Seattle Mayor Devin inaugurates Civic Unity Committee on February 14, 1944.

  • By Heather MacIntosh
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • Essay 2112

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.


Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994); "Devin Names Committee On Race Problems," The Seattle Times, February 15, 1944, p. 2.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You