Executive Orders 9980 and 9981 - Desegregation of the Federal Work Force and Armed Forces
Washington D.C., July 26, 1948

During and after World War II, black soldiers, who made up 11% of the United States military at the time, faced extensive discrimination not overseas, but at home after service. Responding to this, President Roosevelt created the FEPC, the Fair Employment Practices Commission, forbidding discrimination against blacks in war-time defense businesses. In the following years under Truman's presidency, congress was allowed to terminate the FEPC, setting back civil rights advancements again.

Truman did, however, create a President's Commission on Civil Rights to advise him on such policies. When congress failed to pass the civil rights laws suggested to Truman by the Commission, including Anti-Poll Tax and Anti-Lynching laws, Truman took matters into his own hands and signed Executive Orders 9980 and 9981, the desegregation of the federal work force and armed forces, respectively.

Executive Order 9980 prohibited hiring and promotion within the federal work force based on race, charged each department head with enforcing fair employment policies, and created a "Fair Employment Board" to further enforce these policies and create new policies.

Executive Order 9981 desegregated the armed forces, allowing "equal opportunity", and established a "President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services" made up of members chosen by the president, which would examine the policies of the military, advise Truman on civil rights policies for the military, and act as a sort of civil rights court or tribunal for the military.

These orders can be said to have started the modern civil rights movements of the 50's and 60's.

Executive Order 9981

Key people involved:
President Harry Truman