Comparison of Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson

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        Three presidents, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson, through combined efforts, were able to make a major impact on the advancement  of civil rights in the United States.  Although they all contributed on various levels and in various ways, the influence each of them had on the nation eventually led to the creation of the civil rights all American’s have today.

Harry S. Truman

        After the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman took over the presidency in 1945, and was eventually elected to a second term in 1948.  Although he is not particularly famous for his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, Truman actually had a major impact on civil rights in the sense that he proposed many laws promoting desegregation and raised national awareness of the problems with discrimination due to race, gender and religion.  Through his speeches directed U.S. citizens, addresses to Congress, and actions through executive orders, Harry S. Truman made a great effort towards improving the Civil Rights of American citizens.

        Truman’s greatest impacts on civil rights came as a result of his domestic program, the Fair Deal.  This program, which was influenced by Roosevelt’s New Deal, was made to “guarantee economic opportunity and social stability” for the citizens of the United States, including minority groups.  

        In a 1947, Truman made a speech regarding civil rights in front of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  There, he spoke of his support for the freedom of the nation, stating that “There is no justifiable reason for discrimination because of ancestry, or religion, or race, or color.”  During this speech, he not only urged African Americans to continue their fight for civil rights, but also promised them the government’s support on this issue.  He was the first president to ever address this group, showing that he would not only support their cause, but also not let the many pro-segregation groups and citizens affect his actions towards ending discrimination.  

        As part of the Fair Deal, Truman  made an executive order in 1946 that had a major effect on civil rights.  By this executive order, 9808, he created the Committee of Civil Rights.  This committee was responsible for investigating the current status of civil rights in the U.S. and finding ways to improve the civil rights of the United States citizens, particularly African Americans.  A year after the committee was formed, it released a report called To Secure These Rights.  Truman responded to this 178 page report by sending a ten-point civil rights message to congress, which included creating laws against lynching, ending segregation in transportation, protecting voting rights, and creating a fair employment practices committee.  Although none of the ideas in this report were put into action, this report opened new doors for civil rights.

        In January,1948, an election year, Truman addressed congress and the entire nation on this same subject in his State of the Union speech.  During this speech, he stated that the first goal of the government should be “secure fully the essential human rights of our citizens.”  He claimed that discrimination counters the ideals of democracy and successful action needs to be taken.  He further pushed the ideas of the Committee of Civil Rights that had been rejected by congress, and said that desegregation needed to be put into action.

        That same year, Truman followed the ideas of his State of the Union address and continued his battle for civil rights by establishing executive orders 9980 and 9981.  These orders called for an end to racial discrimination in the federal government and banned segregation of armed services.  They did not completely eliminate segregation in these areas, but did allow some African American soldiers to gain leadership positions in the Korean War, which was something that never occurred during WWII.

        While civil rights were a big part of the Democratic platform during Truman’s presidency, he may have also had an ulterior motive when devoting so much attention to them.  During the election of 1948, Truman’s approval ratings were down and it seemed as if he would not win.  However, that same year he issued both of his executive orders relating to civil rights, upping his approval ratings.  Though the support he had gained from farmers, laborers, African Americans, and others who benefited from actions in favor of civil rights, he was able to win the election.

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        Lynching and segregation of African Americans were still occurring at the end of Truman’s presidency, but he did have some success with improving civil rights.  Whether his motive was to gain more votes, or merely to follow the Democratic platform, he did succeed in bringing a great amount of attention to discrimination problems in the U.S.  He helped the nation to take one of the first major steps towards desegregation, and helped pave the way for future presidents to even further eliminate segregation.


Dwight D. Eisenhower

        Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican who followed Truman as President, was elected in ...

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