Kansas City Call
Chester A. Franklin and Harry S. Truman:
An African-American Conservative
and the "Conversion" of the Future President
BY THOMAS D. WILSON*
In his insightful and controversial essay, "The Conversion of Harry
Truman," William Leuchtenburg argues that Truman's transformation from
bigot to civil rights protagonist resulted from his 1940 tour of southern military
bases and his view of the Constitution as a "sacred text." Other historians,
most convincingly Larry Grothaus, assert that the future president's concern
for African Americans began during his years on the Jackson County Court.
Still others, Richard Miller and Harold Gosnell among them, question
*Thomas D. Wilson received a B.S. and an M.A. degree from Central Missouri State
University, Warrensburg. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Brandeis University, where he
is studying scientific fraud in the eighteenth century.