Truman's Final Civil Rights
Address in Harlem: October 11, 1952
I am here to say to you now that the [civil rights] fight will never cease with me as long as I live.
—HST, October 11, 1952
At sixty-eight, after seven years' service as the nation's first Cold War president, Truman decided to pack it in; but even as a lame-duck president, he was still a fierce partisan. Although Truman had unsuccessfully tried to persuade his dear friend Chief Justice Fred Vinson to run for president in 1952, he was stuck with Governor Adlai Stevenson. Truman felt that the Illinois governor lacked the quiet decisiveness and the wisdom that he saw in Fred Vinson. Nonetheless, as a committed partisan, Truman believed that he had a job to do in the 1952 presidential campaign: keep the GOP presidential candidate, General Dwight Eisenhower, out of the White House on January 20, 1953. 1 To achieve that goal, a vigorous and combative Truman traveled eighty-five hundred miles across the country in the fall of 1952 on a whistle-stop campaign tour reminiscent of his victorious come-from-behind presidential campaign four years earlier. 2
One of the last stops on Truman's rigorous campaign schedule was “speech #90”—a major civil rights address delivered at one in the afternoon on Saturday, October 11, 1952, before sixty-five thousand Harlem residents who gathered in Dorrance Brooks Park. 3 This was the same square in Harlem where candidate Truman had delivered his landmark civil rights speech on October 29, 1948, just four days before he won the most spectacular surprise presidential victory of the twentieth century. Unlike the deeply spiritual tone of Truman's 1948 campaign visit to Harlem, his swan song civil rights speech in Harlem in 1952 was a lively campaign event. Philleo Nash, who accompanied the president on both of his