African American Civil Rights and World War 2

Contextual knowledge for Civil Rights Coursework

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African American Civil Rights and World War 2
TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION
WW2 - conflict fought to uphold democratic freedom.
White Americans could no longer profess to believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness for all and yet fail to apply those principles to their fellow black citizens.
NAACP seen as effective and successful in legal campaign.
White Allie involved in the struggle. WW2 a time when all Americans came together to face
common danger.
CHALLENGES TO THIS INTERPRETAION
Rosy picture but ignores continued injustices experienced by African Americans during war
years.
Within the USA, African Americans began to display a new militancy in their struggle for more
equal treatment.
WAR YEARS: A NEW MILITANCY?
WW2: `the forgotten years of the Negro revolution' (Richard Dalfiume 1968)
Growth of a new militancy in AA communities during War.
Black Americans no longer willing to submit passively to racial discrimination and segregation.
EVIDENCE OF A NEW MILITANCY
A Philip Randolph threatened to march on Washington Movement (1941) to protest the lack
of employment opportunities for blacks in defence industries.
`Double V' campaign of the `Pittsburgh Courier,' using the AA to fight against racial injustice
at home and abroad.
NAACP membership rose from 50,000 in 1940 to 500,000 by 1945.
Such developments meant the first signs of a new movement in the mass campaigns of
1950's and 1960'.
ON THE OTHER HAND
`Double V' campaign not a sign of increased militancy but of black conservatism?
Black Newspaper owners didn't wish to appear unpatriotic so adopted seemingly bold
slogan with hidden objective of uniting black readership behind war effort.
Campaign really a call to `close ranks' disguised by militant posting?
No black newspaper was supressed by federal authorities; not black journalist arrested for
sedition.
THE WARTIME GOVERNEMENT
FDR's wartime administration inherently conservative in its racial policies?
FDR employed a special advisor on race relations, Jonathon Daniels, a Southern white liberal,
but role was essentially a trouble shooter.
First was to identify potential sources of racial conflict in advance and defuse them before
they could intervene with wartime production.
Government policies on racial relations therefore reactive and piecemeal rather than the
result of any coherent long term policy.
WARTIME MEASURES
Massive federal government surveillance kept the black press under control.
The FEPC contained staff generally sincere in their efforts but higher level officials, including
FDR, declined to enforce its recommendations lest this interfere with war effort. Improved

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African Americans during war perhaps more a result of labour
shortages than the work of the FEPC.
FDR's GOVERNMENT
2 main aims of FDR's government, like any during wartime, were maximising the war effort
and surviving in office.
FDR's government was prepared to endorse limited racial reforms in the interests of these
larger concerns but such advances were not an objective in their own right.…read more

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