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 keeping both races segregated had permeated across the United States and was the prominent view of most white citizens during this period. Segregation was seen—from a white point-of-view—as a way for both races to live within the society without racial conflict and tension. Separation of blacks and whites stretched across all societal institutions, including the United States Military. African Americans did not receive the same rights and freedoms that their white counterparts did. Moreover, they were discriminated against, physically abused, and were seen as less than American; and even worse, less than human. Despite all of the injustices against them, they still served and remained loyal to their country. They sought both equality and victory during World War II.
The Home Front
African Americans had suffered profoundly in the Great Depression. Already at the bottom of the economic ladder when it began, the Depression reinforced the poverty of Black America. The black community people were mostly involved with share-cropping and mining jobs. The government then started the process of mechanization in industries. There were increased government funds for improved equipment. This factor eliminated many jobs in general in industry. 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...
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