National Action Conference for Civil Rights

Edited by Thomas Milton Kemnitz, D.Phil.

Order Code: 1961

In April of 1942, members of the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties gathered in Washington, D.C., for a National Action Conference for Civil Rights. They were working toward an America that guaranteed to every individual the rights and liberties established in the U.S. Constitution. This book contains the documents produced from that conference, which was one of the most significant yet unknown events to benefit the American people today.


In April of 1942, one of the most extraordinary gatherings in American history was held in Washington, D.C., by a group of men and women who formed the National Federation for Constitutional Liberties (NFCL). It was the beginning of World War II, and the Germans and Japanese seemed to be triumphant everywhere; the United States had yet to win a single battle. It was the worst time to speak out for civil rights, but the people who did so were brave and determined to protect the constitutional liberties of the American people.

The delegates who met for the conference had much to protest: Jim Crow laws, segregation in the armed forces, discrimination on the basis of race and religion, abridgment of the right to organize labor unions and/or to strike, the internment of Americans of Japanese and Italian origin, the imprisonment of members of the American Communist Party, and limits on free speech in the name of the war effort.

The delegates to the National Action Conference for Civil Rights had a vision of an America that guaranteed to every individual the rights and liberties established in the Constitution. Their vision was the one that ultimately prevailed. Every law they said was wrong in 1942 has been repealed. Every action they protested in 1942 the country now regrets. Every right they said should be established has been established as a right.

While we have endorsed the vision, we have forgotten the visionaries. Their fight was overshadowed by the fight on the battlefields that engaged millions of others. Their battles pale beside Midway and Normandy. No monuments have been erected to them. But we owe them a great debt, and they should not be forgotten.

Reprinted in this book are the original conference documents as they were produced in 1941 and 1942. We believe that it is important for youngsters to see the originals, to realize that lofty goals can be pursued with humble tools and that struggle and sacrifice are often a part of achievement. The achievements of the members of the NFCL may be largely unknown, but they have benefited an entire nation of people who are fortunate enough to enjoy the rights that everyone deserves.


14, 15, 16, 17, 18+
9, 10, 11, 12
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