B. Randolph Forced Into Action

The Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training (CAJC) was guided by the following statement made by its founder: "If Negroes must fight, let them fight as free men and not as Jim Crow slaves." The CAJC's plan of attack was twofold. First, it would submit a proposal to Congress and President Truman for the elimination of discrimination in the armed forces. Second, if necessary, the CAJC would back upits demand by marching on Washington, D.C. The specific demands of the CAJC included: an explicit anti-segregation clause in the UMT act; amendments barring segregation in the draft and in interstate travel by draftees; amendments making attacks against soldiers in uniform a federal crime; and an elimination of the poll tax for draftees in federal elections.

*103 The President's call for the enactment of UMT confused and disappointed many, including A. Philip Randolph. Randolph attempted to meet with the President numerous times to discuss the issue but was constantly put off by both the President and members of the President's staff; he finally met with the President on March 22, 1948. At that meeting, Randolph made clear the CAJC's desire to end segregation in the military and informed the President that blacks were hesitant to serve in the armed forces without explicit guarantees against segregation and discrimination. In a follow up letter to President Truman, Randolph reminded the President about the results and recommendations provided by the President's own Committee on Civil Rights. The letter concluded with a demand for an Executive Order ending all discrimination in the Armed Forces.

The CAJC did not limit its activity to the executive branch; Randolph launched a parallel attack in Congress. Just one week after meeting with President Truman, Randolph found himself testifying before the Senate Committee on Armed Services on the issue of Universal Military Training. In his testimony, he repeated his assertion made to President Truman that blacks would not fight for democracy *104 overseas while being denied democracy at home. 1 He also gave an unveiled threat of civil disobedience: "Today I should like to make clear to the Senate Armed Services Committee. . . to Congress and the American people that passage now of a Jim Crow draft may only result in a mass civil disobedience movement along the lines of the magnificent struggles of the people of India against British imperialism." Randolph concluded his statement by saying that "Negroes are just sick and tired of being pushed around and we just do not propose to take it, and we do not care what happens."

Randolph acknowledged the power and consequences of his pledge. After receiving a warning from a Republican senator that his actions "may well lead to indictments for treason and [have other] very serious repercussions," Randolph responded that he anticipated widespread terrorism against blacks refusing to serve. He accepted that possibility if it would be the only way blacks could attain democracy. Randolph also had to be aware that the black community, while in agreement with his cause, was not necessarily unified in support of his methods. The NAACP, which had positioned itself as a champion of rights in the courts, did not fully endorse Randolph's pledge of civil disobedience. NAACP Secretary Walter White said that he did not believe that Randolph's civil disobedience pledge was necessary but stipulated that the only solution to the impending political dilemma would be "the immediate and total abolition of segregation." While the organization would not advise individuals to boycott the draft, it did not dismiss Randolph's proposal completely, reminding "those who expect[ ] [draftees] to be enthusiastic soldiers should remember that their memories of mistreatment in the last war are bitter green," and further pledged to give legal aid to those who did boycott.

The Negro press also tended to espouse an opinion against mass disobedience. A Norfolk Journal and Guide editorial decried Randolph's threat for civil disobedience as "untimely," saying that the threat "tends to embarrass Mr. Truman's civil rights proposals." 1 The leadership of the Pittsburgh Courier maintained a similar opinion. In a personal letter to Randolph, the editor of the Courier counseled Randolph against *105 appearing to force the President's hand by demanding an Executive Order, citing the Courier's opinion that to do so would cause Truman to stonewall, thereby hampering efforts to desegregate the military. Despite words of discouragement, Randolph knew one thing: notwithstanding his chosen means of effecting change, the vast majority of black Americans, including the NAACP and black press, agreed that something had to be done. In an NAACP poll of 2200 black college students, seventy-one percent reported that they favored Randolph's proposal to resist the draft. When asked if they would be willing to serve in the event of a real war or emergency, eighty-two percent responded that they would, but only fifty-one percent responded that they would do so only if segregation was abolished. These results reflected the mood among young blacks that hopes for reform through slow, step-by-step efforts toward integration were quickly coming to an end. The only way to effect change would be through civil disobedience. As Randolph had said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, blacks were tired of being pushed around and were ready to do what it took to change the status quo.

On June 26, 1948, after receiving no affirmative pledge of desegregation from either the President or Congress, Randolph created the League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against Military Segregation. This group threatened that if an Executive Order ending military segregation was not issued before August 16, 1948, the date on which the UMT was to take effect, Randolph would actively encourage black youth to refuse to register. One month later, on July 26, 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981. 14