Most of the new jobs were in greatly male areas of work, outstandingly the foundries and shipyards; advances for African Americans in customary categories of female employment were negligible. The utmost area of employment for black women was still the service sector, but there was a shift from private domestic service to public service. The failure of black house servants was much bemoaned: one white Alabaman recalled her black servant giving up her employment for $15 per week to earn $100 per month in the torpedo factory.
In such instances it might be said that if Lincoln freed the Negroes from cotton picking ¦ Hitler was the one that got us out of the white folks kitchens. On the whole, however, as Karen Anderson accurately suggests, rather than a Second Emancipation what is significant about the war experience for black women is the degree to which barriers remained intact. 10 One of the most significant and liberating consequences of the war for black women and men alike was the movement of population.
As one black woman recalled that during the war we got a chance to go places we had never been able to go before, another spoke for various Americans regardless of race when she said, The impact of the war changed my life, gave me an opportunity to leave my small town and discover there was another way of life. Of course, African Americans had experienced a Great Migration during World War I, and the emigration from the South had quickened in the 1920s.
Throughout the Depression the number of African Americans leaving the former Confederate states fell from 749,000 between 1920 and 1930 to 400,000 in the thirties. In that sense, the movement of half a million blacks, (17 per cent of black Southerners as opposed to only 3 per cent of whites) during World War II was simply a resumption of the pre-Depression trends. In the period after World War II, resistance to racial stratification and racial exclusion became major political issues. Anti-colonial and civil rights movements fought for national independence and democracy more severely than ever before.
They challenged the expropriation of southern resources land, labor, and primary goods by the northern metropoles. They required an end to the political dominance and exclusion that had differentiated colonial rule and racial subjection. They questioned political practices and global social structures that had suffered for centuries. These opposition movements were color-conscious, but they were usually not racially homogeneous. Indeed, anti-racist movements could typically count on a varied assortment of allies.
Of course, consciousness of race and racism counted; had not the colonial and slavery-based regimes that initiate movements for racial justice also been color-conscious? This dawning anti-racist politics took diverse forms and emphasized different issues in the various settings where it emerged. Often anti-racist mobilizations overlapped with labor movements”socialist, collective, or simply trade unionist”in their condemnations of the conditions under which colored labor was presented for utilization in the former colonies as well as the metropoles.
These anti-racist movements were largely harmonious with democratic ones: they condemned the old forms of political prohibiting as dictatorial, inconsistent with the libertarian and participative rhetoric that the mother countries, the winners (generally) of the recent global conflict had claimed they were fighting to protect. The global anti-racist challenge also called into question whole panoply of normal cultural icons: long established artistic, linguistic, scientific, and even thoughtful verities were revealed to be extremely problematic racially.
And beyond all this, on an entirely practical level the anti-racist movements of the postwar world drew on general experiences. Millions could recognize with their political demands”most particularly those who had undergone military mobilization followed by become disillusioned return to a segregated or colonized homeland. Movement adherents and activists not simply remembered the democratic ideals they had fought for, but also sought to apply those ideals to the anti-colonial and anti-racist norms they met at home.
Wartime experience gained in resisting the Axis powers translated moderately directly into national liberation and democratic movements as veterans were demobbed: in South Carolina or Vietnam, in South Africa or Indonesia, in Senegal, France, or Trinidad. The anti-racist and anti-colonial movements that sprang up all over the postwar world attained a recently transnational character, as growing northern labor demand and southern poverty sparkled widespread migration to the worlds metropolis.
The world had been transformed by the war, and was enduring significant changes in the wars aftermath. The result was a strong enthusiasm, an influential summons, to complete the democratizing work begun a century before with slaverys abolition. Demographically, socioeconomically, politically, culturally, there was a worldwide break with the usual practices and established institutions of white supremacy.
The racially based democratic movements that arose with this rupture demanded a series of social and political reforms from nationwide governments around the world. These ranged from decolonization to deferred enfranchisement and the granting of formal citizenship rights, from the delegitimation of state-enforced (de jure) racial isolation to the creation and completion of a politics of recognition 11 that attempted to valorize such norms as multiculturalism. These reforms were finally undertaken, although unequally; they were implemented, but less than thoroughly.
Still, although framed in uncertain and sometimes incongruous ways, a great wave of racial reforms swept over the world in the postwar decades, notably from the sixties on. By the end of that turbulent decade, the descendants of slaves and ex colonials had forced as a minimum the partial taking apart of most official forms of discrimination and empire. In great numbers they had left their native reserves and isolated communities, migrating not simply to their countries urban centers but overseas to the metropoles from which they had been ruled for centuries.
They had begun to participate in the limited but real new political and economic opportunities on offer in numerous national settings (notably in the northern, post-imperial countries). In those countries where relentless racist and dictatorial regimes still held sway, movements for racial equality and inclusion were revitalized by the successes achieved elsewhere, redoubled their activities in the seventies and after, and ultimately won democratic reforms as well. And yet the break was curtailed.
The rupture with the white supremacist past was not”and could not be”total. in spite of these epochal developments” decolonization, the performance of new civil rights laws, the undoing of long standing racial dictatorships, and the acceptance of cultural policies of a universalistic character”the global racial order entered a new period of volatility and tension in the last decades of the twentieth century. Though enigmatic and unjust, the racial categorization and racial hierarchization of the world was a deeply recognized sociohistorical fact.
No popular movement, no series of political reforms, no encounter with the moral negligence implicit in the comprehensive racism of the modern epoch, would have been enough to undo or remove it. Still, reform was preferable to in force or intransigence, even if it was also inadequate to the task of undoing the varied legacies of centuries of racial hierarchy, exploitation, and exclusion. With retrospection we can see that the various movements for inclusion and democracy would simply be partially satisfied by the reforms they could achieve.
We can understand today, better than we could in the heat of political struggle, why these movements found it hard to sustain their impetus in the aftermath of reform. Most centrally, racial domination was still very much present in the reform process: the diverse states and elites that had been tackled by anti-racist opposition demonstrated their capability to withstand it by incorporating it, at least in part. In the result of such transformations”which were the very heart and soul of the break, the real meaning of attaining racial equality, of overcoming the heritage of racism, became controversial.
What Du Bois had theorized approximately a century earlier as the veil the weird membrane of racial division that traversed both societies and individuals proved difficult to lift 12. And was its lifting even desirable? In a situation where significant racial inequality and injustice continued, where both identities and institutions still bore the indelible mark of centuries of racial domination, the claim that racism had now at last been remedied would certainly ring hollow.
The veil might well survive half-hearted, symbolic, or co-optative gestures at removing it. Though many blacks remained in the South, a substantial number still moved from the country to the city as a result of the further disintegration of sharecropping and the increase of job opportunities elsewhere. The intensifying urbanization of southern blacks contributed to a breakdown in traditional race relations and, with the wider effects of the war, formed a mood of change.
Jo Ann Robinson, for example, recalled that the Womens Political Council began in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1946 after the arrest of people challenging isolation on the buses. By 1955, we had members in every elementary, junior high, and senior high school, and in federal, state, and local jobs. 13. Therefore the foundations of the Montgomery bus boycott could be said to have been laid in the postwar era. Other proof of the new black mood in the South could be seen in the 10 per cent rise in the number registered to vote.
Urged on by the Supreme Courts decision against the all-white primary in Smith v. Allwright in 1944 (the culmination of the NAACP campaign which began in 1923), African Americans in Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina organized voter register drives and other political campaigns. Such campaigns were often led by or implicated returning servicemen, a group that has been seen as having a momentous role in shaping the new postwar mood of black Americans.
Nothing so summarized the ambivalence of wartime experience for blacks as military service, and the history of African Americans in the armed forces persists to be a subject of great interest. The permutation of political pressures and the practical demands of winning the war helped convey about a considerable shift in military policy. The protection of segregation was declared to be official policy in 1940, and at a conference for the black press in 1941 in Washington, D. C. , War Department officials persisted that the military would not act as a sociological laboratory.
Though, in practice segregation proved to be inefficient, not viable in some areas, and clearly harmful to black morale. In one example George Flynn pointed out, The armed forces could not build their Jim Crow facilities fast enough to cope with the inevitable operations of the drafts selection by numbers, and so slowed the recruitment of black servicemen 14. The incapability to provide segregated recreational facilities for all those in camps led to the beginning of an open access policy in 1944.
Conflict over transportation between Southern military bases and neighboring towns led to the overture of a first-come, first served service with no segregation the same year. The most essential departures were, of course, those that came in the Navy and in the Army during the Battle of the Bulge. By the end of the war more than one million African Americans had served in diverse branches of the military. Despite the changes there can be little doubt that for many armed service was a bitter and disenchanting experience.
Despite such comments, though, a recent study of the attitudes of black servicemen suggests that a much higher percentage of blacks than whites (41 per cent to 25 per cent) predictable to be better off as a result of their service, and that for many black soldiers service were an eye opening experience. Really, as one soldier wrote, black soldiers fight because of the opportunities it will make probable for them after the war. How are we to explain this obvious disagreement between the attitudes of black servicemen and their experiences?
It appears that whatever the limitations and undoubtedly there were many”military service gave numerous African Americans a modicum of self-respect and often give training and skills. Service outside the South or even overseas (in Britain, for instance) provided a first taste of parity which could have a lasting effect. John Modell and his associates have shown that black veterans were twice as likely to have moved to a different region after the war as whites, and by 1947 it was estimated that 75,000 black veterans had left the South.
There is also evidence of attitudinal change: Modell suggests that the impact of military service influenced the structure of [black] aspirations in a way that contributed to their unwillingness to accept the prewar structure of racial dominance. 15 Aspirations in a way that put in to their unwillingness to recognize the prewar structure of racial dominance. A former member of a black tank crew expressed this more obviously when he said, After the close of hostilities, we just kept on fighting. Its just that simple. There was much left to fight for.
though many white Americans supported racial change, the professional and demographic changes affecting African Americans almost always met with some confrontation from whites, mainly in the South. Of course attempts to keep Negroes in their place in the South were not new”they were often obvious amid the uncertainty and economic antagonism of the Depression years”but they reached new levels and were perhaps even more widespread during the war years. The Rankins, Bilbos, and Talmadges were enthusiastic in their defense of white supremacy, and challenges to the color line were often met with violence.
Pete Daniel lists six civilian riots, above twenty military riots and mutinies, and between forty and seventy-five lynchings occurring all through the war 16. As Mark Ethridge, first chairman of the Fair Employment Practices Committee and a Southerner, declared, All the armies of the world could not force southerners to end isolation 17 Of course, the very fact of heightened white confrontation was a sign that things were changing. In innumerable ways white Americans were encountering blacks in new roles at work, in cities north and south, in politics, and in the armed services.
numerous did not like it. A theme which had its origins in the 1930s and which would achieve greater strength in the postwar era was already evident, specifically the charge that those demanding developments in Americas civil rights were the crackpots, the communists, the parlor pinks of the country. The more extensive mood, however, recognized the hypocrisy of fighting for freedom abroad as denying it to African Americans at home. Even Frank Dixon, the former governor of Alabama, recognized that the Huns have wrecked the theory of the master race.
As President Truman declared in his message to Congress in February 1948, the world place of the United States now necessitated action in race relations. Trumans record on civil rights is still much debated. For the majority historians his actions appeared more representative than real, calculated to gain the black vote and yet not estrange the white South. Despite their limitations Trumans actions marked important new initiatives which set the program for future reform. It could be argued that the failure to turn principles into practice and deliver substantive change added to the aggravation which was to explode in the mid-1950s.
Certainly any optimistic view of the postwar period has to be qualified. The occurrence of racial violence in both North and South must not be ignored: Arnold Hirsch points out, for example, that in Chicago 46 black homes were attacked between 1944 and 1946 and a total of 485 racial incidents were reported to the Chicago Housing Association between 1945 and 1950 18. But Hirsch also points to a significant change in mood and belief among African Americans in Chicago, and it is clear that the response of both blacks and whites to postwar racial conflict was affected by wartime experiences and Americas position in international affairs.
Regardless of what the reservations, the catalogue of racial progress made throughout the 1940s, from the Fair Employment Practices Committee through to the beginning of integration in the armed forces, the establishing of a civil rights committee, and a series of Supreme Court decisions against favoritism in higher education and housing, coupled with employment gains, encouraged a mood of both optimism and determination among African Americans. At one point or another in U. S. history, thirty-eight states have passed anti miscegenation laws.
In some instances, couples were factually roused from their bed and arrested. In 1959, one such case involved a husband and wife from the state of Virginia. Richard Perry Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a woman of African and Native American descent, had gainned a legal marriage in neighboring Washington, D. C. Believing they had not broken the law since they had taken their marriage vows in Washington, the two were impolitely surprised when they were awakened and arrested in the middle of the night for violating the state of Virginias anti-miscegenation laws.
Unbeknownst to them, the state law integrated a decree that disallowed Virginia couples to marry across racial lines out of state and then return to Virginia to reside. The Virginia judge in the Loving case was a brutal defender and enactor of anti-miscegenation legislation. Over and above stating the fact that Virginia state law forbade whites and blacks from intermarrying, the judge reasoned that this decision reflected Gods intentions. Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay, and red, and he placed them on separate continents.
And but for the intrusion with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix 19. The Lovings were given the choice of either leaving the state for twenty-five years or serving a prison sentence 20. This decision was just one in a long list of cases in which antimiscegenation legislation was upheld by state supreme court decisions. However, despite still comparatively high levels of social disapproval, increasing numbers of Americans have started interracial relationships.
Several structural and cultural reasons put in to this increase in cross-racial couplings. The first and foremost legal influence is the 1967 Supreme Court decision to overturn the Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia decree and overthrow laws that made interracial marriage a crime. Sixteen states still had anti-miscegenation legislation in 1967. An increase in interracial marriages followed the Loving verdict that repealed this legislation. A biracial baby boom began shortly subsequently. Close to fifty thousand children were born to black/white, interracial marriage partners in nineties alone 21.
The legalization of interracial marriage approved people all across the United States the legal authorize to marry whomever they choose (assuming they were heterosexual). With this decision, interracial marriage could no longer be viewed as unusual behavior. Deviant behavior itself was touted throughout the decade of the sixties. Protests from sit-ins to draft card burnings flourished all through that era. Tradition was suspect. Many of the youth of the day came to the conclusion that following the status quo had produced both domination at home and abroad. Civil rights, anti-war, and Black Nationalist protests takes in the sixties.
The Civil Rights Movement, culminating with the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965), resulted in equality under the law for blacks and other racial minorities. Protests against the Vietnam War revealed that it is excessively the poor and minorities in America who bleed in U. S. wars. The Black Nationalist movement turned racism on its head with shouts of black is beautiful! Spurred by aggravation at demands not met by the Civil Rights Movement, advocates of black independence gained wide support throughout the African American community in the late sixties and early seventies.
Movement leaders, inspired by Malcolm X, adopted the name black in place of Negro. Malcolm X evidently differentiated between the Negro who apologizes for his black skin and has a begging attitude and the proud black man who, to a certain extent than apologizing, sees himself as part of the vast majority [of the world] who outnumber whites, and therefore [do not] have to beg the white man for anything 22. Black nationalists demanded, rather than implored for equal rights. Black pride was manifest in the coronation of Robin Gregory as homecoming queen at Howard University in 1967.
Traditionally, homecoming queens at Howard were students who came close to typifying the European style and fashion of female beauty. Most were light-skinned, with straightened hair and European features. Robin Gregory was a black activist who wore her hair in an Afro. Her election as Howards homecoming queen was a pivotal point in the history of the university. A student-led drive to transform Howard into a symbol of black pride broke forth at the coronation. Shouts of Black Power! spread throughout the packed auditorium as Gregory was revealed the winner of the homecoming queen election 23.
Blackness, rather than whiteness, became Howards symbol of beauty. While many other and varied stabbings on authority and tradition took place after the Civil Rights Movement peaked, it was the successes of the Movement that encouraged the latter challenges to the status quo. The Civil Rights Movement was a watershed. The roots of the current revolution of black-white racial identity can be traced back to it. On the structural level, legislation was enacted throughout that era that encouraged the treatment and discernment of blacks as equal to whites.
Culturally, the turbulence and protests of the late fifties and sixties throws in to an atmosphere in which interracial marriages and their biracial offspring were increasingly accepted by normal white America. As the sixties progressed, and Civil Rights protests were both convoyed and then followed by the War on Poverty, the Vietnam War, widespread experimentation with drugs, and sexual freedom, Americans began to turn inward. They were forced to confront defeat in both the domestic and the foreign war and frequent social upheaval at home.
Throughout the seventies, individualism and interest group politics were spawned. The Black liberation movement, the womens movement, the lesbian and gay movements, and others that emerged in the fifties, sixties, and seventies were part of a new tradition that embraced an identity oriented paradigm 24. Identity-focused politics overwhelmed U. S. culture. It was out of these movements that todays multiculturalism was born. Prior to the subsistence of multiculturalism, there was little debate on how biracial persons must identify themselves.
Black nationalists opposed interracial marriages. Many professed a black person marrying across the color line as a denial of blackness. In turn many African Americans, embracing black pride, maintained that the offspring of these parents must embrace their black heritage and identify with it completely. Meanwhile, whites continued to presume that if anyone had a black parent they were de facto black. Biracial Americans were ethnically defined by both blacks and whites as simply black. Today, though, racial identity is neither so promptly nor so easily defined.
Just as the protests of the sixties challenged custom and encouraged interracial relationships, multiculturalism has expectant the affirmation of all racial combinations. Noted psychologists and psychiatrists have come to the opinion that for a person of mixed ancestry to abandon one or the other parents identity [is] to detract from a clear racial identity. Biracial support groups came into existence in the early eighties on the explicit premise that both Black and non-Black identities [are] necessary to the well-being of both interracial marriages and their offspring 25.
The result is that biracial Americans no longer have an obvious racial identity. Lots of older children of interracial marriages cling to the belief that, in our racially divided society, the only healthy way a biracial person can racially recognize is as black. On the other hand, a rising number of younger biracial Americans are opting to recognize both sides of their racial heritage.
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Sitkoff, Harvard, Racial Militancy and Interracial Violence in the Second World War, (Journal of American History, LVIII, 3, December 1971). 9. Sybil Lewis, in Harris et al. , The Home Front, 251. 10. Karen T. Anderson, Last Hired, First Fired: Black Women Workers during World War II, (Journal of American History, LXIX, 1, June 1982). 35 11. Taylor, Charles, et al. Multiculturalism and The Politics of Recognition. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 31. 12. Du Bois, W. E. B. The Talented Tenth. In Booker T. Washington et al.
The Negro Problem: A Series of Articles by Representative American Negroes of To-Day. (Miami: Mnemosyne, 1969 ), 172. 13. Jo Ann Robinson in Henry Hampton and Steven Fayer, eds. , Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s, (New York, 1990), 22. 14. George Q. Flynn, Selective Service and American Blacks During World War II, (Journal of Negro History, LXIX. 1, Winter 1984), 19. 15. John Modell, Marc Goulden, and Sigurder Magnusson, World War II in the Lives of Black Americans: Some Findings and an Interpretation, Journal of American History.
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