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Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

This story originally aired on NPR’s All Things Considered .

MEMPHIS, TENN. – The Army Corps of Engineers has systematic problems with racism and discrimination aboard some of its ships, according to a recent Department of Defense study. Reporter Peter Aronson talked with the men aboard one dredge ship to document the problems, which include racial slurs, de-facto segregation, and stark discrimination in hiring and promotion.

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I did a follow-up story just over a month later for All Things Considered, announcing that the case had been settled. The lawyer representing the deckhands told me my original story played a major role in bringing about the million-dollar settlement.

The Army Corps of Engineers has agreed to give promotions to a group of black employees and pay $1 million in compensatory damages to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit. Sixteen deckhands on a Mississippi River dredging vessel had charged they were subjected to racial slurs and denied promotions from seasonal to year-round employment. The settlement comes on the heels of a Defense Department investigative report this spring that was critical of the racial environment on the ship.
(Listen to the follow-up story on