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Records of the President's Committee on Civil Rights Record Group 220

Dates: 1941-1947. Bulk Date Span: 1946-1947

The records of the President's Committee on Civil Rights (Record Group 220) consist of correspondence, reports, memos, statistics, studies, transcripts, statements, news clippings, inquiries, and recommendations documenting the work of the committee. The President's Committee on Civil Rights was established by Executive Order 9808 on December 5, 1946. Its purpose was to propose measures to strengthen and protect the civil rights of the American people. The committee, chaired by General Electric President Charles E. Wilson, terminated upon submission and publication of its final report in December 1947. The final report was entitled To Secure These Rights

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ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: 11 linear feet (ca. 21,600 pages).
Access: Open.
Copyright: Documents prepared by United States Government employees in the course of their official duties are in the public domain. Copyright interest in documents that do not fall into this category is presumed to remain with the authors of the documents, or their heirs.
Processed by: James R. Fuchs (1956)
Updated by: Carol Briley, Sharie Simon, and Janice Davis (2000).

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AGENCY HISTORY

The President's Committee on Civil Rights was established by Executive Order 9808 on December 5, 1946, to strengthen and safeguard the rights of the American people. The Government's policy, announced in the same order, was that civil rights were guaranteed by the Constitution and essential to domestic tranquility, national security, the general welfare, and the continued existence of our free institutions. The advisory committee was chaired by Charles E. Wilson. The final report of the committee was published in 1947 as a one-hundred-and-seventy-eight page document entitled To Secure These Rights.

The President's Committee on Civil Rights had the following members: Ms. Sadie T. Alexander, Mr. James B. Carey, Mr. John S. Dickey, Mr. Morris L Ernst, Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, Dr. Frank P. Graham, The Most Reverend Francis J. Haas, Mr. Charles Luckman, Mr. Francis P. Matthews, Mr. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., The Right Reverend Henry Knox Sherrill, Mr. Boris Shishkin, Ms. M.E. Tilly, Mr. Channing H. Tobias, and Charles E. Wilson (Chairman). Robert K. Carr was Executive Secretary of the committee. All departments and agencies of the Federal Government were instructed to cooperate with the committee and furnish it with information and services as required. The committee conducted an inquiry; held public hearings; solicited advice; examined the evidence; and made recommendations for policy improvements to carry out the mandate of Executive Order 9808. President Truman used the report as the basis for a special civil rights message to Congress and for executive orders leading to the desegregation of the armed forces and an end to discrimination in the Civil Service system.

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COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The Records of the President's Committee on Civil Rights (Record Group 220) came to the Truman collection from the National Archives in 1955. The records mostly cover the period from 1946 to 1947, the life-span of the committee, and document the formation of the committee and its work in behalf of the development and protection of civil rights for all Americans. The committee, among other things, explored the broad social, economic and educational aspects of civil rights.

The Committee on Civil Rights was responsible for proposing measures to strengthen and safeguard civil rights in the United States. The committee conducted inquires; examined existing laws, regulations and statutes; and made recommendations for policy improvements to carry out the mandate of Executive Order 9808.

The collection is comprised of eleven series. The series are administrative in nature and document the daily workings of the committee. The series are: 1) General Correspondence and Administrative Records; 2) General Correspondence with Government Departments and Agencies; 3) Administrative Correspondence with Committee Members; 4) Correspondence with Individuals; 5) Correspondence with Institutions, Organizations, Etc.; 6) Reading File, February 16-October 31, 1947; 7) Records Relating to Meetings, Hearings, and Staff Interviews of the Committee; 8) Staff Memoranda, Witnesses Statements to the Committee and Other Committee Documents; 9) Records Relating to Reports and Recommendations of the Committees and Subcommittees; 10) Miscellaneous Administrative Records; and 11) Reference (Literature) File.

The first series, General Correspondence and Administrative Records, includes general correspondence from the public (including hate mail), administrative receipts, lists, and staff files. There are also reports on the status of laws, education, housing, and the health of minorities; statistics; legislation; clippings; drafts; and notes relating to the preparation of the report, To Secure These Rights.

Executive Order 9808, establishing the President's Committee on Civil Rights, mandated agencies to cooperate with the committee in its work, and to furnish the committee with information or staff services. This contact with Government agencies is documented in the second series in the collection: General Correspondence with Government Departments and Agencies. This series includes correspondence with twenty-eight departments and Government agencies, the most important of which include: the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, Justice, State and War; the Civil Service Commission; the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the National Housing Agency; the Public Health Service; and the Social Security and Veterans Administrations. This series documents the status of blacks in employment, health care, housing, education, child labor, immigration, and civil rights matters. In some instances the agencies were also required to provide the committee with copies of their current policy regarding the hiring of blacks and other minorities, and any reports, studies, or statistics dealing with their mission that might have bearing on the issues.

The third series is entitled Administrative Correspondence with Committee Members. These administrative files document such things as expenses and attendance at meetings. The files include vouchers, telegrams, memoranda, clippings, pamphlets, letters, and reports of problems. Items are filed alphabetically under the name of the individual committee member. The names of the officers of the committee were as follows: Chairman, Charles E. Wilson; First Vice Chairman, John S. Dickey; Second Vice Chairman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.; and Executive Secretary, Robert K. Carr. The members of the Committee include the following: Sadie T. Alexander; James B. Carey; Morris L. Ernst; Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn; Dr. Frank P. Graham; Bishop Francis J. Haas; Charles Luckman; Francis J. Matthews; Bishop Henry Knox Sherrill; Boris Shiskin; M.E. Tilly; and Dr. Channing H. Tobias.

The fourth series is Correspondence with Individuals. This series consists of letters, memos, vouchers, articles, comments, suggestions, testimony, and statements, both to and from specific individuals. In some instances the committee initiated contact with these individuals due to their expertise in specific subject areas; in other cases, individuals wrote offering their help to the committee. The committee requested items such as lectures on civil liberties, statements on the status of Mexican-Americans, and a manuscript on alien land problems in the Pacific islands.

The next series is entitled Correspondence with Institutions, Organizations, Etc. The committee contacted more than one hundred institutions and organizations, and invited contributions to their efforts. The most prominent of these are listed alphabetically as follows: American Bar Association; American Civil Liberties Union; American Council on Race Relations; American Jewish Congress; National Association of Manufacturers; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; National Conference of Christians and Jews; National Congress of American Indians; Tuskegee Institute; United Automobile Workers; and United Council of Church Women. The series consists of letters, memos, reports, publications, pamphlets, articles, expense vouchers, remarks, statements, and speeches.

The sixth series, the Reading File, dates (chronologically) from February 16 though October 31, 1947. This file is composed entirely of carbon copies of letters and memoranda without attachments. It includes mostly form letters that thank individuals and organizations for bringing information to the attention of the committee and form letters to individuals and organizations requesting advice and information to assist with the committee's inquiries. This series documents the routine day-to-day correspondence of the committee. Included also are requests for help in preparation of the manuscripts; requests for employment with the committee; and much documentation of arranging dates and times for meetings.

Series number seven, Records Relating to Meetings, Hearings, and Staff Interviews of the Committee, includes: transcripts of the proceedings of the committee; transcripts of staff interviews; agendas for policy meetings; minutes of meetings of the committee; notices of public hearings; press releases; memos; and correspondence.

The eighth series is entitled Staff Memoranda, Witnesses Statements to the Committee and Other Committee Documents. This series consists of memoranda, statements, studies, summaries of reports, and reports prepared for the committee on specific issues. Some of the issues include the poll tax, the Freedom Train, social conditions, lynching, and discrimination in employment, housing and other areas of social concern. Many of the studies were written by the committee's Executive Secretary, Robert K. Carr. Still others were submitted by the American Veterans Committee, the Department of Justice, the National Urban League, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The series also includes memoranda and other records relating to meetings of the committee and its subcommittees.

The ninth series, Records Relating to Reports and Recommendations of the Committee and Subcommittees, consists of drafts of reports on topics such as fair employment practices, the administration of the Federal civil rights program, voters rights, public accommodations, lynching, the armed services and education. It also includes interim reports of subcommittees dated April 17, 1947. There are also several folders of distribution lists. They include lists of business and professional organizations; civic and fraternal groups; educational and cultural organizations; and labor, veterans, and farmers groups. The series ends with drafts, re-writes, and galley proofs. There is also one folder of memoranda critical of drafts of the report and making suggestions for changes. Charles E. Wilson and Nancy Wechsler wrote two of the memos.

The tenth series, Miscellaneous Administrative Records, consists of change of address forms; clippings; a subject index for committee documents; a directory of information of organizations, associations, federations, foundations, and councils; miscellaneous memoranda; addresses; and lists of names. There is also a report on the food situation authored by the Office of War Information.

The eleventh and final series, entitled: Reference [Literature File], consists of publications, reports, pamphlets, journals, and clippings from major organizations concerned with civil rights issues. There are publications from the Census Bureau, Agriculture Department, Department of Labor, Library of Congress, Navy, War Department, and Securities and Exchange Commission. There are also publications from the American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Labor, American Jewish Congress, Association on American Indian Affairs, National Lawyers Guild, National Urban League, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Chamber of Commerce. There is also literature from, among others, the Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches.

Additional information concerning the President's Committee on Civil Rights and civil rights policies during the Truman administration can be found in the Official File of the Harry S. Truman Papers (OF 596 and OF 93), in the papers of Philleo Nash and David Niles, in the Records of the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services (Record Group 220), and in other collections at the Truman Library.

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SERIES DESCRIPTIONS

Container Nos.

 

Series

1-5

  GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE AND ADMINISTRATIVE RECORDS
Reports, legislation, correspondence, clippings, notes, applications, statistics, administrative requests, hate letters, receipts, bills, memoranda, pamphlets, lists, outlines, and drafts. Arranged in alphabetical order.

5-7

  GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE WITH GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
Requests, correspondence, statistics, working papers, pamphlets, and flyers. Arranged in alphabetical order.

8-9

  ADMINISTRATIVE CORRESPONDENCE WITH COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Correspondence, expense vouchers, telegrams, memoranda, pamphlets, clippings, and reports. Arranged in alphabetical order.

9-10

  CORRESPONDENCE WITH INDIVIDUALS
Correspondence, memoranda, testimony, comments, vouchers, statements, suggestions, articles, and lectures. Arranged in alphabetical order.

10-13

  CORRESPONDENCE WITH INSTITUTIONS, ORGANIZATIONS, ETC.
Correspondence, memoranda, reports, publications, remarks, speeches, vouchers, pamphlets, articles, expense vouchers, and statements. Arranged in alphabetical order.

13-14

  READING FILE, FEBRUARY 16-OCTOBER 31, 1947
Correspondence, memoranda, and form letters. Arranged in chronological order.

14-16