the achievement levels of American schools were generally associated with their class and racial compositions. This meant that even parents without racial prejudice tended to seek middle class or better residential neighborhoods in seeking the best schools for their children. As a result, efforts to impose court-ordered desegregation often led to school districts in which there were too few white students for effective desegregation, as white students increasingly left for majority white suburban districts or for private schools.

Asian Americans

The increasing diversity of American society has led to more complex issues related to school and ethnic proportion. In the 1994 federal court case Ho v. San Francisco Unified School District, parents of Chinese American schoolchildren alleged that racial quotas under a 1983 consent decree constituted racial discrimination in violation of the United States Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. The desegregation plan did not allow any school to enroll more than 50% of any ethnic group. Originally intended to aid integration of blacks, the ruling had a negative effect on the admissions of Chinese students, who had become the district's largest ethnic group.

The newspaper AsianWeek documented the Chinese American parents' challenge. Since Chinese Americans were already nearly half the student population, the consent decree had the effect of requiring the competitive Lowell High School in San Francisco, California, to apply much higher academic admission standards for Chinese American students. However, the civil rights group Chinese for Affirmative Action sided with the school district, arguing that such standards were not harmful to Chinese Americans, and were necessary to avoid the resegregation of schools. In 2006, Chinese parents continued to protest race-based school assignments.[16]

See also


  1. ^ "Blacks in the Korean War". U.S. Army. 2003. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
  2. ^ a b "Soldiers and Sailors Database". National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b Martin Blumenson, Eisenhower (Ballantine Books Inc.: New York, 1972) p. 127; Jonathan Jordan, American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America to Victory in World War II, (Penguin 2015), 54-58, 143-45.
  4. ^ Freeman, Greg (2003). Greg Freeman: A Gentleman, a Gentle Man : Selected Columns, St. Louis Post-dispatch. Virginia Publishing. ISBN 9781891442230.
  5. ^ Antill, Peter (2003), Peleliu, battle for (Operation Stalemate II) - The Pacific War's Forgotten Battle, September–November 1944, "HITTING THE BEACH 3rd paragraph" [1]
  6. ^ Thirty Fourth Naval Construction Battalion, Cmdr Lester M. Marx, Schwabacher Frey Company, San Francisco, CA, 1946 [2]
  7. ^ 80th Naval Construction Battalion, Bickford Engraving And Electrotype Co. 20 Matheewson Street, Providence, RI, 1946 [3]
  8. ^ Seabeemagazine online 2014/03/06
  9. ^ Taylor, Jon E. (2012). Freedom to serve : Truman, civil rights, and Executive Order 9981. New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415895583.
  10. ^ Gregory A. Freeman Troubled Water: Race, Mutiny, and Bravery on the USS Kitty Hawk Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY (2009) ISBN 9780230613614
  11. ^ Webcast Interview by Gregory A. Freeman on Troubled Waters at the Pritzker Military Library on February 18, 2010
  12. ^ Jonathan Kozol, "Segregation and Its Calamitous Effects: America's 'Apartheid' Schools", VUE (Voices in Urban Education), Number 10, Winter 2006, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University.
  13. ^ Jonathan Kozol, "Overcoming Apartheid", The Nation, December 19, 2005. p. 26
  14. ^ "1960 Year In Review: Schools Desegregate". United Press International. 1960. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  15. ^ Schafer, Mark (March 2004). "A Troubled Dream: The Promise and Failure of School Desegregation in Louisiana (review)". Social Forces. 82 (3): 1242–1244. doi:10.1353/sof.2004.0053.
  16. ^ "Back to School for Integration: The Catch-22 of Excellence and Diversity Without Race", AsianWeek

External links

805th Pioneer Infantry

805th Pioneer Infantry was an all-African American infantry regiment of the United States Army during World War I. The 805th contained black soldiers from the state of Mississippi. The regiment landed in France in July 1918 and served in Europe until July 1919; the division saw 39 days of action.

Addison Roswell Thompson

Addison Roswell Thompson, known as A. Roswell Thompson or as Rozzy Thompson (November 14, 1911 – February 15, 1976), was a segregationist and white supremacist who ran as a perennial fringe candidate for governor of the U.S. state of Louisiana, mayor of New Orleans, and other offices as well on fourteen occasions between 1954 and 1975.

All the Young Men

All the Young Men is a 1960 Korean War feature film starring Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier dealing with desegregation in the United States Marine Corps. Poitier plays a sergeant unexpectedly placed in command of the survivors of a platoon in the Korean War. The film explores the racial integration of the American military, centering on the African-American sergeant's struggle to win the trust and respect of the men in his unit.

Camp Gilbert H. Johnson

Camp Gilbert H. Johnson is a satellite camp of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina and home to the Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools (MCCSSS), where various support military occupational specialties such as administration, supply, logistics, finance, and motor transport maintenance are trained. Camp Johnson is situated on Montford Point, the site of recruit training for the first African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps, known as "Montford Point Marines".

Charles C. Tansill

Charles Callan Tansill (1890–1964) was an American historian and the author of fourteen history books. He was a Professor of History at American University, Fordham University, and Georgetown University. He was an isolationist prior to World War II, and he was accused of revisionism after the war.

Charlotte Latin School

Charlotte Latin School is an independent, coeducational, day school located in Charlotte, North Carolina. The school was founded in 1970 and serves about 1400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The school is jointly accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Southern Association of Independent Schools, and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Desegregation in the United States Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps (USMC) is a desegregated force, made up of troops of all races working and fighting alongside each other. In 1776 and 1777, a dozen Black American Marines served in the American Revolutionary War, but from 1798 to 1942, the USMC followed a racially discriminatory policy of denying African Americans the opportunity to serve as Marines. For more than 140 years, the Marines recruited primarily European Americans and white Hispanics, along with a few Asian Americans.

The USMC opened its doors to blacks in June 1942, with the acceptance of African Americans as recruits in segregated all-black units. Other races were accepted somewhat more easily, joining white Marine units. For the next few decades, the incorporation of black troops was not widely accepted within the Corps, nor was desegregation smoothly or quickly achieved. Spurred by executive orders in 1941 and 1948, the integration of non-white USMC personnel proceeded in stages from segregated battalions in 1942, to unified training in 1949, and finally full integration in 1960.By 2006, approximately 20% of the USMC was Black American and 15–18% Hispanic; more than the 30 to 31% of the U.S. ratio of minorities in the general population.

Edgar Huff

Edgar R. Huff (December 2, 1919 – May 2, 1994) was the first African-American in the United States Marine Corps to be promoted to the rank of sergeant major. He served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Home economics

Home economics, domestic science or home science is a field of study that deals with the relationship between individuals, families, communities, and the environment in which they live. Home economics courses are offered internationally and across multiple educational levels. Home economics courses have been important throughout history because it gave women the opportunity to pursue higher education and vocational training in a world where only men were able to learn in such environments. In modern times, home economics teaches both men and women important life skills, such as cooking, sewing, and finances. With the stigma the term “home economics” has earned over the years, the course is now often referred to by different terms, such as “family and consumer science.”

Houston Conley

Dr. Houston Conley is an American educator best known for helping launch and facilitate desegregation in the United States education system.

Report to the American People on Civil Rights

The Report to the American People on Civil Rights was a speech on civil rights, delivered on radio and television by United States President John F. Kennedy from the Oval Office on June 11, 1963 in which he proposed legislation that would later become the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Expressing civil rights as a moral issue, Kennedy moved past his previous appeals to legality and asserted that the pursuit of racial equality was a just cause. The address signified a shift in his administration's policy towards strong support of the civil rights movement and played a significant role in shaping his legacy as a proponent of civil rights. President Kennedy was initially cautious in his support of civil rights and desegregation in the United States. Concerned that dramatic actions would alienate legislators in the heavily segregated American South, he limited his activities on the issue and confined his justifying rhetoric to legal arguments. As his term continued, African-Americans became increasingly impatient with their lack of social progress and racial tensions escalated. The rising militancy of the civil rights movement troubled white Americans and the deteriorating situation reflected negatively on the United States abroad. Kennedy came to conclude that he had to offer stronger support for civil rights, including the enactment of new legislation that would ensure desegregation in the commercial sector.

On June 11, 1963, federal officials integrated the University of Alabama. Kennedy decided that it was an opportune moment to speak about civil rights, and instructed Ted Sorenson to draft a speech that he could deliver on television that evening. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and his deputy, Burke Marshall, assisted Sorenson, who finished just before President Kennedy was due to begin speaking at 8:00 PM.

School integration in the United States

School integration in the United States is the process (also known as desegregation) of ending race-based segregation within American public and private schools. Racial segregation in schools existed throughout most of American history and remains a relevant issue in discussions about modern education. During the Civil Rights Movement school integration became a priority, but since then de facto segregation has again become prevalent.

Segregation in countries by type (in some countries, categories overlap)
Sexual orientation

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