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*On this date in 1941, Executive Order 8802 was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This prohibited ethnic or racial discrimination in the nation's defense industry.
It also set up the Fair Employment Practice Committee. It was the first federal action, though not a law, to promote equal opportunity and prohibit employment discrimination in the United States. Many citizens of African, Italian, or German ethnicity were affected by World War II, impeding the war effort and lowering morale. This ethnic factor was a major motivation for Roosevelt. The President's statement that accompanied the Order cited the war effort, saying that "the democratic way of life within the nation can be defended successfully only with the help and support of all groups," and cited reports of discrimination: There is evidence available that needed workers have been barred from industries engaged in defense production solely because of considerations of race, creed, color, or national origin, to the detriment of workers' morale and of national unity.
The Executive Order was demanded by A. Philip Randolph, Walter White, and other blacks involved in the March on Washington Movement, who had planned a march on Washington, D.C. in 1941 to protest racial discrimination in the industry and the military. They suspended the march after Executive Order 8802 was issued. The Order required federal agencies and departments involved with defense production to ensure that vocational and training programs were administered without discrimination regarding "race, creed, color, or national origin." All defense contracts were to include provisions that barred private contractors from discrimination as well.