Fair Employment Practices Commission

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The Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) implemented US Executive Order 8802, requiring that companies with government contracts not discriminate on the basis of race or religion. It was intended to help African Americans and other minorities obtain jobs in the homefront industry during World War II.


On June 25, 1941, President Roosevelt created the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) by signing Executive Order 8802, which stated, "there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin." This was due in large part to the urging of A. Philip Randolph, who was the founding president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

FEPC press conference
An FEPC press conference, ca. 1942.

Roosevelt set up the FEPC to quell demands for equality, and the organization was given little power to regulate employment practices. The FEPC was given a very low budget, a low number of personnel, and little means for reinforcement,[1] leading many historians to claim that it was set up for failure. Federal authorities in Washington actively frustrated the FEPC’s efforts; for example, the Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles advised President Roosevelt that the State Department was “strongly opposed" to the public hearings that the FEPC was planning to hold in June of 1942.[2]

Within the private sector of the Northern region of the United States, the FEPC was generally successful in enforcing non-discrimination. In the border region, its intervention led to hate strikes by angry white workers. In the South, hate crimes and corruption among Southern government officials contributed to the FEPC's policies being relatively ineffective.

Overall, the FEPC itself was relatively ineffective in its efforts to address the issue of racial discrimination throughout World War II.

In 1942, Roosevelt transferred the FEPC to the War Production Board and then to the War Manpower Commission with Executive Order 9040. In response to this transfer, FEPC Chairman MacLean accused Roosevelt’s administration of reducing the FEPC to “a small Federal bureau without power,” and A. Phillip Randolph asserted that the White House was pursuing a policy that was completely "emasculating" the usefulness of the committee. [3]

In 1943, Roosevelt greatly strengthened the FEPC with a new executive order, Executive Order 9346. It required that all government contracts have a non-discrimination clause and broadened the jurisdiction of this agency to include federal government establishments. During World War II the federal government operated airfields, shipyards, supply centers, ammunition plants and other facilities that employed millions.

In 1948, President Truman called for a permanent FEPC, anti-lynching legislation, and the abolition of the poll tax. A Democratic coaltion, however, prevented the legislation's passage. In 1950, the House approved a permanent FEPC bill, but Southern senators filibustered and the bill failed. Thus, Congress has never enacted the FEPC into law. A lack of permanent legislation to reinforce the FEPC and the controversy plaguing the bill inherently contributed to the FEPC's ineffective implementation. However, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington successfully enacted and enforced their own FEPC laws at the state level.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Takaki, Ronald T. Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II. Boston: Little, Brown and, 2000. Print.
  2. ^ Takaki, Ronald T. Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II. Boston: Little, Brown and, 2000. Print.
  3. ^ Takaki, Ronald T. Double Victory: A Multicultural History of America in World War II. Boston: Little, Brown and, 2000. Print.
  • William J. Collins, "Race, Roosevelt, and Wartime Production: Fair Employment in World War II Labor Markets," American Economic Review 91:1 (March 2001), pp. 272–286. in JSTOR
  • Finley, Keith M. Delaying the Dream: Southern Senators and the Fight Against Civil Rights, 1938-1965 (Baton Rouge, LSU Press, 2008).
  • Herbert Garfinkel. When Negroes March: The March on Washington and the Organizational Politics for FEPC 1959.
  • Fritz Hamer, "The Charleston Navy Yard and World War II: Implementing Executive Order 8802. 1941-1945" 2003 scholarly paper
  • Michael K. Honey. Southern Labor and Black Civil Rights: Organizing Memphis Workers (1993)
  • Andrew Edmund Kersten, Race, Jobs, and the War: The FEPC in the Midwest, 1941-46 (2000)
  • Merl E. Reed. Seedtime for the Modern Civil Rights Movement: The President's Committee on Fair Employment Practice, 1941-1946 (1991)
  • Santoro, Wayne Arthur. "The Civil Rights Movement's Struggle for Fair Employment: A "Dramatic Events-Conventional Politics" Model"
  • Social Forces - Vol 81#1 (September 2002), pp. 177–206 in Project Muse.
  • Abel, Joseph. "African Americans, Labor Unions, And The Struggle For Fair Employment In The Aircraft Manufacturing Industry Of Texas, 1941-1945." Journal of Southern History 77.3 (2011): 595-638. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Dec. 2013.
  • Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States: 1492-present. New York: Harper Collins, 2003. Print.

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