World War II:
Segregation Abroad and at Home
Military policies and general notions regarding race relations were already very prevalent since the First World War. They became even more defined in the pre-war American times. The African American community in America was pushing for equality; to fit in the society. Racial tension swept across the nation like wild fire. Regional phenomena became a nationwide aspect. The white majority kept the two races segregated, in all aspects of the society. The term "Separate but equal" made famous by the United States Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson remained instantiated as the law of the land in reference to racial policy. This concept of ...view middle of the document...
The decline in industrial output combined with racial segregation of many jobs left the African Americans without job seniority out of work. The African Americans immediately lost their jobs on grounds of being unskilled labors. This led to severe unavailability of jobs in the Southern states for the blacks. With no choice left, they were forced to migrate to the Northern states in pursuit of jobs. Thus there was large-scale movement of the African Americans from South to North. This also created a bottle-neck situation in the Northern states.
However the opening in Ohio in Akron city seemed promising for the blacks. It was becoming a booming wartime economy. So, most of the blacks from rural South migrated into Ohio. Akron was home to huge rubber corporations at this point. One of the key developments in Akron was synthetic rubber, considered almost as important to winning the war as the atomic bomb. Companies also switched over to making planes and other wartime materials.
The black population was increasing in Akron and other northeastern Ohio industrial cities; but simultaneously racism and discrimination ruled in companies for as long as possible. Housing discrimination also continued. African-Americans were still not given semi-skilled or skilled jobs, and these often went to white men disqualified from military service or white migrants from Appalachia; African-Americans were relegated to the most menial jobs. Even after the war, many blacks were asked to give up there wartime positions for white veterans. This definitely was a step backwards for them.
African American soldiers noted the irony and hypocrisy of fighting for freedom and democracy in Europe when they could not enjoy those same privileges in their own country. This sentiment led to the development of the “Double-V” campaign which worked to end discrimination at home and ensure democracy abroad. At home this movement was maintained by discrimination in the defense industries and labour unions; racist housing practices were also noted and attempts to change these were a part of the Double V campaign. African American rights were directly tied to European emancipation.
Civil rights leader, A. Philip Randolph saw the unique situation created by World War II and the acute need for workers as an opportunity to demand equality. In 1941, Randolph threatened President Roosevelt with a 100,000-person march on Washington D.C., to protest job discrimination. In response, Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802, prohibiting discrimination in defense jobs or the government. The Committee on Fair Employment Practices was established to handle discrimination complaints- the FEPC.
Segregation in the Military Front
As historians Sherie Mershon and Steven Schlossman put it, "The fate of the black regiments in the years between the two world wars exemplified the low regard and the racial prism through which the Army viewed black soldiers." They saw blacks as inferior and in order for the...