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To What Extent was the Second World War a Watershed for African Americans

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To What Extent was the Second World War a Watershed for African Americans African Americans suffered profoundly during the great depression. They were at the bottom of the economic ladder when it began and the war only reinforced their poverty Black unemployment was twice as great as white employment with Black families earning only a third of what white families earned and 2/3 of black Americans had unskilled jobs. Competition over the few jobs that remained during the depression motivated racial violence during the 1930's and the help that New Deal agencies offered did little to aid the special circumstances that African Americans faced. However, the Second World War presented a number of opportunities for African Americans to gain an equal place in politics and society. Unlike the First World War there were no closed ranks, as the Americans wanted to portray a united front. This essay examinees whether or not the Second World War represented a break away from the past for African Americans- a 'watershed'. ...read more.


Nevertheless, by 1943, 8% of those in defence jobs were African American. Other improvements for African Americans included the fact that they were able to work in positions earning higher pay, thus narrowing the gap between white and black workers. As the war progressed, 700'000 African Americans immigrated from the South to the North and West to take up defence jobs. However, this lead to an increase of racial tension in key cities, shown in the race riot of Detroit, resulting in the deaths of 34, hundreds of casualties as well as $2million in property damages. In these riots, police reportedly arrested and injured African Americans at a much higher rate than white rioters. Though warned about the threat to key cities, Roosevelt did nothing to recognize the factors that caused these riots. However, following the riots, several cities established interracial commissions to prevent similar incidents as these addressed the core root of the conflicts. On the military front, African Americans still pursued their equal rights. ...read more.


Examples of violence used against African Americans continued during World War II and thus questions the actual 'progress' for African Americans. The Second World War period held a number of contradictions for African Americans. For one, although African Americans were able to serve in the military, they still suffered from racial violence and unites were segregated. The institutions set up to help them achieve equality were limited in power. And while Blacks fought abroad against Hitler, oppression was still used against them in America. However, despite this, the Second world war can still be referred to as a 'watershed', as it brought about the further political action of the NAACP and brought about the beginning of significant civil right groups such as CORE. African Americans in the military gained access in training for new jobs, education and were granted greater freedom in other countries such as England. African Americans on the home front were able to learn new jobs and improved their quality of life by fleeing the South and the Jim Crow segregation. Furthermore, even after the war, African Americans continued campaigning for 'victory' on the home front, igniting a new spark in their hearts in their call for equality. ...read more.

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