During World War II, the ACLU took on the segregated draft when black landscape gardener Winfred Lynn responded to his draft notice in 1942 by defiantly stating that he was ‘ready to serve in any unit of the armed forces of my country which is not segregated by race.’ Arthur Garfield Hays, an ACLU General Counsel at the time, assisted with Lynn’s brief, and the ACLU also provided financial support to the fight.
The lawsuit itself ultimately failed; but the controversy surrounding it highlighted the hypocrisy of segregated armed forces serving a country espousing ideals of equality in its fight against the Nazis. This case was a contributing factor in President Truman’s July 26, 1948, executive order ending racial segregation in the military.
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