Reel 115 Item 2626 Negroes in the National Defense Program

Author:  Patterson, Robert P.
Date: June 13, 1941

Memorandum for Mrs. Roosevelt

I have your letter of June 10th about the march of Negroes on Washington. We are doing all we can to try to avoid this march. I thought you might be interested in knowing what we have been doing in the War Department about using Negroes in the National Defense Program.

It is the determined policy of the War Department to afford Negroes equal opportunities in our defense effort.

We are doing everything we can to prevent discrimination against Negro workers in industry. Under our defense contracts with private industry, however, the contractor is solely responsible for furnishing the necessary labor, and the War Department does not prescribe labor provisions in its contracts other than those provided for by law. We have actively cooperated with and supported Mr. Hillman in his pleas to employers and unions to eliminate discrimination against the Negroes, and have constantly referred our officers and contractors to the Statement of Labor Policy adopted by the Advisory Commission last September which provides against discrimination against workers because of race or color.

We are making every effort to increase the number of Negro employees in the War Department. There are about 600 Negro civilian employees of the War Department in Washington. A large number of these are clerical employees and our main effort is to increase the number of negro employees in the higher classifications of work.

Last week the War Department let a contract to design and build the air base for the Negro Air Squadron at Tuskegee, Alabama to a Negro architect and Negro contractors. The estimated cost of this construction is about $1,500,000. This is a real recognition of the place of the Negro business and professional men in the national defense program.

On the military side, the Negroes have had even a more important place in our national defense. For the first time in our history, the Secretary of War has a Negro as his civilian aide. Judge William A. Hastie, the Civilian Aide to the Secretary of War, has constantly advised Mr. Stimson and me on racial questions. By June 30th there will be over 80,000 Negro officers and men in the Army. At present there are 430 Negro officers and 56 Negro nurses. Brigadier General B. O. Davis, who received his promotion last year, is the first Negro general in our history. Negro officers are attending all of the regularly established Service Schools except that of the Air Corps where a separate school is to be established. The Negro enlisted men are learning everything from the operation of radios at Camp Benning to cooking at the Army Cooking School.

Negro units of all branches of the service have been created. These include the Armored Forces and Air Corps units. The 99th Pursuit Squadron composed of 45 Negro officers and 390 enlisted men is training at Chanute Field, Rantoul, Illinois, and will be moved to its own air base at Tuskegee, Alabama this fall.

In all the camps in which Negro troops are located, with two very minor exceptions, the Negro units are located in the same camp as the white units.

Robert P. Patterson
Under Secretary of War

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Reel 115 Item 2626 Negroes in the National Defense Program



Location: Vault
Call No. Reel 115 Item 2626

Language: english