March on Washington, 1941

Since World War I, African Americans had protested both the segregation of the U.S. military and the systematic job discrimination in war-powered defense industries. In 1940 A. Philip Randolph, joining Walter White, secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and T. Hill Arnold of the National Urban League, urged President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end segregation in the armed forces and to permit blacks to obtain more jobs in the defense industry. Unable to resolve these issues satisfactorily with President Roosevelt, Randolph planned a protest that called for a march on Washington for jobs in national defense and equal integration in the fighting forces of the United States. With a forecast of 100,000 African Americans marching on Washington D.C., President Roosevelt met with Randolph and White on June 18, 1941, to avoid the embarrassing attention such a demonstration would attract. Six days before the march, Randolph canceled the protest when President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, which abolished discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government and created the Fair Employment Practices Committee.