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NAACP and WSU to celebrate 75th anniversary of executive order that integrated the U.S. military

Courtesy photo

The executive order made the armed services a more equitable force for the United States.

Leaders of the Wichita Branch NAACP will receive a Kansas State Proclamation at Wichita State University on Wednesday recognizing the 75th anniversary of an executive order that desegregated the U.S. armed forces. It's part of a national effort by the civil rights organization to recognize veterans of color.

Branch president Larry Burks, who also is retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and director of Military and Veteran Services at WSU, says U.S. President Harry Truman's order in 1948 allowed men and women of color to be integrated into units.

"This was very significant because at that time, in the early in the history of our country, we had a segregated military," he says. "There were units that were all Black. There were units that did not have Black soldiers or soldiers of color integrated into their forces, so they fought separately. Even during World War II, for example, there were all Black units that fought alongside [other] units from the United States."

Burks says the action made the armed services a more equitable force for the United States.

"The soldiers were deserving because of the dedication proven by men and women of color, that they were there to support and of course defend our country," he says. "Equal rights should have been provided to them and that could only come through an integrated service. The president effectively did away with all of the segregated units in the United States military."

Burks also says the action enabled the country to see that these men and women had the courage, intellect and the ability to do those things, all while performing at exceptional levels.

"It was only right to give them and give us the opportunity to show that we are worthy of being able to hold those positions of leadership," he says. "And it paid off well, and it continues to pay off well, even to this day."

A proclamation was given last week during a Wichita City Council meeting at City Hall. Burks received the proclamation with veterans from the community in attendance.

Burks invites all veterans to join the observance on Wednesday, July 26 at Wichita State University in the Rhatigan Student Center, room 262, at 4 p.m.

Carla Eckels is Director of Organizational Culture at KMUW. She produces and hosts the R&B and gospel show Soulsations and brings stories of race and culture to The Range with the monthly segment In the Mix. Carla was inducted into The Kansas African American Museum's Trailblazers Hall of Fame in 2020 for her work in broadcast/journalism.