tv Lectures in History CSPAN November 24, 2016 9:00am-10:17am EST
jill ogline titus teaches a class on world war ii and its impacts on civil rights. she talks about integrating work places in the military. her class is about 1:15. welcome. our topic is americans and world war ii. how should we understand the relationship 2009 world war ii and the modern civil rights? hopefully the reading material gave you lots to think about in terms of this question. recruiting posters aimed at recruiting african-americans had a navy cross and joe louis in
his army uniform to send a message that black americans were needed and wanted in the american military. and that their service would be recognized and rewarded and respected. but as you read, the reality of the black experience during the war wasn't that simple. and the posters themselves when we tease them apart a little bit, reflect this gap between promises and reality that characterize the experiences of this generation of black americans. both of these posters visually make it clear that the stakes in this war were high. in the wake of his famous victory over german boxer maximum schnelling in 1938, joe louis became synonymous with being a symbol of opposition to nazi ideas about racial supremacy.
100 million people were tuned in worldwide to hear this match set up as a confrontation between democracy and fascism. lewis enlisted in the u.s. army a month after the attack at pearl harbor and soon became the face of a recruitment campaign encouraging black men to enlist in the army. in response to criticism to civil rights leaders he was using his fame to legitimize a very segregated military, lewis' response was the same. there are a lot of things wrong with america, but hitler is not going to fix them. he shifted the conversation from america's record on race to nazi jeremy's record on race, encouraging black americans to prioritize destroying fascism first and then turn their attention to correcting american racial abuses. lewis did his basic training in a segregated unit then spent the rest of his enlistment promoting
black recruitment and fighting an exhibition fights at army bases around the world. despite his celebrity status, lewis was no stranger to the humiliations that were experienced by black soldiers. segregated facilities, lack of resources, lack of opportunities for advancement, racial epithets, being told to move to the back of the bus. the poster sets up sort of a perfect dichotomy between democracy and fascism. but the reality of joe louis' military service makes it clear that democracy and white supremacy could and did co-exist. dorie miller on the right came to fame through his courageous actions at pearl harbor which most of you are probably familiar with, as japanese planes were swooping over the dengs of the "uss west virginia" miller carried his wounded captain to safety and then took over manning a machine gun managing to hit several of the incoming fighter planes.
that would have been courageous action under any circumstances, but it was made even more so by the fact that doory miller didn't have gunnery training. black sailors were restricted to behind the scene roles like messmen, cooks and stewards. miller was a cook. he had been below deck gathering laundry. in seeing what needed to be done and doing it, despite lack of training, he went very much above and beyond the call of duty. and in may of 1942, dorie miller became the first african-american in u.s. history to receive the navy cross, the navy's second highest award for courage under fire. the navy sent him on a war bonds tour and used his face like in this poster to drum up recruitment among african-americans through promising opportunities to rise above and beyond like dorie miller had done and to be recognized and honored for their
services to their country, but when dorie miller's ship went down in the south pacific in 1943, the u.s. navy was a ridgedly segregated organization. miller himself, despite his actions at pearl harbor, had been promoted no further than ship's cook third class. there were still almost no paths to advancement for african-american sailors in the navy. in life and death, dorie miller was a symbol, but a symbol of what? world war ii was a watershed moment in the struggle for black civil rights or of the limitations of the promises and racial reforms of the war years. as we talk about in some of our first classes, one of the biggest debates in civil rights history today is over chronology and periodization. when did the movement begin? was it emancipation? was it the new deal or later in p the 1950s and 1960s? world war ii lies smack in
between the 1930s. the new deal years and the 1950s. so this period plays a really key role in the way historians understand the modern black freedom struggle. it's clear the war years brought a lot of gains for civil rights, very important gains, but also proved a profound disappointment to those who were hoping for lasting transformation in american race relations. in the most simple terms possible, the war changed some things and failed to change others. but understanding the how and why of that, i think is where things get interesting. so we want to use our time today to talk about some of the ways that black americans experienced world war ii, responded to it, and the impact of the war years in shaping the post war civil rights movement. we'll look at some of the gains of the decade and some of the limitations of racial reform in these years. then we'll talk a little bit about some of the ways that veterans continued to fight for civil rights on the homefront
after ve around vj day. when people have looked back on the world war ii years, a lot of individuals, and a good number of historians, white americans began to back away from white supremacy during these years because the atrocities of nazi germany offered such a horrendous example of where obsession with racial purity could lead. that's definitely true to a certain stent. when the nazi government passed the neuronburg laws that set the jews apart from the population and put strict limitations on almost every aspect of their lives, some aspect of those laws, the black press pointed out almost immediately were modelled on jim crow statutes. that was confirmed by nazi officials. as persecution of german jews was intensifying in europe, civil rights organizations in u.s. were hammering home nazi racial policies and american
segregation, arguing the only essential difference between a nazi mob hunting down jews in central europe and america mob burning black men at the stake in mississippi, one is encouraged by its national government and one is just tolerated by its national government. american civil rights organizations need a lot of years of nazi fixation on segregating public spaces to strengthen their case that these laws were an affront to democratic system the urban league in 1941, the magazine editorialized the fact hitler adopted the jim crow should be proof enough it isma malicious d intent and segregation in new jersey was illegal but widespread, questioned how students attended segregated schools could be taught to believe hitler's rantings about a superior race were absurd.
the report concluded that unwittingly, we are raising a new generation of little fashists right here in new jersey. throughout the war, black americans attempted to use reports coming out of germany to spur their white countrymen into doing some soul searching on race, but they didn't just sit around and wait for the soul searching to take root. instead, they seized the opportunity the war provided to demand change. by launching the dd campaign. what is double-v? >> intolerance nationally and internationally are linked. >> do you want to expand on that? >> double-v as a strategy was first laid out in just a month after pearl harbor. in a letter printed in the
"pittsburgh kocourier" the auth james thomson wrote this, "he proposed two vs, a v for victory over enemies from without and a v for victory over our enemies from within. james thompson was a cafeteria worker at an aircraft plant in kansas. an african-american. he asked some questions that resonated very deeply with courier readers. they were the same questions that they had been asking themselves, asking their families, asking their brothers. how should i respond to this global crisis? should i enlist knowing i'm not going to be treated as the equal of a white soldier? should i buy war bonds? use my money to invest in this conflict? make sacrifices to support the war effort, even though i'm not totally free myself? or as thompson put it -- i'm going to read it to you, "should
i sacrifice my life to live half american? will things be better for the next generation in the peace to follow? would it be demanding too much to demand full citizen rights in exchange for sacrificing of my life? is the kind of america i know worth defending?" those are serious questions. two weeks after thompson's letter appeared in the "courier" the paper launched an official double-v wartime campaign. the response from readers was overwhelming. black papers across the country suddenly started taking it up as well. people chose to pursue double-v, this idea of a link to victory in many different ways. during the war years, membership in the naacp, the oldest civil rights organization exploded from about 50,000 to more than 400,000 by the end of the war. most of the new branches established were in the south which was a region where white
residents were known to be quick to fire, evict and harass naacp members. this tells us something about the spirit of determination among black americans and this campaign was tapping into. this is a poster advertising the naacp's 1944 annual convention held in chicago that year. how does this poster use wartime imagery to make a point? just to get a point across? >> it's pretty clearly saying that the naacp has responsibility to get rid of the jim crow laws and jim crow and naziism and fascism are all going together in the same place. >> yeah, yeah, this bird of jim crow is clearly connected with the nazi regime and with japan. what about the hand?
the fact that the ncca is strangling this bird? what's the imagery there? >> it's a struggle. they weren't just at war with fascism, but at war with jim crow and might need those violent means to get victory within that war. >> yeah. yeah. the victory literally within their grasp. jim crow is almost within the naacp's power to strengthen, to choke out. >> could it just be me? the amount of colors used in this poster, but it does look like the naacp hand that is strangling jim crow is actually a white hand, which is interesting. >> i think that's probably the shading of this particular poster. that is an interesting observation, but given the
message the naacp was trying to send during the war years, i think it's the shading of this particular image. the naacp is an interracial organization, but i think that's probably shading. so as membership in the organization was exploding, naacp lawyers chose this particular moment to step up their attacks on the legal foundations of white supremacy. what was going on in the courts in the 1940s? was the naacp winning any big victories in the courts? >> certainly not with respect to many of them thought the judicial system hoped they would achieve better housing during world war ii or get whatever housing and for many of them they did not. >> there is a housing case that comes before the court in the late 1940s, right? it's not a great victory. it's not something that they're going to put forward as a
massive step forward, although it is a half victory, you might say? >> the major court cases, shelly versus cramer in 1948, which is when the supreme court dictated that racial coffinians were no longer constitutional and the earlier court kats in 1940, smith versus alright where they declared the primary was unconstitutional and primaries had to be integrated. >> shelly v cramer is the decision i was mentioning. it is a half victory. as andrew said, the justices rule that restrictive covenants cannot be legally enforced any more. that is unconstitutional to legally enforce a restrictive covenant. that's the state taking public action to support and prop up
segregation, but what they don't say in this case which is very important, they don't say you can't write a restrictive covenant. they don't say these neighborhood associations and neighborhoods uses restrictive covenants to bar african-americans from moving into their communities -- remember, they might be 80% of properties might be under these covenants. they are not saying it's illegal to write these covenants and maintain them, you can't take them to court and expect them to be held up in courtney more. if real estate agents go along, mortgage brokers go along, neighborhood associations and people who live in them want these restrictive covenants, the fact you can't uphold them in court doesn't necessarily mean a lot. constitutionally, this is a step forward, but on the ground, it's not a major step forward. that's the shelly case. >> 1948. >> the other case that andrew
referenced, smith valright. people don't have a strong sense of what a white primary is. oftentime we talk about what it is. are you clear what a white primary is? this is one of the major ways that african-americans were kept away from the polls in the south. the south in this period was a one-party region. it was just assumed that the general election really doesn't matter because southern states are going to go for the democratic candidate whoever it is. the election mattered in these years in southern states was the primary. the democratic party in many southern states maintained that it was a private club and thus, it could make its own rules about membership. and thus african-americans couldn't participate in the primary election, the only election that really mattered. smith v allright knocks that
down. says the white primary is unconstitutional. this is important because the white primary was a major tool for maintaining voter discrimination, but it's only one tool among many. most of these states compensated by drawing more heavily on other tools for maintaining discrimination. i think when a lot of us think about voter discrimination in the south in this era, we think literacy tests primarily. the reason literacy tests became so common and prevalent was in part because naacp got the white primary knocked down during the war years. so it's an important victory. it doesn't open the gates to widespread black voting, but it means those who are attempting to obstruct widespread black voting have to find other tactics to use. >> with the '40s and talking about the white primary african-americans aren't allowed in the democratic party, so when the flip-flop happened, now the south is republican and our first black president is a
democrat, when did that flip happen? >> 1970s, basically. so we've got these court victories. in addition to what's happening in the courts, direct action was taking a step forward during the war years. direct action protests. in 1942, an interracial group of pacifists who were committed to combatting racial discrimination through direct action, putting their bodies on the line, formed a new civil rights organization called the conscious of racial equality which is better known as core. during the war years, core activists pioneered the use of sit-ins to challenge racial discrimination at lunch counters, skating rinks and restaurants across chicago. not the deep south, but chicago. these are tactics that become widespread tools of the movement by the 1950s and 1960s.
we tend to associate them primarily with the south. but these tactics in terms of civil rights are pioneered in the northern city during world war ii. the war also gave black workers some new tools to combat discrimination in the work force, right? what's happening on the employment front during these years? what are some of the advances in employment? >> well, any jobs simply became widely available because many young men had to go to war. so for them became a matter of they needed to hire black americans because there weren't other americans able to hire. >> demographics are really shifting. we would assume the fact these
demographics are shifting so dramatically means most employeemploye employers would recognize exactly what you just said. that we need to start hiring african-americans in larger numbers because young white men are going off to war. but this actually takes a lot of fighting to achieve. the summer of 1941, the leading voice in -- the leading black voice in the labor movement, a. philip randolph, head of the pullman porter union. he uses the threat of a massive march on washington by black workers to pressure the white house into taking some steps to open up jobs in the defense industry to african-americans. as american industries were shifting toward wartime production, hundreds of thousands of whites were finding relatively highly paid jobs in the defense industry. whites who were not going off to fight. jobs that actually were so lucrative in the context of the
time that they were pulling their families out of the depression, but more than half of employers producing war-related goods in 1941 refused to hire any black employees at all. half of them. and the other half, most of the other half only hired black employees in very low level, unskilled positions. from randolph's point of view, defense industry jobs offered the best opportunity for black economic advancement that had been seen in a generation. it paid high wages, they came with benefits, union representation, they offered an opportunity to be trained in new skills. these were jobs worth fighting for. so randolph launched the march on washington movement. organizers for the march canvassed in black churches, they went into stores, pool halls, wherever they could find people. they found an enormous amount of interest.
by early summer 1941, the threat of 250,000 upset african-american workers marching on the white house became a very real possibility, and a very real concern for franklin roosevelt. and in addition to all the usual concerns that any sitting president feels when being confronted with the threat of a mass march, roosevelt worried that the presence of so many black demonstrators in washington would call increased worldwide attention to the fact washington, d.c. was a very, very seg gated city. the humiliations of racial des cripple nation in d.c. were kind of best summed up in this photograph. this is gordon parks' "american gothic." have any of you seen this before? today gordon parks is probably one of the best known photographers of the 20th century. he's also known for directing "shaft." but at the time this photo was taken in 1942, he was just
another african-american employee, resident of washington, d.c., who was forced to deal with the humiliations of discrimination. his first day in the city i think he got thrown out of three or four different establishments. he had been hired by the farm security administration to work as a photographer, but when he would try to go take photos, he kept getting thrown out because he was running afoul of all these segregation laws. at the end of the day he spent the evening sitting in the office sharing stories with a woman, ella watson. she was a janitor in the farm security office. parks became so moved by her story which was full of tragedy and discrimination and poverty, that he asked her to pose. he very consciously modelled the shot on "american gothic,"
putting flag as the back drop. this was the gap between american ideals so much talked about during the war, symbol of classic americana and the reality of the nation's treatment of its black citizens. gordon parks went on to a legendary career but a lot of people still consider this to be his most powerful photograph. that's one of my favorites. a mass demonstration by black workers in d.c. would have further highlighted this tension between ideals and realities, rhetoric and reality in the nation's capital so roosevelt asked his wife eleanor, one of his most reliable liaisons with the black community to negotiate with march on washington leaders, find out what is it going to take to stop this march from happening? when eleanor roosevelt got back to d.c., she told her husband that nothing short of an anti-discrimination ordinance, a change in the law, would stop the march from happening. just a few weeks before these
250,000 people were scheduled to come to d.c., roosevelt offered a partial concession. for months, randolph and walter white at the naacp had been pressuring him to ban racial discrimination in the defense industry and to desegregate the armed forces. roosevelt says, i can't do the second. it's going to create chaos and i cannot do it at this moment. he agreed to the first, issuing executive order 8802, banning employers receiving federal contracts from discrimination in hiring. 8802 also created the fair employment practices commission or fepc. it would monitor complaints of discrimination in the work place. many observers at the time considered this to be the most meaningful action in support of black rights, sensory construction. in response, randolph agreed to
cancel the march. though the march on washington movement continued as a social movement throughout the next few years. in the wake of this, defense contractors protested quite accurately that many of their white employees would refuse to work with blacks. and many simply ignored roosevelt's order, but black workers knowing that they now had this executive order on their side, staged grassroots actions across the country pushing for compliance. in detroit which is a city that was talked a lot about in our readings, black foundry workers at the dodge maine plant staged two walkouts during the summer 1941, demanding management consider them for transfers to more highly paid jobs on the assembly line. by the end of the war, the percentage of defense industry jobs held by black americans had increased from 3% to 8%, not a huge increase, but an increase.
and federal employment rates among african-americans tripled, which is a more significant development. so we have a body of evidence that suggests that world war ii was an important watershed moment for civil rights, but unfortunately when we had to back away from that a little bit around look more at the big picture view, it becomes more clear that a lot of the gains that were made were largely symbolic victories. as the war intensified and casualties began to mount, a lot of black newspapers sheffield their calls for vudouble-v and linked a campaign to support the war effort. fepc hearings did open new jobs to blacks, both in companies that investigated and companies that didn't want the negative publicity that would come with fepc hearings. but the agency didn't have any an enforcement powers. it could publicize instances of discrimination in the work
place. it could release a report saying packer is discriminating against black workers, but it couldn't take any legal action against packard. employment rates were up for african-americans during the war, the majority were still trapped in menial jobs, jobs not providing skills that would help them to rise through the ranks. black workers definitely did make some gains on the shop floor during the war years, but they had to fight tooth and nail for them. not only against their employers, but sometimes against their co-workers and against their own unions. this propaganda poster is interesting. it certainly presents an image of racial unity in the nation's defense plants. these workers theoretically put aside any defenses or disagreements they might have to come together because they have a common devotion supporting the war effort. but the reality of work place
integration was often messier than an image like this would suggest. at the packard plant in detroit which produced tanks, efforts to transfer small numbers of black workers to the production line led to white workers walking off the job or launching sitdown hate strikes in response to the idea of working with black men, then the subsequent removal of the black workers. when union officials refused to strongly condemn these hate strikes, black workers in the plant launched their own walkout. in may of 1943. as soon as they came back to work, more than 25,000 white assembly line workers then walked out at the prospect of working side by side with a handful of black men and the whole plant shut down. this is the middle of the war. at this point, the war labor board intervenes, suspend 30d strike leaders, black and white, and ordered the rest back to work. but the only individual who was
threatened with the draft in this instance was christopher allston. he was fired, drafted and sent to the allucian islands in a span of a week. similar hate strikes launched by white workers happened all across the country. philadelphia, baltimore, chicago, then there were battles over housing. what happened on the housing front during the war? >> when they were saying we need to spend less money on housing if they were going to build a black community, they would spend -- it would give them basically an excuse to give them
a delilapidated housing. >> this was super controversy, right? are there specific instances that you can remember? what happened in detroit? >> there were housing riots, where they were building the homes and someone said we are going to make them african-american only housing and the whites were like, wait, no, we need housing. okay, we'll mix them. the whites were like, no, we're not going to mix them. the blacks were like, we don't want to live here. everything exploded and there were riots and everything was blown up. it was great. >> yeah so basically because so many blacks were moving up from the south to the north, northern cities in particular had trouble housing this new black
population because of the c constrictions of prewar housing. many white neighborhoods didn't want a black neighborhood right next to them, they protested and really the only place white people didn't protest was when the black communities were put out of the way in very toxic and rundown areas, then the black community protested, as well. >> that is a really good summation. going off what you said, to what stent extent are these new stories? to what extent are they the next chapter in an ongoing saga that's spanning the 20th century? is there anything that's new here? is there anything that's different?
>> the only thing new in the discussions is whether the houses would be temporary or permanent. that was a specific war effort phenomenon. further discussions prior and after the war, it was mainly should blacks be allowed at all instead of what type of accommodations should blacks have within the community. >> yeah. that's really resolving around this question of housing for defense workers. you mentioned the increases inning in ing migration. we are seeing similar patterns set off by the first migration. similar responses. now there is a war on, a war for democracy. that shifts the way the rhetoric has to be employed. because of the restriction in
housing we've been talking about, the fact african-american neighborhoods in most northern urban centers were hemmed in, african-americans could not move outside the walls of these neighborhoods due to all sorts of things, the way mortgage policies were written, inability to get insurance, white violence, laws, all kinds of things. as this migration swelled, more and more people became trapped in these tiny neighborhoods. and because many of these people were defense industry workers, men and women going off to 12-hour shifts in plants where they were contributing to the war effort, the federal government for the first time began to say, look, i think we need to get involved in the housing market. we need to offer some sort of low cost housing options for these workers and their families, but as danielle pointed out, whenever that conversation unfolded in a local
area, the question of where would this community go became incredibly problematic. the sojourner truth incident in detroit. why did residents in the communities surrounding the location selected for the sojourner truth homes to house black defense workers, why did they respond like this? >> goes back to what we discussed last time. house is usually the biggest investment somebody is going to make. people want their investments to appreciate rather than depreciation. a lot of people felt if they had black neighborhoods right next to their neighborhood, somehow their neighborhood would depreciate in value, and it just became a thing that -- they
didn't care if it happened to another neighborhood but wasn't going to happen to their neighborhood. >> not in my backyard, a sentiment that is ageless, i think. >> we talked about this, i think. the architecture discussion, you're telling us about planation architecture where they put the slave housing behind the row of trees on the edge of the property, so like if you have a white community, you don't want the black community in the middle and surrounded by white communities, you want them on the edge of town where no one goes because you just -- again, not my backyard but also out of sight, out of mind. >> i think another part of it, too, was there was this white fear that existed that, well, we can't have these people here. why would you give good or even semi okay resources to people who were viewed as lesser? like they didn't see them as an equal so why should we waste resources on them was kind of the mindset back in this period.
>> everything is seen as a zero sum gain. any resources devoted to african-americans were seen as resources taken away from whites who were believed by many whites to be more inherently deserving of those resources. so when the sojourner truth homes are proposed, white homeowners in the surrounding neighborhoods complained so loudly about this that congress got involved and huack ended up investigating the black groups that were doing nothing more than calling for the original policy of this being a black complex to be continued. housing officials flip-flopped. back and forth. this is going to be a black complex. after the outcry from the white neighbors, no a complex for white workers. after more outcry from african-americans, no, it's going to be a complex for black
workers again. the idea that this could just be a housing complex for defense workers that could house both whites and blacks was simply unfathomable to them. what happens when african-american families start moving in? it's february 1942. >> white families in the neighborhood blockaded the new homes and reacted violent ly, setting fires, throwing stones and attacking a man in his truck as he's just trying to ask the police for help so he can get to his new house. and the police attack -- once the riots started and police attacked the black protesters as opposed to the white protesters. i remember one police officer saying it would be suicide if he had laid a hand on a white attacker in the riots. >> yeah. yeah. this becomes an all-out fight,
but i think about 100 people were arrested. i think all but five of them were black. those who were beaten, it's the black protesters. who were just trying to move into their homes or the friends and family of those trying to move into their homes and came to their defense. the white rioters were largely untouched by the police. even after housing officials made their final determination that even in the wake of this violence, this complex was for black workers and gave the order that the black workers should be allowed to continue moving on in, the police continued to block them for several more weeks saying we don't have the resources to protect you, thus you can't move in to these homes. the racial tensions in detroit were so high pitched during the war years that "life" magazine ran a banner headline in 1942
noting that detroit is dynamite. it can blow up hitler or it can blow up the u.s. things really came to a head in the city in the summer of 1943 in june, when fights between white and black teenagers at belle isle park sparked rumors of a race war. it mentioned riots at the sojourner truth homes. as the race riot broke out over the course of three days, rioters looted stores and private homes, attacked passer-byes, 34 people killed, 25 were black, hundreds were injured. detroit police openly sympathized with the white rioters. many literally stood by as white rioters attacked black passers-by. over the course of the right, police killed 17 african-americans but not a single white rioter was harmed. so that's a quick overview of some of the ways that this
tension between change and resistance during the war years was playing out on the homefront if we shift our attention over to the military, we see that in the weeks and months after pearl harbor, huge numbers of african-americans were flocking to recruitment centers, motivated by double-v, patriotism, military service and opportunities for full citizenship. a small number of african-americans, however, refused to participate in the war effort on the grounds that until black americans enjoyed the rights of citizenship, they shouldn't be expected to make the sacrifices that citizens are asked to make. that's a slightly different interpretation of double-v. it makes black support for the war conditional upon good faith effort to achieve real change. a small number of black draftees during the war years refused
induction on the grounds that they ethically could not serve in a segregated military. so they filed for conscientious objector status. very few were granted it. the vast majority of draft resisters, including members of the nation of is limb served prison terms for draft evasion. i mentioned at the beginning of the period that joe louis and dorie miller were used as symbols to attract black recruits to a section that was segregated. this took time to evolve. in the early days of the war, black recruitment was not high on the list of priority of military officials they assumed, expected, projected that probably 10% of the military during the war would be african-american. and when numbers rose beyond that, they started turning black enlistees away at the door on the grounds they didn't have facilities to train them and
that their presence in such large numbers would demoralize white troops who wouldn't want to go to war if they could see african-americans were also signing up to serve their country. but events ensured this kind of resistance didn't last very long, between fierce protest from the black community and the intense need for more men. by 1942, recruitment not exclusion was the order of the day, but black troops still faced discrimination at every turn. they were forced to train and fight largely in segregated units. they faced substandard conditions in their camps and were often barred from using post facilities like movie theater or post exchange. black soldiers who travel by railroad were often forced in uniform, to sit in the jim crow car, eat a lunch they brought with them, while white soldiers and sometimes german and italian pows sat in the nicer cars and were served in the dining cars. over the course of the war, the
majority of black units were assigned to supply engineering and transportation roles. these are certainly important roles, but black troops were disproportionately overrepresented in them, while most black volunteers envisioned when they signed up to serve in regions serving in combat. only about 12% of black servicemen did so. discontent within army ranks was widespread. black members of the women arm corps stationed at a base in kansas, complained in a desperate anonymous letter to the naacp that their company commander, who was a former prison guard, treated them like prisoners, not like soldiers. soldiers at an air field in tallahassee, florida, wrote the chicago defender that they hadn't had a square meal in weeks and were being refused access to medical care. as citizens of america, we want to serve our country and we're willing to sacrifice our lives
in order to protect our loved ones back home, but after all, we feel that as members of the armed forces, we should be treated as human beings and not like dogs. black troops at a base in california protested that the italian pows on base were being treated better than the black soldiers who were stationed there the naacp, the national office received so many complaints from black soldiers over the years about medical care, about lack of food, about discrimination, brutality from all around the country, that by the end of 1944, they asked branches that were located near military bases to undertake a systemic investigation of conditions on the base near their community. what would happen when black soldiers who were stationed, particularly in the south, wanted to take local leave? wanted to go into the communities surrounding their
bases? >> they were not received well at all. >> do you want to expand on that? >> well, i guess in the reading, there are a lot of examples of how the white southerners did not appreciate the black soldiers and they felt that the black soldiers felt they were equal to the whites and the whites really were taken aback by that. where are they coming from with this? and they didn't understand how blacks could consider themselves on the same level. >> many were incredibly upset when they went out to town and were accused of doing things such as flirting with white women or or doing other things and many of the senators of the state require that the army take investigations into this, and for nearly almost all of them, they were found to be completely
falsified and for the most part black troops were some of the most well-behaved units in all the army. >> yeah, yeah. a lot of company commanders on, particularly on bases in the deep south,ing tried to avoid these problems by refusing requests for local leave, by trying to keep black troops confined to the base. black soldiers who did leave their bases were, as you said, they were often attacked by gangs of whites. they were brought up on false charges. there were cases of black soldiers being lynched, still in uniform. some of those who were attacked drew attention through taking some bold stands, through refusing to sit on the back of a bus. through using a white rest room, through maybe trying to defend a black woman being harassed by a group of whites or going out with a white woman, but others were attacked solely because
they were black men and women walking around in united states military uniforms. the durham, north carolina, area was the scene of a lot of racial conflict during these years. in the summer of 1944, two black privates who were stationed at camp butner were turned away from a cafe, a restaurant in oxford, a small town that wasn't too far from the post. as they stomped out the door, one of them called the proprietor a poor white son of a bitch. this local sheriff happened to be having dinner in this restaurant. he overheard what the soldier had said. he got up and followed them outside. clubbed one of them over the head and dragged the other one off to jail. the man who had been clubbed over the head ran back to the base, told his friends, his comrades what had happened, and so about 60 men from the base,
60 black men from the base went to the local jail to try to get their camrade meet the police c the top of the steps. he slaps one of them. he drags one. he throw one to the ground, points his gun at him. the soldiers refuse to disperse so the police start firing tear gas into the crowd. at this point the soldiers tried to storm the jail. when they got to the front door, they found the entire town's police force lined up behind a machine gun purchased by the police department specifically when they learned the black soldiers were going to be stationed on this base. this was anticipated. these kind of clashes weren't just common. they were anticipated by many local whites and by many law enforcement officials who expected black soldiers to be
dangerous, expected them to step out of their place to challenge southern racial norms and who were determined to violently resist these attempts to challenge their traditional racial order. five weeks after this, a black private lay dead in the streets of durham. this story started like so many stories do when he got on a city bus. buss were huge points of confrontation between black soldiers and white southerners during the war years. on july 8th, 1944, private booker spicily got on to a bus driven by a man named herman counsel and as the bus approach where there were two white soldiers waiting, counsel ordered spicily and the handful of other black passengers on board to get up and move to the back of the bus. spicily refused. in response, counsel points to
the front of the bus where the north carolina segregation ordinances are very clearly listed and he says move, it's the law. as the white soldiers got on board, spicily appealed to them as camaraderies in uniform, why should he have to give up his seat. according to witnesses, spicily said to the soldiers i thought i was fighting this war for democracy. aren't i just as good to stop a bullet as are you? why should i have to give up my seat for you? apparently the white soldiers agreed he shouldn't have to get up to make room for them and they starred toward the back of the bus to sit in the spaces that were available. this infuriated the driver who started swearing at all three of them. based on some of the other conversations we've had about segregation, why do you think it was so enridge raging to the driver? >> kind of like this is one of the things we talked about.
i think with the partitioning and all that stuff with like the types of bus segregation it wasn't just keep the blacks part from the whites, the whites told in the front and the blacks in the back and he ever twain shall meet. it's not just the fact spicily is sitting at the front of the bus it's that the black soldiers are going to the back of the bus where they're not supposed to do. >> right, everybody is challenging can the traditional racial order. whites are doing it. >> a result of this man's i dare say territory. it was a complete i guess you could say like he felt, i mean, most of these jim crow laws were made to give power to people that didn't deserve power or home run no reason top ha have r and this man felt empowered by being able to say this is my bus
that i control and here were these soldiers blatantly disrespecting him and you know, he probably felt vet disempowered just by this and he felt that his whole social order that he had been raised on had you know now gone away. and you know, he just felt -- he probably felt very self-conscious. >> yeah, exactly. his authority is being challenged on multiple levels here. segregation actually under segregation bus drivers had more power than they had before or ever had since. so as spicily gets up to go to the back of the bus with the child soldiers, as he passes the driver he mumbles if you weren't 4 f you wouldn't be driving this bus. in the middle of a war as broadly supported as world war ii was to call a man 4 f, unfit for military service was affront not only to his patriotism but
also to miss masculinity. for a black man to say these words to a white man in front of an entire bus load of passenger who's had just seen his authority disregarded, situation was explosive. counsel apparently responded to this by saying i've got something here that will cool you off. at this point, spicily recognizes this is getting really, really dangerous. when his stop comes up, he stands up, he apologizes to the bus driver, gets off, tries to make a quick exit. but the driver grabbed a pistol that he kept under the seat under jim crow laws many bus drivers in some states were allowed to be armed to uphold segregation. he followed him off the bus, yelled out to him. spicily turned around, he shot him twice point blank range, killed him almost instantly. he then gets back on the bus and finishes the route. then he turns himself in to the police. so we don't really have any
sense of what the passengers on the bus, these white soldiers, the others, how they are responding toing this but you can probably imagine most people are terrified and trying to get off the bus as quickly as possible. counsel is charged with murder. he goes to trial. all white jury dlib rays for half hour before acquitting him on all charges on the grounds that he killed booker spicily in self-defense. stories like this are too common. they're far too common when we talk about after american experiences during world war ii but there are bright shots too. the marine corps began accepting african-americans in 1942 for service. in segregated units. this is something they've never done before. in december of that year, one of the first black marines called edgar hough as accosted while on leave by a team of white marine
mps. they tore up his furlough papers, arrested him, threw him in jail. the charges were impersonating a marine. hough was there for five days before his commanding officer was able to get him out. the mp's defense was there can't possibly be such a thing as a black marine. obviously, they missed that directive when it was handed down, but that was the defense that they gave. but hough's commanding officer was outraged by this and took active steps to protect him. hough went on to become a career mr., one of the first black noncomes in the corps. he was promoted to first sergeant in the summer of 19444 before shipping overseas to be in the pacific. this is him drilling troops in 1943. some base commanders criticized segregation. some encouraged local whites to treat black soldiers with respect. some intervened like hough's c.o. did when their then soldiers under their command
were mistreated by civilian authorities. a few went so far as to dismiss civilian employees who were engaging in racial discrimination and even before the war department's 1943 directive, deseg gra gath recreational facilities on bases some quietly permitted defacto integration in their mess halls and theaters and post exchanges. by late 1944, black combat units were still a distinct minority but 22 of them were fighting in the european theater the tuskegee airmen weren't escorting bombers in southern italy, the 761st tank battalion which received a presidential citation in the '90s for its courage under fire was fighting with patten through france and belgium, germany. and the men in in unit became some of the first americans to liberate the concentration camps. during the last major german offensive in europe, the battle of the bulge, which drove the allied forces back into belgium,
american casualties were so high, that commanders called for combat volunteers from among the african-american service units who were in the area in supply roles. and about 2500 black soldiers ultimately served as side white troops in a counter offensive that pushed back the german lines. when this plan was first announced, most white soldiers were skeptical of it. but after fighting with black soldiers, 71% of those who were polled described their attitude toward integration as highly favorable suggesting that shared combat experience could play an important role in breaking down racial prejudice. it's clear that the military's need for black soldiers resulted in some important challenges to white supremacy, but in many other instances, military authorities, as you read, proved very willing to prior tied preserving traditional racial practices in the wake of the
battle of the bulge, these new black combat platoons were disbanded and the men were returned to their original supply roles. blood supplies were segregated throughout the war despite the fact that the secretary of the army and the navy and the head of the american red cross all said there's no scientific reason to seg gragg gate plasma. it was done top placate outspokesens members of congress who abwho ared any kind of racial mixing. the na app cp thought really hard against this but were unsuccessful. all they framed their point in i think a very powerful way by saying it's incredibly interesting that a nation fighting a war against nazi germany is embracing something all about racial blood but they lost. what we oftentimes i think don't realize or acknowledge when we talk about the black experience duringorld war ii is that many white americans including some northerners also were embracing
a form.double v. how did this white version of double v differ from the campaign that black americans were waging? >> it was almost like a negative freedom, like a freedom from something that they thought they were trying to fight for freedom from desegregation that being able to fight for self-determination meant that they were able to determine things to uphold and stuff like segregation and institutionalized racism. >> yeah, so they would say this war isn't about preserving democracy. this war is about preserving what? >> states' rights. >> yeah. so they're linking victory abroad to victory at home. but the way they're defining victory at home is incredibly different and these men and women really did see every civil rights gain of the war as part of a cop spircy between black americans and the federal government to the destroy the liberties of whites.
let's talk a little bit more about this. what were they so concerned about? how did they respond when black soldiers came into their communities? how did they see, what was at staking in this sfwhar what did they think they were fighting for. >> so one of the things that the article mentioned is that them, the congress tried to repeal poll tax and said soldiers didn't have to pay poll taxes including african-americans but particularly white southerners were like if the african-americans got the right to vote, they'll vote hitler for president and we'll have naziism and hitler will destroy our country. we need to keep america for americans. that being said white americans because we don't care about the rest of them. there was their big thing. they'll embrace hitler. and communism. >> uh-huh. >> they viewed black and
northern national precedence as a form of second yankee invasion and believed that the national government was attempting to take over and using african-americans and the african-american vote to do so. they knewed new dealism as almost anti-americaism and started combining new dealism with europe fascist so talnairiaism. so a victory abroad would need to have a victory at home against franklin roosevelt. >> yeah. these two things are ves very much conflated. and like greg pointed out, the poll tax becomes a lightning rod for this controversy. for a number of different reasons. poll tax was very effectivetive live in keeping african-ameri n african-americans away from the polls because it required you pay so much back taxes before you can vote that many perspective black american
voters couldn't register to vote because they couldn't pay the back taxes. but the poll tax also -- the poll tax is also doing something else at the same time. in addition to keeping african-americans away from the polls, how else is the poll tax functioning? and what are they trying to hold on to there? >> the poll tax is also keeping poor whites from voting. as well. and so the white primary is mostly like the people who can vote in the white primaries are a small group of like richer white southerners. >> good. and i can't remember the statistics that ward gives right off the top of my head. basically he's saying that in large swathes of the american south, tiny percentages of eligible voters are actually voting in elections. >> the stick says in the poll
tax states less than a quarter of adults voted. >> yeah. that's a shocking statistic. and what does that mean? if less than a quarter of voters are quayle voting, what are the implications of that? >> going off of that and also something else in the article is so rhode island i think had two representatives and it was like 207 basically there were more people voting for those two than the representatives i think. it was like alabama, mississippi, and georgia combined. therefore the vote of a mississippian was worth more than a rhode islander because per capita, there were less people voting so they could ensure that the poll tax congressmen and senators would stay in congress forever and ever and run the committees so beak the south got what they wanted even though they had a low voter urnout rating. >> yeah, people are
disenfranchised remove from the political process. people do not have a say. that's the anti-thesis of democracy. and those in congress reaped the benefits of this because when you've got 25% of the electorate voting, you're must less likely to get voted out of office. you have to maintain control over a much smaller number of voters. the longer you're in congress, the more seniority you have, the more you chair important economies that can block civil rights refors in.many different directs. we'll keep talking about the way that southern control of key congressional economies during the '50s and '60s in particular blocked so many attempts to introduce civil rights legislation is because of this low voter turnout which is because in part of the poll tax. so the pushback against the attempt to repeal the poll tax, it's or to overturn the poll tax, it's intense.
it's successful, right? the poll tax in federal elections isn't an polished till 1964 part of the civil rights act and not abolished in statelections till the supreme court ruling in 1966. and this victory is won in part through intense waves of violence unleashed across the south. so one more thing i want to say about that. in the years after the war, white supremacists sometimes drew on their military service during world war ii to claim they had earned the right to live as they wanted to and to police the lines of america's racial hierarchy. we talked last week briefly about the murder of emmett till in 1955. after being acquitted in a farce of a trial, till's killers sold
their story to a magazine reporter where they confessed in great detail how they had murdered emmett till. one of them, j.w. meilen, he's the one in the middle was a world war ii veteran and he told the reporter decided it was time a few people got put on notice. me and my folks fought for this country and we've got some rights. i told him i'm going to make an example so everybody knows where me and my folks stand directly drawing off his service during the war 0 make the case he is entitled to uphold white supremacy. so racial violence against black veterans returning black veterans was intense at times although it was not nearly as widespread as it had been after world war i. most of the victims were men like mace i o. snipes. macy after the war became at first black resident in taylor county, georgia to, successfully register to vote, and he was
shot 24 hours after casting his first ballot and he died within a few days. nobody was ever charged in that case. isaac woodard was on his way home after being discharged from the army when he got into an argument with a bus driver in south carolina. the police officers who responded to the call beat him so badly that he lost his eyesight permanently. that's woodard in the middle. he's beng escorted interesting by joe louis. lewis like i said at the beginning was a celebrity. he was the face of the army's recruitment strategy, bus lewis the individual soldier was no stranger to the kind of things that happened to macy o. snipes. black veterans were tarts because they returned so many returned from the war determined to continue fighting for democracy and not accept second class citizenship. within 20 years, world war ii veterans like amcy moore, medgar evers were at the helm of some
of the major civil rights organizations of the '60s. by the late 1940s, the stage was set for the next two decades. many white americans continued to cling to white supremacy but others particularly veterans who had had experience with black troops close contact with black troops where is emerging from are the war with some different ideas about race and democracy. so let me again ask the question that we started off, this big question. how should we understand the relationship between the second world war and the civil rights movement to what extent do you think the war was a step forward for change, a moment of change and then to what extent do you think the war was a period of continuity with what had come before it? >> history is all done, is all, i mean obviously it's in past tense but like how we view history is all from where we are
right now and i mean, all of these horror stories of blacks returning home like they're generally speaking not touched upon, really not talked upon. when people say blacks in the military during world war ii it's usually the tuskegee airmen and joe lewis, et cetera, like the good stories. but no one touches upon the extreme horror stories or draws upon the fact that many of hitler's nuremberg laws were drawn from jim crow laws. i would say that while they did gain -- they did have some gains, it was primarily symbolic because even today we don't america has not accepted the fact that during this time, although we weren't nearly as bad as hitler that we did not represent the values that we were fighting for. >> so you really see this more as a moment of continuity, that
thing there's not dramatic change happening here? >> i think it's even the loss because we were saying that we were fighting for these things. >> uh-huh. okay. danielle? >> i think the book said in the end of chapter 5 developments in the wake of world war ii started to reverse the white supremacists and states rights to status quo. so i think that while it wasn't like a blatant obvious okay, we've done things wrong and really need to change, think it really was the tipping point of the changing in the south because i think it's the point that people realize that like things can't state way that they are and people were drawing more attention to the south and the actions that were going on because of the comparisons that were being drawn. so i think while it wasn't like everything has changed now, everything is great, it was the tipping point and it really got the ball rolling a lot more towards change, but the change still took a long time.
>> if we're coming at it from a his tore graphic angle, what are the benefits of seeing world war ii as a prelude to a movement for civil rights that would take off in the '50s or '60s? and what are the benefits sort of conversely of seeing it not as a preclude but as an earlier phase of a movement? >> i kind of look at it as a spring. like it was a push back because of that but it was a step back but it created a lot of tension that eventually propelled it forward in the future. >> interesting analogy. anybody else? >> i think history graphic little speaking if it's easier to explain an interpretation of you give something i firm beginning middle and end. if you treat this as the firm beginning, then it's a lot easier to say things were bad
and then they got better. but i think that the way we remember this history shows that it was bad and then it was still bad and then it was still bad like it's not that thing have improved. it's that our memory hides what has happened. >> and going off of what kevin was saying if you use that short civil rights movement to '6and we start with brown versus board of education it kind of seems like brown kind of happened out of the blue and there was no reason for it. but if we start with world war ii we kind of start seeing the trickle of like thoughts beginning of like we needed to like really change things and then to like when it explodes in '54. then we get to see where it came from, not just someone randomly out of the blue said it's integrate schools now. that's not how it happened for the past ten years or so, they were saying we need to fix things in america.
>> one point that i would leave you with is because world war ii was a moment that really transformed america's relationship with the larger world, it presented civil rights activists with some new weapons to add to their arsenal, namely global opinion. if you remember, one of the reasons that the housing officials in detroit finally say no, this is going to be a black complex is because they realize that the axis powers have been using stories about the riot to try to sway neutral countries in central america and then one of the arguments in the shelley case, the shelley v cramer housing covenant case is that one of the arguments the naacp made and was accepted was that restrictive covenants ran counter to the anti-discrimination principles that the u.s. has supposedly embraced when they embraced the u.n. charter. so this is really a foreshadowing that's going to
bloom into full flower in the 1950s, a full strategy of using world opinion as a both a tool and a tactic to achieve civil rights change. so thank you very much. brief reminder your paper proposals are dual on wednesday. they should be submitted via moodle. if you have questions about those, please freel please feel free to come and see me. idea notes, you guys are up on wednesday. thanks. you're watching "american history tv" on c-span3 every weekend. during congressional breaks and on holidays, too. follow us on twitter, like us on facebook. and find our programs and schedule on our website, c-span.org/history. >> on the civil war, historian
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