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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Executive Order 8802 Bans Discrimination In the National Defense Industry

On June 25, 1941 months before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802. Executive Order 8802 banned discrimination in the National Defense Industry. The President's official statement accompanying the bill was as follows: "The democratic way of life within the nation can be defended successfully only with the help and support of all groups." Roosevelt was prompted into signing this law by his wife Eleanor Roosevelt, a tireless champion for Black advancement. His decision was also spurred by civil rights activists such as A. Phillip Randolph.  Randolph had threatened a March on Washington.

Consequently, the United States Marine Corps could no longer prohibit Blacks from joining their ranks. Blacks since the Civil War had been recruited to join the Army and the Navy, but were excluded by the Marines. The 100 plus year policy of exclusion of Blacks was now mandated to change after FDR's signing of Executive Order 8802.

Howard P. Perry, First Black Marine Recruit

The first Black recruit was Howard P. Perry of Charlotte, North Carolina. He arrived to Montford Point on August 26, 1942, and in September he and 119 other privates began the arduous process of becoming Marines.  - National gov. archives

These Marines were assigned "special housing" at Montford Point. They were not allowed to go to Camp Lejeune unless they were accompanied by a White Marine. Reported Montford Point Marine, Thomas S. Turner, "they didn't want us in there to begin with. They referred us as "you people" as if we were some type of animals. It was rough, but we survived."

Executive Order 8802 enabled African Americans such as my father to obtain employment in defense factories.* Thousands of Blacks were able to work in defense factories and help our nation at war. Dad was then encouraged to become a Montford Point Marine by James Huger, who worked for the War Department. Furthermore, Blacks could then procure middle class life styles. Executive Order 8802 became an impetus to desegregate other institutions in the future.

In essence, the contributions of all Americans were needed in the war effort. Months before Pearl Harbor and the United State's entry into World War II, policy makers believed that the contributions of African Americans were necessary. The Montford Point Marines were a result of Executive Order 8802. It essentially banned discrimination in the National Defense Industry. But we know that the Montford Point Marines were in fact, discriminated, since their training facility was segregated and their treatment received was less than honorable.


Notes: Executive Order 8802 did not extend to Japanese Americans; many were placed in internment camps during WWII.


* See Previous Related Posts:

The Person Who Influenced Dad's Decision to Become a Marine
Dad's Arrival in Connecticut

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