On February 14, 1944, Mayor William F. Devin (1898-1982), Seattle mayor from 1942 to 1952, names a "Civic Unity Committee" to address the problem of growing racial tension in Seattle.
Racial conflict in Seattle came to a head during World War II. In 1943, race riots broke out in Detroit, Harlem, and Los Angeles, prompting Seattle Police Chief Herbert D. Kinsey to announce, "We're preparing for anything that might result from a crowded, mixed and excited wartime population."
Five months later, Devin summarized his fear of racial violence in Seattle at a speech given at the University of Washington. He noted, "the problem of racial tensions is one which is fraught with a great deal of dynamite ... it is going to affect us not only during the War, but also after the War, and it is our duty to face the problem together. If we do not do that, we shall not exist very long as a civilized city or as a nation."
Devin's speech presaged a violent, race-related riot at Fort Lawton on August 14, 1944.
The Civic Unity Committee was active in the 1950s and 1960s, as the Civil Rights movement gained momentum.