41.12.08 Address to the Conference of Negro Newspaper Editors

Author:  Marshall, George C.
Date: December 8, 1941

I am glad to welcome you gentlemen to the War Department.

It is now only a few hours since this nation was attacked by one of the great armed forces of the world. Great as our efforts in the interest of national defense have been during the year which now draws to a close, events of the past day have brought to us the sterner realities of actual war.

Those of you who have come from a considerable distance in order to meet with us here today left your homes while we were still a nation at peace. Today, we have been saddened by the news of other homes on American soil, in one of the great strategic outposts of our nation, blasted by the ruthless and treacherous hands of those whom we have so often befriended in the past. I know that this news has brought to all out people a new realization of our common destiny as free men.

You gentlemen have long served as the leaders of a large and important group within our democratic system. History has brought you new responsibilities, and new opportunities for service. Never has the press of our country been called upon to play a greater part in the functioning and the strengthening of democracy than now lies before it. It is more essential than ever before that all our people have prompt and uninterrupted access to the truth, and all the help that wise editorial interpretation can give them.

When Judge Hastie first informed me of this conference, I gave careful thought to the more extended remarks which I hoped to be able to make. This is the first press conference I have had for a long time, and I know that newspaper men are always looking for news. This thing which I felt might interest you most was the activation of one, and I hope two Negro divisions, in the very bear future. There are details still to be worked out, including the always essential one of appropriations. We shall include as many Negro officers as can be employed with due regard to the numbers available, and the needs of existing military units. Younger officers are being trained in the Candidate Schools, and will be assigned to tactical and other units as commissioned.

As this conference progresses, you will learn something of the internal organization of the War Department, particularly those agencies concerned with personnel, and the broad problems of human relations. But even more important, we shall have a chance to learn, also at first hand, your own views on many subjects of common concern to us all.

Judge Hastie is to be congratulated upon the greatest contribution which he has already made to a better understanding between the War Department and the Negro public. He came to us with a national reputation as a brilliant jurist. He and his associate, Mr. Gibson, have made many friends within the Department, and have accomplished a great deal towards the solution of problems in which I am as sincerely interested as any of you gentlemen.

You will understand the urgency of official duties which prevent my spending as much time with you as I had hoped to do, but I shall follow with great interest the reports of this conference.

I feel now that your action at this particular time, taken, as you put it, on the grounds of having everybody in one unified army of soldiers taking orders, is a very fine patriotic action.