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Can the U.S. military still lead the way on civil rights?

Equal Time, Ep. 38

Adm. Michelle Howard was the first woman to become a four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, and the first Black woman to captain a U.S. naval ship.
Adm. Michelle Howard was the first woman to become a four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, and the first Black woman to captain a U.S. naval ship. (Photo courtesy of Adm. Michelle Howard, Retired. Composite by Chris Hale/ CQ Roll Call)

Executive Order 9981. President Harry Truman signed it on July 26, 1948, mandating the desegregation of the U.S. military. As the Truman Library Institute in Washington hosts a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the landmark decision with a civil rights symposium, there are questions, as well.

Some of today’s elected officials have even derided the merit of diversity in the military and as an American value, making it a part of the so-called “culture war.” Yet the order changed the country — and lives. 

In a groundbreaking 35-year-career, retired Adm. Michelle Howard was the first woman to become a four-star admiral in the U.S. Navy, the first Black woman to captain a U.S. naval ship and the first woman graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to become an admiral. In this episode of “Equal Time,” she speaks with host Mary C. Curtis about not only history and her story, but also the importance of diversity in building today’s military — and the way forward.

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