44. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State (Bowles) to the President’s Special Assistant (Dutton)1


  • Equal Employment Opportunity

As you know, the Secretary, Mennen Williams, and I, as well as other newcomers in the Department of State have always had strong views on the question of civil rights. I among others have been critical of the slow pace with which the Department has recruited qualified Negroes for responsible positions. Until we took office, however, we did not know just how bad the situation was.

As of February 28, 1961, of 3732 Foreign Service officers, 17 were Negroes, of 1140 Foreign Service Reserve officers, 3 were Negroes; and of 3527 Foreign Service Staff employees, 38 were Negroes. (The figure of 38 in the Staff corps is on the low side. It was not feasible to canvass each overseas post to determine the number of Negro Staff corps employees.) In the Department, of 4570 Civil Service employees, 1064 [Page 86] were Negroes but less than fifteen percent of that number were higher than grade GS–5, and none higher than grade GS–13.

Soon after entering the Department last winter we started a real campaign to speed up action in this field. While there is a great deal more to do at least we have made a good start.

A number of regulatory controls have been instituted or revised; Assistant Secretary Williams has been named Employment Policy Officer for the Department of State and the executive director of each bureau has been designated as an associate employment policy officer, each of whom is responsible not only for the processing of formal complaints of discrimination but for promoting compliance with the concept of fair employment within his jurisdiction; an instruction has gone to the field directing that no discrimination is to be permitted in employee recreational activities at overseas posts; and the field inspection team has been instructed to observe for evidence of compliance with the nondiscrimination policy. Moreover, the Deputy Assistant Secretaries of minority group background served this year on the examining panel for FSO-8 candidates. However, to effect a change in the aforementioned statistics, action of a more remedial nature must be instituted. This is being done.

On August 16, the Department held a day-long conference with top Negro leaders and representatives of national agencies to discuss steps that might be undertaken to achieve a more representative officer and staff corps and to assure better recruitment and utilization of Negro civil service employees. Secretary Rusk told the conferees “we are determined to do everything that we can to insure that discrimination is not practiced in the State Department.” They, in turn, made nine recommendations to the Department.

Following are the recommendations of the conference, each with brief commentary on Departmental action to date:

1. Launch a campaign to make it known that qualified Negroes are wanted.

The conference of August 16 was the kick-off of such a campaign. Since that time, a communication has been sent to each participant asking that they send the names of any people they feel qualified for employment with the Department. In addition, application forms for the FSO-8 examination have been sent them with the request that they encourage Negro young people of their acquaintance to take the examination this year. The conferees were asked to talk up the fact that the Department is interested in finding qualified Negroes for service at home and abroad, and four of the conferees have been asked to serve on a liaison committee which is to meet periodically to assess the Department’s progress. A meeting of this committee is planned for November.

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2. Appoint Negroes to “high level policy positions” in the Department so as to inspire bright Negro youngsters to train for work in the field of foreign affairs.

The Department has this recommendation under consideration. When circumstances are appropriate, i.e. when suitable assignments occur for which we have qualified Negroes, the Department will not hesitate to make such appointments.

3. Use Negroes as recruiters, both at predominantly Negro and at integrated colleges.

The paucity of Negro officers in the senior grades both in the officer corps and in the Civil Service makes it difficult for the Department to meet this recommendation. The Foreign Service officers used in the college visitation program are Class 4 or higher while Civil Service employees, when used are at least grade GS–14. There are no Negro Civil Service employees at this grade level in the Department, and of four Foreign Service officers Class 4 or higher, all are currently serving in assignments overseas. One Negro Reserve officer is teaming with a white officer for a special recruitment trip to five of the larger metropolitan areas which, hopefully, will provide both some additional candidates for the examination this year and lay a base on which to build a better recruitment program in these cities among the Negro population over the next few years. Plans are presently underway to assign a Negro employee to clerical recruitment activities.

The number of predominantly Negro colleges to be visited in the college relations program has been increased this year. Whereas seventeen were visited last year, that number has been increased to twenty-six this year, making a net gain of nine. Moreover, the officers participating in the recruitment program have been supplied with a copy of the summary of the conference on equal employment opportunity and time was allotted during the recent briefing session to inform them of the Department’s efforts to increase the representativeness of the Service.

4. Immediately place more qualified Negroes in middle and high level posts by making Foreign Service Reserve appointments.

On or about November 1, three new Negro employees are to enter on duty. All are being appointed as Reserve officers in the middle grades. One is to be assigned to the Bureau of Economic Affairs, one to the Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs in the Leaders and Specialists Division, and the third to the Office of Personnel. It is anticipated that as more of the conference participants begin to supply names of qualified applicants, other appointments will be made.

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5. Survey the great number of Negroes now clustered in the lower ranks so as to determine which, if any, are deserving of immediate promotion.

Three steps are underway which should relieve the imbalance presently found in the distribution of Negro employees by grade. (1) The Office of Personnel is currently surveying job classifications in the Department to discover those in which there is a preponderance of Negroes. When this information is obtained efforts will be made to reduce the concentration. (2) A listing of Negro employees who have demonstrated potential for more responsible assignments is being prepared. This list of names will be judiciously used when vacancies occur for which these employees are qualified. (3) Every fourth promotion panel is being surveyed to determine the frequency with which Negroes appear on such panels. This will be continued over a six months period and a report will be prepared monthly detailing the type of panel, number of Negroes and the selection results. This activity in combination with the aggressive recruitment program underway should result in substantial change in Departmental employment within the next six months.

6. Survey Negro Foreign Service Reserve appointees now working in State and such related agencies as the United States Information Agency and the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) to see if some merit lateral transfer into the Foreign Service.

This effort is currently underway. Because of the highly specialized qualifications and skills of employees of these departments, it is not anticipated that many officers will be found possessing the broad background desirable for work in the Foreign Service. Neither does the Department have any assurance that any officers now employed by either of these agencies would be willing to forego their career status to accept employment with the Department of State. However, this effort will be pursued vigorously.

7. Do not compromise with quality or make any special concessions of competence as a favor to Negroes, but the examination procedure ought to be investigated to determine whether it automatically excludes categories of persons who are potentially valuable Foreign Service officers.

Dr. Kenneth Clark, one of the participants in the conference of August 16 and a Professor of Psychology at City College of New York has recently volunteered the services of a subcommittee of the Society for Psychological Study on Social Issues for the purpose of taking a hard look at the entrance examination to see if it places a handicap on applicants from culturally disadvantaged backgrounds. The Department has accepted this invitation and three officers of the Department will meet with the subcommittee this month.

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8. That predominantly Negro colleges be advised as to any special courses or curriculum materials that might better prepare students for Foreign Service careers.

Dr. Jerome Holland, also a conference participant and a college president, is being asked to chair a committee whose objective will be to look into the problem of the long term supply of Negro candidates for the entrance examination. This committee is to be asked to develop a prospectus for such a program.

9. That Negro youngsters be included in the summer student trainee program of the Department.

Two Negro students out of twenty were included in the intern program this summer. If funds are available for this activity next summer, Negro students will continue to be included.

The Department is making every effort to find qualified Negro applicants for service overseas and in Washington. This program is of first priority and will continue to receive the personal attention of Mr. Herman Pollack, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Personnel.

There are attached for your information copies of news articles on the conference of August 16.2

Chester Bowles3
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, State Department, General, 10/l/61–10/6/61. No classification marking. No response to this memorandum was found.
  2. Not found.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.