Harry Truman and Civil Rights: Moral Courage and Political Risks

By Michael R. Gardner | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER NINE
The Great “Comeback” Campaign and
Truman's Harlem Speech: October 29, 1948

Our determination to attain the goal of equal rights and equal opportunity must be resolute and unwavering. For my part, I intend to keep moving toward this goal with every ounce of strength and determination that I have.

—HST, October 29, 1948

When the special Turnip Day session of the Eightieth Congress concluded in early August 1948, weary legislators from both parties left the nation's capital wilted from Washington's oppressive heat and humidity; they also left convinced that Harry Truman would be moving out of the White House by the time the Eighty-first Congress convened in January 1949.

Even though candidate Truman had effectively used the Turnip session to publicly slam the do-nothing GOP leadership of Congress, Truman's presidential campaign was bogged down at the outset with a host of nearly fatal problems, not the least of which was the serious financial crisis that confronted the Truman forces. 1 In contrast to the flush and confident Dewey campaign, which enjoyed the active support of Wall Street and big business across the country, Truman's campaign was viewed by journalists and political pundits as a losing proposition. In politics, then and now, smart money goes to the likely winner; and in the 1948 presidential race, the odds-on favorite was Governor Thomas Dewey of New York. This gloomy prognosis was confirmed in an October 11, 1948, Newsweek poll of the nation's fifty leading publishers—all of whom predicted that Dewey would win the White House on election day, November 2, 1948. 2

Most of Truman's closest friends and advisers also thought he would lose in November—a loss that was predictable in view of his stubborn refusal to equivocate on his pledge to bring about major, federally enforced civil rights reform.

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