June 1941

US and World Events plus Additional Resources


This is Randolph’s June 16, 1941 letter to Eleanor Roosevelt, enclosing information about the planned protest March.

As war mobilization began to lift the nation out of the Great Depression, discrimination by industry and labor excluded many African Americans from the full benefits of the economic boom. Civil rights and labor leader A. Philip Randolph threatened to lead a massive March on Washington to protest racial discrimination in defense industries. Eleanor Roosevelt supported Randolph and helped arrange an Oval Office meeting with FDR. At that meeting, FDR tried to persuade Randolph to abandon his threat. But when he stood firm, the President agreed to issue an executive order creating the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC). The FEPC was empowered to investigate and overturn race discrimination in industries engaged in military production.

Executive Order 8802: Prohibition of Discrimination in the Defense Industry was issued on June 25, 1941. Click here to read the order.

Although EO 8802 was issued grudgingly by FDR by June 25, it is viewed today as an important step in the early civil rights movement and helped bring the economic benefits of the war boom to the nation’s African American citizens. Years later, Phillip Randolph would again play a key role in organizing the movement for a March on Washington, culminating in the largest civil rights demonstration in American history.