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Change for African Americans 1945-55
During the war many African Americans left the Southern countryside
to work in towns and cities. More than a million African Americans
migrated to the north to work in the new factories. By 1945 nearly 50%
of African Americans lived in towns and cities.
Millions of African Americans worked in factories during the war
producing tanks and trucks.
There was less agricultural work available due to the introduction of
more machinery resulting in less demand for labour.
African Americans working in northern factories received higher wages
than they had as farmers, but still held little prospect of working in
more highly skilled jobs.
African Americans that migrated to the cities set up their own cultures
and communities centering on their churches and institutions.
Urbanization helped them to work toward their campaign for civil
rights, as they were more closely concentrated in communities.
Blacks poorly treated following war service
One million African Americans served in the armed forces in WW2
Saw effects of Nazi racism and were inspired to defeat it in their own
Blacks often beaten, however, for wearing their wartime uniform at
home by whites.
Black ex-servicemen struggled to get jobs despite serving their
1944 GI Bill of Rights provided education grants for ex-servicemen
allowed African Americans to attend college following the war.
1946 Truman expressed his disgust at the poor treatment of black
veterans, which made him want to aid the civil rights movement.
Segregation enforced in the South
Jim Crow laws were in place segregating schools, parks, buses, even
Facilities for African Americans were poor in comparison, going against
the Supreme Court ruling of `separate but equal' in 1896 Plessy Vs
Many actually accepted the inequality and felt powerless to act against
it, as those who did in the South were arrested, lost their jobs and faced
violence from the KKK.
Segregation was less common in the north, but not unheard of. African
Americans could live, work and vote alongside whites. However, they
were concentrated in areas of poor housing and were overlooked for
jobs and prevented from joining trade unions.
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A range of methods were employed to prevent African American voters
such as the poll taxes, intimidation, literacy tests and the grandfather
Only those registered to vote could be selected for jury service and
therefore in court African Americans often faced injustices from
By 1952, over a million African Americans were registered to vote in the
South, though by 1955 the majority of African Americans still hadn't
registered to vote.…read more