In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of a Presidential Order that mandated the integration of the United States armed forces, students from The Tri Community and Youth Agency (Tri CYA), The Academy Charter School and Hofstra University’s Summer Camp program participated in an wide-ranging educational seminar that examined President Harry Truman’s historic decision and its continuing impact on American society.
President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, which read, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.”
NYU historian Dr. Jeffrey Sammons, an expert in African-American and U.S. military history, explained that prior to the issuing of Executive Order 9981, African Americans were segregated into separate units from their white counterparts. In many instances, these units were assigned menial tasks in the rear and rarely were permitted to enter combat.
“On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman, less than three years after an Allied victory over Nazism, fascism and racism in which black soldiers fought and died for freedom and democracy abroad and at home, issued Executive Order 9981 which technically established the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces,” said Sammons.
Lawrence Kadish, the president and founder of the Museum of American Armor stated, “This museum has a timeless mission, to tell the story of our American military heritage. Seventy years ago, President Harry Truman’s order finally recognized that American bravery and patriotism and sacrifice were color blind.”
Youngsters attending the event at the Museum of American Armor also met a group of African American living historians from the museum, who presented themselves in various military uniforms spanning the centuries to help tell the story of the outstanding record of service of African Americans in the service of our nation.
The Museum of American Armor is a New York State chartered, 501(c)(3) nonprofit museum, located at 1303 Round Swamp Rd., Old Bethpage. For more information and museum hours, visit www.museumofamericanarmor.org.