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Letter on Racial Discrimination in the Programs and Operations of the Department of Agriculture.

April 18, 1965

[ Released April 18, 1965. Dated April 17, 1965 ]

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I have your letter of March 26 responding to the Civil Rights Commission Report discussing a number of Department of Agriculture programs and the manner in which they have been operated. The Commission report pointed out some instances in which discrimination on the basis of race have been found to exist.

It seems to me that the steps the Department is taking are designed to correct these deficiencies. I note, however, that many of them depend upon reports and responses from various units of the Department, and I would appreciate it, therefore, if you could let me know what actual progress has been made as a result of the changes you have instituted. It seems to me that a report 60 days from now on the progress actually made would be helpful.



[Honorable Orville Freeman, The Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.]

Note: Secretary Freeman's letter of March 26 was in reply to a February 27 letter from the President (Item 85) regarding the Civil Rights Commission report of racial discrimination in some aspects of the Department of Agriculture programs.

In his letter Secretary Freeman stated that although significant progress had been made in the Department in the preceding 4 years in assuring equal opportunity, the report of the Civil Rights Commission emphasized the need for the Department to reexamine efforts in this field and to work even more diligently to assure that all departmental activities were totally free of discrimination. He stated that the following steps had been taken to implement the Commission's recommendations:

1. The agencies studied by the Commission had reviewed the Commission's findings and recommendations and had reported to the Secretary actions being taken to correct the discriminatory practices indicated. These agencies had been directed to make periodic progress reports to the Secretary until the unfair practices had been eliminated.

2. All agencies of the Department had been directed to take immediate steps to encourage and increase participation by Negro rural residents on an equal basis in all Department programs.

3. A task force had been established to conduct an extensive and continuing review and evaluation of Departmental programs to assure that these programs were efficiently accomplishing the objectives established by Congress on a completely nondiscriminatory basis. This group had been asked to submit a report to the Secretary within 30 days with recommendations for any changes necessary to provide for equal opportunity.

4. Any remaining discrimination and segregation in offices and related facilities used in Department programs was being eliminated without delay.

5. The Inspector General of the Department had been charged with the responsibility of making continuing and special surveys of agency operations and would report to the Secretary immediately any inadequacies in compliance with the Department's policy and directives on discrimination and segregation.

6. All agencies, and any committees and boards appointed by the Secretary, had been directed to take every appropriate step to insure that the democratic process would be guaranteed in all nominations and elections to local agricultural policy and decision-making posts and to assure that all segments of the community would be fairly considered for representation on appointive policy and decision-making committees.

7. A citizens advisory committee on civil rights would be established, consisting of distinguished representatives from a variety of backgrounds and interests, to review the activities of the Department with respect to equal opportunity, to advise the Secretary of the effectiveness of these program and policy directives, and to recommend changes where necessary.

The text of the President's letter together with that of Secretary Freeman's letter was released at Austin, Tex.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter on Racial Discrimination in the Programs and Operations of the Department of Agriculture. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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