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While African-American Members of Congress from this era played prominent roles in advocating for reform, it was largely the efforts of everyday Americans who protested segregation that prodded a reluctant Congress to pass landmark civil rights legislation in the 1960s.A Herblock cartoon from March 1949 depicts a glum-looking President Harry S. Public” inspecting worm-ridden apples representing Truman’s Fair Deal policies such as civil rights and rent controls.
Vice President Hubert Humphrey administers the Oath of Office, while Senators Mike Mansfield of Montana, Everett Dirksen of Illinois, and Edward M. The federal courts also carved out a judicial beachhead for civil rights activists. Board of Education, a case that tested the segregation of school facilities in Topeka, Kansas.
Brown sparked a revolution in civil rights with its plainspoken ruling that separate was inherently unequal.
Their symbolic leader, Powell, was too polarizing a figure for House leaders to accord him a highly visible role in the process. Congress later honored Parks with a Congressional Gold Medal, made her the first woman to lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda after her death, and commissioned a statue of her which is displayed prominently in National Statuary Hall. With few well-placed allies, civil rights initiatives faced an imposing gauntlet in a congressional committee system stacked with segregationist southern conservatives.
This perhaps explains why the Harlem Representative, despite his public passion for racial justice and his ability to deliver legislation through the Education and Labor Committee, was sometimes unusually detached from the legislative process. For most of this period, the House Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Emanuel Celler, offered reformers one of the few largely friendly and liberal forums.
In 1948 President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, desegregating the military.
The backlash to Truman’s civil rights policies contributed to the unraveling of the solid Democratic South.
Foremost, black Members of Congress were too scarce to form a voting bloc powerful enough to change how the institution worked.
Until the fall 1964 elections, there were only five African Americans in Congress: Dawson, Powell, Diggs, Nix, and Hawkins.
Significantly, the committee’s October 1947 report, “To Secure These Rights,” provided civil rights proponents in Congress with a legislative blueprint for much of the next two decades.
Among its recommendations were the creation of a permanent FEPC, the establishment of a permanent Civil Rights Commission, the creation of a civil rights division in the U. Department of Justice, and the enforcement of federal anti-lynching laws and desegregation in interstate transportation.