The "White Man's War"During World War I, African Americans had joined the war effort with the hopes that their patriotic service might be rewarded.
They had imagined that through their participation both the world and the United States would become "safe for democracy." But by war's end blacks had discovered their expectations betrayed. Jim Crow restrictions remained securely intact in the South, racially motivated crimes including lynching were on the rise all over the country, and racial discrimination kept black Americans underpaid or unemployed.So, by the outbreak of World War II, African Americans were much more cynical.
DuBois had urged his people to set aside their grievances and commit themselves to the war effort, the black press proclaimed, "Our war is not against Hitler in Europe but against the Hitlers in America."18With the passage of the Selective Training and Service Act in August 1940, all American men between the ages of 18 and 45 became liable for military service. Some black men who had no desire to fight in the "white man's war" used racial stereotypes to their advantage to avoid the draft. Some believed that victory over America's enemies abroad was as important as victory over enemies at home and joined to protect the United States from the Nazis. The military also offered enlistees a reliable salary, so many African Americans plagued by unemployment and poverty enlisted to escape the degradation of their current condition.Black inductees found discrimination and segregation prevalent in the armed forces.


Military and government officials rejected desegregation, some asserting the belief that blacks were inferior.
Segregation policies reflected the notion that blacks did not make adequate leaders and worked best under white supervision. African-American servicemen were sent to segregated training camps, often on military bases in the South where black GIs were harassed for defying Jim Crow laws or, simply, for wearing a military uniform. Army base chapels, mess halls, and entertainment centers excluded or segregated black soldiers.Even Nazi prisoners of war enjoyed more rights than black American servicemen. German prisoners of war held in United States military bases were commonly permitted to dine with white U.S. When Lena Horne, an African-American songstress, performed in a southern GI camp, German prisoners of war were given front row seats while black servicemen were relegated to the back of the theater.
Horne delivered her performance in the aisles before her follow black Americans, but, shaken by the experience, she ended her military tour.The Beginning of the End of Jim CrowLike World War I, the Second World War, despite all the democratic rhetoric, brought few tangible changes for African Americans.


With their wartime experiences came new frustrations, and a more urgent desire to take charge of their lives and protest ill treatment. The fear and anger they felt on the battlefield didn't fade at war's end but, instead, intensified. No longer would they veil their true feelings and allow whites to degrade, humiliate, and terrorize their communities.



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