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Harry Truman and the Struggle for Racial Justice
     

Harry Truman and the Struggle for Racial Justice

by Robert Shogan
 

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When Harry Truman was rescued from political obscurity to become Franklin Roosevelt's running mate, black Americans were deeply troubled. Many believed that Truman, born and raised in former slave-holding Missouri, was a step back on civil rights from Henry Wallace, the liberal incumbent vice president. But by the end of his own presidency, black newspaper

Overview


When Harry Truman was rescued from political obscurity to become Franklin Roosevelt's running mate, black Americans were deeply troubled. Many believed that Truman, born and raised in former slave-holding Missouri, was a step back on civil rights from Henry Wallace, the liberal incumbent vice president. But by the end of his own presidency, black newspaper publishers cited Truman for having "awakened the conscience of America and given new strength to our democracy by his courageous efforts on behalf of freedom and equality."

In this first full-scale account of Truman's evolving views on civil rights, Robert Shogan recounts how Truman outgrew the bigotry of his Jackson County upbringing to become the first president since Lincoln to attempt to redress the nation's long history of injustice toward its black citizens—and in the process transformed the course of race relations in America. Shogan vividly demonstrates the full significance of the 33rd president's contributions to that transformation. He ordered the integration of the armed forces and threw the weight of the Justice Department behind the long struggle against segregation in housing and education. And he used the platform of his presidency to relentlessly trumpet the cause of equal rights for those least favored Americans, even making an unprecedented address to the NAACP.

Going beyond other accounts of Truman, Shogan points out the political and personal factors that motivated the president and weighs the potential political costs and benefits of his civil rights actions. Shogan also explains Truman's shift away from his formative racial prejudices by shedding light on the forces that shaped his character and leadership qualities. These included his political tutelage under "Boss Tom" Pendergast, which taught him the value of black voters, and the influence of populism, which fostered his support for underdogs such as black Americans.

Illuminating how Truman became the first president to make racial injustice a political priority-and the first to denounce segregation as well as discrimination—Shogan's book opens a new and provocative window on the struggle for civil rights in America.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
09/01/2013
Shogan (former national political correspondent, Los Angeles Times; The Battle of Blair Mountain) offers a vivid account of Harry Truman's rise from a machine politician in Missouri, with Southern roots and slave-owning grandparents, to a man with evolved views on civil rights. After engagingly tracing Truman's early family history and his place in FDR's final administration in the context of U.S. race relations in the 1940s, Shogan focuses on Truman's presidency. With World War II over, black soldiers returned home to face an American society that in many places and circumstances had not changed from earlier Jim Crow days. Shogan illuminates the racial challenges facing the country after the war, asking key questions in the process. While there's no doubt that Truman was involved in transformational changes, including the integration of the armed forces and the civil service, was he truly committed to civil rights for black Americans? Was he guided strictly by political calculations? VERDICT An important book that should be read by anyone interested in postwar U.S. history and the ongoing search for racial justice or presidential or civil rights histories.—Amy Lewontin, Northeastern Univ. Lib., Boston
From the Publisher

“Shogan has demonstrated once again why he is considered one of America’s finest journalists. With typical skill, he tells the story of how Harry Truman overcame the prejudice of his youth to become a powerful force in the struggle for civil rights. This is a smart, gracefully written, thoughtful book that is essential reading for every student of the Truman presidency.”—Steven M. Gillon, Scholar-in-residence, The History Channel “Well-researched and nicely paced, this is a splendid account of a president who chose to embrace a moral imperative at a turning point in American racial history.”—Alonzo Hamby, author of Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman “Shogan has written a politically savvy history of the racial conflicts that threatened the New Deal Democratic majority that Truman inherited from FDR in 1945. The racial turmoil within the parties in the 1960s and 1970s overshadows its origins in the Truman presidency. Shogan’s book is a reminder of the long history of this conflict within the Democratic Party. His keen sense for the politics of the issue makes the book a must-read for those interested in the struggle for racial equality or the challenge of the issue for the party coalitions that were largely unable to promote it.”—John R. Petrocik, coauthor of The Changing American Voter

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780700619115
Publisher:
University Press of Kansas
Publication date:
06/13/2013
Pages:
248
Sales rank:
742,490
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author


Robert Shogan, a former national political correspondent for the Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau, as a college journalist reported on Truman's 1948 upset election victory. He is author of fourteen previous books, most recently Prelude to Catastrophe: FDR's Jews and the Menace of Nazism and No Sense of Decency: The Army McCarthy Hearings.

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