ADVANTAGES

On the home front A. Philip Randolph's 1941 threat to force a March on Washington to advocate for civil rights in wartime employment represented this new attitude. When government defense contracting first began in 1940 and 1941, the federal government acceded to the demands of many businesses that stipulated whites-only hiring. For example, of 100,000 aircraft workers in 1940, only 240 of them were African American and most of those served in unskilled positions as janitors.5 In order to protest this discrimination, Randolph, head of the powerful Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, threatened a march on the nation's capital of 100,000 African Americans. Attempting to avert this embarrassingly large protest, Roosevelt sent his wife and the Mayor of New York to negotiate with Randolph and offered to call business leaders to request they hire Blacks. This gesture, however, did not fulfill Randolph's demands and he refused to back down. Three days before the averted march was to take place, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 that banned discrimination in government hiring exactly as Randolph had requested. In addition, 8802 established the Fair Employment Practice Committee (FEPC) to address reports of non-compliance.6 The under-funded and under-staffed FEPC had no enforcement power, its public hearings and ability to cancel government contracts applied pressure to businesses and unions to create a climate of equity.7 Overall, the African American press viewed the pressure applied by Randolph and the FEPC as a "guarded victory."8

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