The Month in History:
The President's Civil Rights Report
Harry Truman, like Andrew Johnson, had inherited the Presidency in time to face an era of disillusionment, and to be confronted with problems not of his own making. Like Johnson too, he succeeded a man so far beyond him in personal magnetism as to doom him to an anti-climactic role. Therefore it seemed probable that history—if the race of men survived its current generation—would record his weaknesses, his hesitations and vacillations, and his failures as though they were the sum of his administration.
And yet in many respects Harry Truman’s record was one which did not suffer by comparison with that of Franklin Roosevelt. For if he lacked Roosevelt’s glamor, and Roosevelt’s capacity for selling an unwilling public on the necessity of the measures he might undertake; if it often seemed that he was paralyzed in crises by a painful sense of his own inadequacy, or of the immensity of the obstacles to be overcome—yet on many issues which it might have been the part of political wisdom for him to avoid, Harry Truman had taken a courageous and forthright stand. Although a Southerner himself, he had pressed in the face of a hostile Southern Democracy for the enactment of legislation to create a permanent FEPC. And now by appointing the President’s Committee on Civil Rights and wholeheartedly backing its report, he was once more defying those racist elements which had for so long formed the solid core of his own party.
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