A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, December 26, 2005

Remembering Desegregating the Military

From the Chicago Sun Times, courtesy of History News Network:
Truman K. Gibson Jr., a Chicago attorney who had been the last surviving member of the World War II-era "black Cabinet" of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman, died Friday at Mercy Hospital after an illness of five weeks. He was 93.

As an advocate for African- American soldiers in the War Department from 1940 through 1945, Mr. Gibson fought tirelessly to break down the segregation that ruled the U.S. Army, to persuade the military leadership to commit black servicemen to combat instead of relegating them to service and support duty, and to protect the rights and even the lives of African-American soldiers trained at camps mostly in the Jim Crow South where white violence was a constant threat.

"Truman Gibson was one of the great resources of the civil rights battles who was never acknowledged as he should have been," said Abner Mikva, the former Illinois congressman, federal appellate judge and White House counsel.

That story was the heart of Mr. Gibson's memoir, Knocking Down Barriers: My Fight for Black America, published this year by Northwestern University Press.

"I am just so thankful that he got to do that book, to say what he wanted to say," said his daughter, Karen Kelley of New York. "He lived nearly 94 years pretty much on his own terms, and it was such a wonderful life."

No one should underestimate the roel that desegregating the military had upon the struggle for civil rights, and Harry Truman, for all his very coarse language (and the fact he married into a pretty bigoted family), deserves a lot of credit for having the guts to do it. Given the strong presence the military had in segregated towns, there was certainly a lot of institutional resistance to the move, to say the least. Mr. Gibson used reason and persuasion to achieve wonderful things. I hope to read his book soon, after I finish all the others I have been saving up for Christmas break.


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