Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, addressed the NAACP on this day in 1947. President Truman was the first sitting president to address the organization and is viewed as the nation’s first civil rights president.
Truman’s speech to the NAACP was aired publicly on radio and took place at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Flanked by Eleanor Roosevelt, who became a strong ally of civil rights and women’s issues, Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, and Court Justice Fred Vinson, the political importance of the moment was significant.
In his speech,Truman noted that his platform for equal rights was meant to be all-encompassing.
“When I say all Americans, I mean all Americans” was uttered twice, a reference to the concerns of the NAACP about the racial injustice that was rampant at the time. It was an especially risky move for Truman given the current political climate but it was affirmed by his actions as well.
In 1948, Truman addressed Congress regarding civil rights and established the first such program under his administration in February in that year. In July, via an executive order, Truman desegregated the United States Armed Services.
While further milestones within the Civil Rights Movement would render Truman’s moves almost meager in comparison, many historians point to the address as an important first step in moving the country towards tolerance and equality.