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U.S. History/Segregation in the Military

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Question
Dear Mr. Troy,
I am doing a national history day project on Executive Order 8802 and I was wondering, how did this Order affect the future of African Americans in the military? Did it have any affect on All-Black Military Units?

Answer
Hi Ryan,

Executive Order 8802, issued by Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, was not directly focused on African Americans in the military. Rather, it's primary focus was on requiring private contractors from engaging in racial discrimination.  Contractors would be required to hire black employees and to provide job training on a non-discriminatory basis.  Government agencies involved in vocational training would also be required to provide training without racial discrimination.

So while this Order certainly benefited African Americans seeking to work in the defense industry, it did little for soldiers, who remained in All-Black Units throughout WWII.  Presumably black soldiers saw the army as a place where discrimination was not as bad as many places in the private sector (where racial discrimination was rampant).  But the military remained segregated and African Americans were typically less able to advance or obtain commissions.

It was not until 1948 when President Truman issues Executive Order 9981, desegregating military units, that soldiers actually saw much more substantive organization changes in how the military dealt with race.  But order 8802 was seen as an important first step for the military and encouraged African Americans to look to the Federal Government for help in reducing racial discrimination.

I hope this helps!
- Mike

U.S. History

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Michael Troy

Expertise

I can answer just about any question on early American History. My specialties are the American Revolution through the Civil War/Reconstruction. I also have greater expertise in matters relating to military, political or legal history.

Experience

I have lectured at George Washington University regarding the Civil War, as well as several elementary school Civil War demonstrations. I was also a member of a Civil War reenactment group for about 10 years.

Publications
http://unlearnedhistory.blogspot.com

Education/Credentials
J.D. University of Michigan B.A. George Washington University

Awards and Honors
Truman Scholar

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