Retired Gen. Colin Powell celebrated the 50th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman's order desegregating the military, praising the move as one of the most significant civil rights advances in U.S. history.

"The reality of our history is that president after president and Congress after Congress continued to read the Declaration of Independence's glorious charge of inalienable rights as not applying to the black citizens of this country," said Powell.Truman's order, signed 50 years ago today, demanded "equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin."

It initially met resistance, but by the end of the Korean War about 90 percent of military units were integrated.