The Position of African Americans in 1945

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The position of African Americans in 1945
Over 1.2million black men joined the US army during WW2; the experience radicalised them.
Northern blacks were trained in camps in the south ­ this was their first experience of formal racial
segregation ­ disgusted as they were fighting for their country's legacy yet they were treated as
second class citizens in their own country.
Black soldiers had different canteens and were transported to the battlefield in different vehicles ­
many were employed as cooks or cleaners and so were denied the right to fight.
Black soldiers that did make it to the front line were given less training and worse equipment ­ black
battalions often sent to most dangerous parts of battlefield ­ led to riots.
Whilst in Europe, black soldiers noticed there was no formal segregation and that they were treated
as heroes ­ they wanted this treatment at home.
Black soldiers used the `double v' sign which symbolised that they were fighting for two victories ­
abroad against fascism and at home against racism.
Black soldiers' courage changed the attitudes of many white soldiers: `they're just like any of the
other boys to us' and helped boost blacks self esteem ­ made them determined to challenge racial
Economic changes from WW2
The government spent vast sums creating armaments and supplies for the army.
In the south $4.5billion was spent on creating factories that produced war goods but at first blacks
couldn't get jobs due to racist employees.
A. Phillip Randolph was appalled at this `colour' bar and threatened to lead a march to Washington
unless the government forced change. In 1941 FDR created the Fair Employment Practices
Commission (FEPC ­ EO8802) ­ forced war industries not to discriminate on grounds of `race, creed,
colour or national origin' when hiring.
Industries in the north also boomed ­ there was another wave of black migrants.
In 1940, approx 1/4 of blacks lived in the north, by 1950, 1/3.
Economic changes allowed blacks to play a major role within the war effort and changed the way
they lived ­ by 1945, 48% of blacks were urban (paid more).
The decade after the war is described as the `Golden years of the NAACP', where they operated a
three-fold strategy to challenge southern segregation.
1. Take `Jim Crow' laws to court ­ appealed to 14th and 15th amendment
2. Put pressure on politicians in Washington
3. Organise popular resistance
Smith v. Allwright, 1944 ­ concerned black voting rights. Blacks in Texas were excluded from primary
elections, Smith (black Texan) challenged this and with backing from the NAACP took the case to the
Supreme Court. Case ruled that Texan white primary was illegal because according to the 15th amendment,
all citizens had the right to vote; consequently all-white primaries were outlawed across America.
Morgan v. Virginia, 1946 ­ challenged segregation on interstate bus services. Morgan was fined $100 for
refusing to give up her seat for a white man ­ argued this violated her constitutional rights. Took her case

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Supreme Court with backing from NAACP's chief lawyer Thurgood Marshall ­ in 1946 ­ segregation on
interstate buses = illegal.
Between 1945 and 1955, the NAACP organised a series of protests in Louisiana ­ in 1947, they picketed
New Orleans' four biggest department stores. In 1953, there was a boycott of a new built school in
Lafayette ­ facilities obviously inferior to local white school.
1953 Louisiana UDL organised week-long bus boycott ­ unsuccessful, too short to catch media's attention
­ buses remained segregated.…read more


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