Originally published 08/09/2013
Last month Americans marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s signing Executive Order 9981 to desegregate America’s armed forces. African Americans had fought in every American war, including the Revolutionary War, but had done so in segregated units, often relegated to menial labor tasks. By the time President Truman issued Executive Order 9981, eliminating segregation and racial discrimination in the armed forces had become the single most important national issue to African American voters. Their cause was national in both scope and purpose.
Originally published 04/05/2013
Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban and Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College. His new book, "The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame," was just published by Nation Books.Should the states decide whether black Americans can marry white Americans?Today that idea seems absurd. Most Americans believe that states shouldn't be allowed to trample the basic right of interracial couples to marry - even if a majority of people in a state want to do so. It would be unfair - a clear violation of equal rights. That's one reason we have a federal government.In 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, the nation's highest court knocked down state anti-miscegenation laws.Now the nation - and the Supreme Court - confront a very similar situation, only this time the issue is same-sex marriage.
Originally published 03/25/2013
Steven Conn, editor of To Promote the General Welfare: The Case for Big Government (Oxford University Press USA/2012), is professor and director of Public History at Ohio State University. Ronald Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign in 1980 with a speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi. It's worth remembering, especially in light of several recent events, why that was so important.Philadelphia was a small sleepy town like dozens of others in the South, brutally segregated according to Mississippi law and customs, just like dozens of others. It became nationally famous -- and symbolic -- when three civil rights workers doing advance work for Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964 were murdered by some of the local white supremacists. They instantly became martyrs to a heroic cause.Sixteen years later, candidate Reagan didn't mention James Cheney, Andrew Goodman or Michael Schwerner in his speech. Instead, Reagan announced: "I believe in states' rights," and he promised the all-white Mississippi crowd that he would "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them."
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