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African-Americans & World War II. Double V or Win the War First?. KKK lynching. Lynching. Average of 56 blacks lynched in US between 1882 and 1935. Congress refused to pass anti-lynching bill. Conditions in US in 1940. Jim Crow laws 3,000 blacks lynched 1882-1935

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african americans world war ii

African-Americans & World War II

Double V or Win the War First?


Average of 56 blacks lynched in US between 1882

and 1935. Congress refused to pass anti-lynching


conditions in us in 1940
Conditions in US in 1940
  • Jim Crow laws
  • 3,000 blacks lynched 1882-1935
  • Congress refused to pass anti-lynching
  • One black member in Congress
  • Limited voting rights
  • Discrimination in every aspect of American life--sports to armed services
a unified us in wwii
A Unified US in WWII?
  • Whites unified in desire for victory
  • Blacks wanted victory and end to racism
  • 38% believed end to racism in US more important than defeating Germany
  • 18% said Japanese would treat them better than Americans
black and the press
Black and the press
  • White newspapers rarely reported any news from the Black community
  • Unless it concerned a crime
  • To white Americans Black community did not exist
  • Most considered Blacks inferior in all ways to whites
  • Not just a Southern point-of-view
black media
Black media
  • Pittsburgh Courier---350,000
  • Chicago Defender--230,000
  • Baltimore Afro-American--170,000
  • Norfolk Journal--100,000
  • Black press demanded a Double V--victory against fascism abroad and at home
Pittsburgh Courier--most militant
    • Long series comparing Nazi racism with racism in Georgia
    • Only difference was that the Nazis were trying to do what was common place in Georgia
    • Of course that wasn’t true and the paper didn’t know about the Holocaust
    • But the point was how do you fight for freedom if you don’t have freedom
When Black press reported on real racial conditions in the South
  • When it reported on Black soldiers being beaten at Southern bases
  • When it reported the details of war industry factories refusing to hire blacks
  • The reaction of the federal government was to investigate the press for sedition
  • FBI--J. Edgar Hoover was especially determined to prove press disloyal

Robert Vann, Pitt. Courier

Robert Abbott, Chicago


wwii a white man s war

WWII a white man’s war

Why should I shed my blood for FDR’s America, for Cotton Ed Smith and Senator Bilbo, for the whole Jim Crow, Negro hating South for low paid jobs, dirty jobs for which Negroes have to fight, for the few dollars of relief and the insults, discrimination, policy brutality, and perpetual poverty to which Negroes are condemned even in the more liberal North.

black newspapers wwii
Black Newspapers WWII
  • Ted Carrell
  • Amsterdam New York
  • Star
discrimination in war factories

Discrimination in war factories

Vultee Air factory: “It is not the policy of this

company to employ other than of the Caucasian


Standard Steel of Kansas City: “We have never

had a Negro worker in 25 years and don’t intend

to start now.”

But both did have to start to hire black workers

  • FDR Executive Order # 8802
  • Alabama rejected a war contract
  • No enforcement provisions
  • But simple math created new democracy
  • War production needed workers and black and women filled the call
race riots 1943

Race Riots--1943

Americans maul and murder each other as Hitler wins

a battle in the nation’s most explosive city

Race riots in Detroit, New York
  • 4 days in Zoot Suit Los Angeles
langston hughes

Langston Hughes

You tell me that hitler

Is a mighty bad man

I guess he took lessons

From the ku kulx klan

You jim crowed me

Before hitler rose to power

And you’re STILL jim crowing me

Right now, this very hour

Yet you say we’re fighting

For democracy

Looky here, America

What you done done--

Let things drift

Until the riots come.

Now you policeman

Let the mobs run free;

I reckon you don’t care

Nothing about me

the armed forces
The Armed Forces

Baltimore Afro-American 1943

Beaumont, Texas mob attacked blacks
  • Martial law
  • In Marianna, Florida black taken from jail and beaten to death
  • A black soldier shot to death after refusing to ride in the back of a bus
armed forces

Armed Forces

Nowhere was discrimination against blacks more

troubling that in the armed forces

Navy--only as a cook or messman

Marines--not allowed

Army Air Force--no

In 1940 4,700 blacks in service--all in segregated units--by 1943 500,000 blacks in the army

jim horton

Jim Horton

I’m just a Negro soldier

Fighting for “Democracy”

A thing I’ve often heard of

But very seldom see . . .

They expect me to be loyal

But in my heart I’m not

For how can a second-class citizen

Be a first class patriot?

selective service director lewis hershey

Selective Service Director Lewis Hershey

“What we are doing, of course, is simply

transferring descrimination from

everyday life into the army.”

But discrimination already in the armed forces

general ben o davis
General Ben O. Davis

West Point--no one would talk

Commander of 332nd--the

Tuskegee flyers

Flew 60 missions

The 332nd lost only 25 bombers

in over 200 missions

southern camps northern soldiers

Southern Camps/Northern Soldiers

White officers--black soldiers

Separate training facilities

Poor housing, bad rations

No r&r for black soldiers in Southern towns

White MPs regularly beat black soldiers

Black guards took German POWs to local

restaurants--but could not go in

Race riots on army bases throughout the south

White soldiers refused to salute black officers
  • Separate PX and water fountains
  • Yet by end of the war more than 1 million blacks served
  • 1940 2 black officers--1945 7,000
conditions for black pilots

Conditions for Black Pilots

Segregation enforced--only white officers could

train black flyers

Black pilots could not fly to or from fields where

white pilots were stationed

Black and white pilots could not fly together

Not until 1943/1944 did Tuskegee pilots see action in Europe

Did an outstanding job--film “Tuskegee Airman”

(1995) Laurence Fishburne does an excellent job of showing racial hated of black pilots by whites