Drucker joins students for 70th anniversary of U.S. military desegregation

Drucker joins students for 70th anniversary of U.S. military desegregation
Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker, third from left, talks with reenactors during the program. (Photo courtesy of Museum of American Armor)

In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of a Presidential Order that mandated the integration of the United States armed forces, youngsters from The Tri Community and Youth Agency, The Academy Charter School and Hofstra University’s Summer Camp program participated in a wide-ranging educational seminar at the Museum of American Armor that examined President Harry Truman’s historic decision and its continuing impact on American society.

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin,” Executive Order 9981, signed by Truman in 1948, read. “This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.”

(Photo courtesy of Museum of American Armor)

NYU historian Dr. Jeffrey Sammons, an expert in African-American and U.S. military history, explained that prior to the issuing of Executive Order 9981, African Americans were segregated into separate units from their white counterparts. In many instances, these units were assigned menial tasks in the rear and rarely were permitted to enter combat.

“Despite its lack of immediacy and failure to call explicitly for the end of segregation, its anti-segregationist intent and subsequent enforcement would make the document a basis for an integrated Army and serve as an important predicate to the much more heralded Brown v. Board of Education decision, declaring segregated public schools unconstitutional,” Sammons said. “It is safe to posit, that without this executive order the battle against systemic discrimination and segregation would have been immeasurably more delayed and difficult.”

Those attending the event at the Museum of American Armor also met a group of African-American living historians from the Museum of American Armor who presented themselves in various military uniforms spanning the centuries to help tell the story of the outstanding record of service of African Americans in the service of our nation.

“As an attorney I have been reminded since my earliest days before the bench that ‘justice is blind,” Nassau County Legislator Arnold Drucker said during the event. “We gather here today, surrounded by weapons of World War II, when many of them were used by soldiers in a segregated army. And yet the courage and the sacrifice of those American soldiers were blind — just like justice.

“Seventy years ago, President Harry Truman recognized their battlefield sacrifice and the hypocrisy of racism. It was the beginning of the end for those who thought our American principles of equal justice and equal opportunity didn’t apply to people of color.  The journey is far from over, but I am honored to mark this milestone in American civil rights.”

An equally proud veteran joining the Councilwoman was Suffolk County Presiding Office DuWayne Gregory who enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1993. Soon after, he was accepted to Officer Candidate School. After completion of Officer Candidate School, Gregory was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Field Artillery.

He would later make his own history by becoming the first person of color in history to be elected Majority Leader of the Suffolk County Legislature.

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