Executive Order Creating a Federal policy of fair employment
“The head of each department in the executive branch of the Government shall be personally responsible for an effective program to ensure that fair employment policies are fully observed in all personnel actions within his department.”
— Executive Order 9980
On July 26, 1948, President Truman signed Executive Orders 9980 and 9981. The more widely known EO 9981 desegregated the Armed Forces. Executive Order 9980 was a mandate to integrate the Federal workforce.
At the time, Washington, DC—our nation’s capital—was a segregated city. “Whites only” or “Negroes” signs designated separate lunchrooms, work places, and restrooms. The Federal workforce was segregated, too, a policy implemented under President Wilson’s administration. When President Truman entered the White House, only one agency—the Department of the Interior—was integrated.
Frustrated by congressional inaction, and armed with documentation from his Committee on Civil Rights that found discriminatory practices pervaded Federal agencies, President Truman issued the executive order. To give Executive Order 9980 strength and ensure implementation, Truman made the Presidentially appointed heads of each department or agency responsible. Within a year, 18 agencies had desegregated, and some agency heads that had not cooperated were removed from their positions.