To Secure These Rights

(1947)

Drafted by President Harry S. Truman’s Committee on Civil Rights in 1947, To Secure These Rights (subtitled “The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights”) remains one of the most important federal civil rights reports in United States history. Issued on the heels of World War II, To Secure These Rights identified remarkable disparities in racial treatment in both the North and the South and called for a series of measures to improve race relations in the United States. Among them were police professionalization, federal protection of black voting rights, enforcement of antilynching laws, and an end to segregation in schools, housing, and public accommodations.

Although President Truman refrained from addressing many of the committee’s recommendations, he did order the desegregation of the armed forces in 1948 with Executive Order 9981, signaling the beginning of the federal government’s push for desegregation generally. Outraged at Truman’s commitment to civil...

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Morris Ernst, a member of the Committee on Civil Rights (Library of Congress)

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