Executive Order 8802: Definition & Civil Rights

Instructor: Deona Cureton

I have taught honors English in high school, have an BA in Political Science and English, Master's in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, and completing my PhD in Public Administration & Policy with a concentration in Law & Public Policy

Executive Orders have always been created by presidents to correct injustices overlooked by the government. In this lesson, readers will learn what is Executive Order 8802, why the Order was created, and how the Order was associated with the Civil Rights Movement.

What is Executive Order 8802?

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X...these are all well-known names of civil rights activists that helped to push the movement for racial and social equality from the early 1940's to the late 1960's. These individuals, like so many others, were key figureheads in the Civil Rights Movement whose primary mission for African-Americans was freedom from discrimination, obtaining equal opportunities in the workforce, receiving equal education and housing, having the right to vote, and having the ability to have equal access to public facilities like bathrooms, restaurants, etc.).

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., like so many other Civil Rights Activist during the era, just wanted equality for all.
Martin Luther King, Jr., like so many other Civil Rights Activist during the era, just wanted equality for all.

During the Civil Rights Movement, there were also numerous governmental bills known as Executive Orders, that were created to either assist or deter activities associated with the movement. Executive Order 8802 was one of those orders that aided in the attainment of racial and social equality within the workforce for all minorities. Executive Order 8802 was a government order which did not allow for racial discrimination in the workplace, particularly in the industrial companies used to make equipment/materials used during the World War II. The Order was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 25, 1941. Executive Order 8802 was the first non-law, federal action, to support and promote equal opportunity and stand against employment discrimination in the USA.

Why was Executive Order 8802 Created?

This was created specifically to help African-Americans enter into work for the industrial departments that manufactured components used during the World War II era. This was because millions of jobs were established in more populated cities in the United States that were getting ready for war in July 1941. Due to this job availability, large masses of African-Americans migrated to cities in the north and west to gain employment and create careers. But, when attempting to gain employment, these African-Americans were met with discrimination, hostility, and violence.

To put this into perspective, say for instance you just graduated from college with an engineering degree and you want to move to Norfolk, Virginia to obtain one of the Navy positions so you could work on their naval ships. With enthusiasm, you submit your resume, you complete a phone interview, and the Navy base there sounds excited about meeting you as a new graduate.

Excited about graduation and ready to get into the job market, specifically in the US Navy.
Excited about graduation and ready to get into the job market, specifically in the US Navy.

Yet, once you get there and the naval base officer meets you face to face, he then informs you that they can not give you the position due to your ethnicity. That is why Executive Order 8802 was created. The Order was created in an era where African-Americans working in the industrial industry were facing job discrimination at a high rate.

African-Americans were being denied work opportunities at an alarming rate
African-Americans were being denied work opportunities at an alarming rate.

In response to this hostile environment, the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, A. Philip Randolph, and other civil rights leaders, met with the President of the United States' cabinet and the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, to discuss the issues and civil rights violations that African-American workers were facing. They demanded that an executive order be put in place to stop job discrimination and if their demand was not met, they were ready to bring thousands of African-Americans to the White House's lawn. President Roosevelt took their concerns to heart and, after consulting with advisers, issued Executive Order 8802. The Order stated that ''There shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries and in Government, because of race, creed, color, or national origin.'' Executive Order 8802 also created the Fair Employment Practices Committee so that allegations of job discrimination could be investigated.

President Johnson signing an executive order that was established because of Executive Order 8802.
President signing Executive Order 8802.

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