tv Lectures in History CSPAN November 24, 2016 5:00pm-6:17pm EST
posters aimed at african-americans used images of dory miller decorated with his navy cross and joe lewis in his army uniform to send a message that black americans were needed and wanted in the american military and 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 sort of 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 i think make it clear that the stakes in this war were high. in the wake of his famous victory over max schmeling in 1938, joe lewis became synonymous with being a symbol of opposition to nazi ideas to
racial supremacy. when they squared off for that famous fight in 1938, 100 million were tuned in worldwide to hear this match set up as a confrontation between democracy and fashism. he enlisted a month after the attack at pearl harbor and became the face of a recruitment campaign encouraging black men to enlist in the army. was using his fame for what was a very segregated military. again and again, lewis shifted the conversation from america's record on race to nazi german's record on race. encouraging black americans to prioritize, destroying faticism
first. he did his basic training in a segregated unit and spent the last of his recruitment fighting in exhibitions fights around the world. but despite his celebrity status, lewis was no stranger to 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 fastism, but the service makes it clear that democracy and white supremecay. as japanese planes were swooping over the decks of the uss west
virginia, he carried his wounded to safety and took over manning a machine gun, managing to knock down or hit some of the fighter planes. that would have been courageous action under any circumstances, but made even more so by the fact that dorie miller didn't have any gun retraining. black sailors were redirected to behind the scene roles. miller was a cook. at the time that the alert went out, he had been below deck gathering laundry. in seeing what needed to be doing it, despite lack of training for the role, he went above and beyond the call of duty. in may of 1942, dorie miller became the first african-american in u.s. history to receive the navy cross. the navy 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 k
recruitment 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 1943, the u.s. navy was still a rigidly segregated organization. miller himself, despite his actions at pearl harbor, had not been promoted. 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 black civil rights, or of the limitations of the promises and racial reforms of the war years. as we talked about in some of our first classes, one of the biggest debates in civil rights history today is over chronology and periods.
when did it begin? emancipation, or later, 1950s, 1960s. world war ii is right in between the 1930s and the 1950s. so this period plays a really key role in the way that historians understand the modern black freedom struggle. it is clear that the war years brought a lot of gains for civil rights. very important gains. but also proved a profound disappointment to those hoping for lasting transformation in american race relations. in the most simple terms possible, the war changed some things but failed to change others. understanding the how and why 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. and then we'll talk a little bit about some of the ways that veterans continue to fight for civil rights on the home front, after ve and vj day. when people have looked back on the world war ii years, a lot of individuals, and a good number of historians have high poth sized that they backed away because of the atrocities of nazi germany, a tremendous example of racial purity could lead. and that's definitely true to a certain extent, when the nazi government passed the laws, the laws that set german jews apart and put strict limitations on almost every aspect of their lives, those laws were some aspects of those laws, the black press, pointed out almost immediately were on jim crow statutes. that was confirmed by nazi officials.
as persecution was intensifying of jews, the u.s. was hammering home parallels between policies and american segregation. arguing that the only essential difference between nazi mob hunting down jews in central europe and an american burning black men in mississippi. one is encouraged by the national goflt and the other one is tolerated by the national government. american civil rights organizations made a lot of years of nazi fixation to strengthen their case that these kind of lulls were an affront to democracy. the urban league in 1941, the magazine editorialized the fact that they the jim crow card for jews -- a group committed to dismantling school in new jersey, which was technically
illegal, but nonetheless, widespread, questioned how students could be taught to believe that hitler's ranting about a superior race were absurd. the report concluded that unwittingly, we are raising a new generation of little fascists in new jersey. throughout the year, reporting come ut of germany to spur soul-searching on race. they didn't sit around and wait for it to take root. instead, they seized the opportunity the war provided to demand change, by launching the double v campaign what is double v? >> it's the notion that to defeat naziism, we have to win at broad and at home, tolerance internationally and nationally are intricately linked. >> good. kevin, do you want to expand on that? >> okay, great, so double v as a
strategy was laid out a month after pearl harbor, one of the most widely black papers in the country, a man named james thompson, wrote this. proposed two vs. a v for victory over enemies from without. and a v for v over 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 because they were questions they were asking themselves, asking their families, their brothers. how should i respond to this global crisis. should i enlist, knowing i'm not going to be treated the equal of white soldier. should i buy war bonds, use the money i have to invest in this conflict. should i make sacrifices to
support the war effort, even though i'm not totally free myself. or as thompson put it, want to read it, because it is eloquent. should i sacrifice my life to live half american. will things be better for the next generation and the peace to follow? would it be demanding too much to demand full citizenship rights in exchange for sacrificing of my life. the kind of america i know worth defending. serious questions. two weeks after thompson's letter appeared in the courier, the paper launched an official double v war time campaign. the response from readers was overwhelming, and black papers started taking it up as well. people chose to pursue double v, this idea of a linked victory in many different ways. during the war years, membership in the naacp, the nation's oldest civil rights organization exploded from 50,000 to more
than 400,000. by the end of the war. and 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 of black americans, this campaign was tapping into. this is a poster of advertising naacp, 1944 annual convention held in chicago that year. how does this poster use war time imagery to make a point? to get a point across? >> i mean, it's pretty clearly saying that the naacp has responsibility to get rid of jim crow laws, and jim crow and naziism and fastism is linked
together in the same way. >> yeah, yeah, this bird is clearly connected with the nazi regime and with japan. the hand, the fact that the naacp is strangling this bird, the imagery there? >> it is a struggle. it is a war. they weren't just at war with fa fashism, but at war with jim crow, and violent means to get victory within that war. >> yeah, yeah, and victory literally with in their grasp. jim crow is almost the power to strengthen, i mean to choke out. >> do you think maybe the amount of colors used in this poster, but it does look like the naacp strangling jim crow is a white
hand, which is interesting. >> i think that's probably just the shading of this particular poster. that's an interesting observation, but given the message that the naacp was trying to send during the war years, i think it is probably just the shading of this particular image. 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 legal foundations, white supremacy. what was going on in the courts in the 1940s, was the naacp winning any big victories in the courts? >> well, certainly not with respect to housing. many of them thought that the judicial system would help them achieve better housing. get any housing whatsoever. for many of them, they did no the. >> there is a housing case that
comes before the court in the late 40s, but it is not a great victory. it is not something that they're going to put forward as a massive step forward. although it is half victory, you might say. >> -- major court case that they listed, 1948, which is when the supreme court legislate dictated that it is no longer constitutional and the earlier court case in 1940, smith versus allright, where they declared the mississippi white primary was unconstitutional, and primaries would have to be racially integrated, hence forth. >> good, good. shelly v. cramer, that's the one i was mentioning, and it is a half victory. as andrew said, the justices ruled that restrictive kcovenane
is not legal any more. the state taking public action to support and prop up segregation. what they don't say as you can't write a restrucktiv covenant. they don't say these neighborhood associations to bar african-americans were moving into their communities, remember there are a lot of communities that this might be 80%. they're not saying it is illegal to write these covenants and maintain them. they're saying you can't take them to court and be upheld. if real estate, mortgage brokers go along, if neighborhood associations still want the restrictive covenants, the fact that you can't uphold them in court doesn't necessarily mean a lot. so constitutionally, this is a step forward. but on the ground, it is not a major step forward. so that's the shelly case.
>> what year was the shelly case? >> 1948. the other case that andrew reference, smith v. all right. this is the primary case. people don't have a strong sense of what a white primary is oftentimes. but are you clear on what a white primary is? no, so a white primary, essentially, this was 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, pretty much whoever the democratic candidate s the election mattered in these years 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. alright knocks that down. it was a major tool for maintaining voter discrimination. but it is only one tool among many. many -- most of these states compensated by drawing heavily on other tools for maintaining discrimination. when a lot of us think about voter dis consider im na icrimi south, literacy tests became so common and prevalent was in part because the naacp got the white primary knocked down during the war years. so it is an important victim to tore reech victory. those attempts to obstruct widespread black voting have to find other tactics to use. >> with the '40s and the
african-americans aren't allowed, the south is democratic. so the flip flop happened, so the first black president is a democratic. when did that flip happen? is that after -- >> 1970s, basically. so we've got these koscourt victories. direction action was also taking a step forward during the war years, direction action process. an inner racial group of pass e passiveists form aid new civil rights called the congress 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 60' and we tend to associate them 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 is happening on the employment front during these years? what are some of the advances in employment? >> jobs were simply -- came widely available because many young men had to go to war. so the value became a matter of time that they needed to hire black americans, because there were no other types of americans
available for hire. >> demographics are really, really shifting. and we would assume that the fact that these demographics are shifting so dramatically that would mean most employers would recognize what you just said. 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. phillip randal, the head of the pullm pullman/porter union, pressures the white house into taking steps to open up jobs in the defense industry to african-americans. as american industries were shifting toward war time production, hundreds of
thousands of whites were finding relatively highly paid jobs in the defense industry, whites not going out to fight, actually were so lucrative in the context of the time that they were pulling their families out of the depression. more than half were producing war related goods in 1941 refused to hire black employees at all. half of them. the other half only hired in very low level, unskilled positions. randolph's point of view, defense industry offered the best opportunity for black economic advancement that had been seen in a generation. they paid high wages. they came with benefits. union representation. these were jobs worth fighting for. he launched the march on washington movement.
organize organizers canvassed where ever they could find people. by early summer of 1941, 250,000 upset african-american workers marching on the white house became a very real probability and a concern for franklin roosevelt. in addition to all of the usual concerns that any sitting president feels when being confronted with a 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 that washington, d.c. was a very, very segregated city. the humiliations of racial discrimination in d.c. were kind of best summed up in this photograph. this is gordon parks, american goth ics. have any of you seen this before. today, one of the best known
photographers of the 20th century, also known for directing "shaft." at the time this 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. first day in the city, i think he got thrown out of three or four different establishments. he had been hired by the 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 this woman, ella watson. she was a janitor in the farm security administration office. as they talked, 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 this shot on american gothic,
putting flag in as the backdrop. parks' intention was to demonstrate that the gap between the american ideals that were so much talked about during the war, the symbol of classic americana and the reality of the nation's treatment of its black citizens. gordon park went on to a legendary career, but many consider this one of his most powerful photographs. it is one of my favorites. a mass demonstration by black workers in d.c. would have further highlighted this tension between ideals an realities, rhetoric and reality in the nation's capitol. roosevelt asked his wife, eleanor, to negotiate with march on washington leaders, find out what will it 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, an actual change in the law, would stop the march from happening. so 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 of the naacp had been pressuring him to ban racial discrimination in the defense industry and to desegregate the armed forces. roosevelt said i can't do the second. it will create chaos and i cannot do that at this moment. but he agreed to the first. issuing executive order 88-02. 88-02, banning employers receiving federal contracts from discrimination and hiring. 88-02 created the fair employment practices commission or fapc. a federal agency that would monitor complaints of discrimination in the workplace. many observers at the time
considered this to be the most meaningful action in support of black rights, since reconstruction. in response, randolph agreed to cancel the march, although 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 as it would turn out to be, 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 action across the country, pushing for compliance. in detroit, which a city that was talked a lot about in our readings, black foundry workers at the dodge main plant staged two walkouts demanding management consider them for transfers to more highly paid jobs on the assembly line. by the end of the war, the
percentage of jobs went from 3% to 8%. not huge, 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. unfortunately when we back away from that a little more, and look 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 shelved their calls for double v and supporting the war efforts. the fapc hearings did open new jobs to blacks, both in companies that investigated and companies that didn't want the
negative influence that would come with the hearings. the agency didn't have any enforcement powers. it could publicize instances of discrimination in the workplace. it could release a report saying pack card packard is discriminating, but it couldn't take any legal action against pacard. employment rates were up for americans during the war. the majority were still trapped in menial jobs, jobs that were 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 coworkers and against their own unions. this propaganda poster, i think is really interesting. it certainly presents an imagine of racial unity in the nation's defense plants. these workers theoretically put
aside their differences because they have a common devotion to supporting the war effort. the reality of workplace integration was often messier than an image like this. the packard produced tanks. leading to white workers walking off the job, hate strikes, in response to the idea of working with black men and subsequent removal of the black woerkers. when union workers condemned it, the black workers launched their own walkout as soon as they came back to work, more than 25,000 white assembly workers then walked out at the prospect of working side by side with a handful of black men. the whole plant shut down. this is the middle of the war.
at this point, the war labor board intervenes. suspended 30 strike leaders, bla black and white, and ordered the rest back to work. the only individual threatened with the draft was christopher allston, the union steward who organized the black workers. when he refused to back down, alston was fired. drafted, and sent to the allusion islands in the span of a week. this kind of tension wasn't limited to detroit. similar things were happening all over the country. then there were battles over housing. what happened on the housing front during the war? >> -- to support the war effort. when they were saying things
like we need to spend less money on housing, if they were going to build a black community, they would spend -- it would give them an excuse to give them an dal l dilapitadet. >> in and of itself it was super controversial, right? there are some specifics instances of that that you can remember? what happened in detroit? >> housing riots, right? >> yes. >> where they were building the homes, and then someone said we're going to make them african-american only housing, and the whites were like wait, no, we need housing. okay, we are a going to mix them. the whites were like no, we're not mixing them. it all exploded and there were riots and things blown up. it was great. >> yeah, so basically because of
so many blacks moving up, northern cities particularly had trouble housing this new black population, because of the constrictions from prewar housing laws, so many northern cities had to create new housing, but because many white neighborhoods didn't want a black neighborhood right next to them, they protested and really the only place that white people didn't protest was when the black communities were put out of the way and generating and very -- like run down areas, and the black community protested as well. >> right, very -- that's a really, really good summation. so kind of going off what you said. to what extent is what was happening on the housing front during the war, to what extent are these new stories? to what extent are they the next chapter in an ongoing saga that is spanning the 20th century? is there anything that's new
here? is there anything that's different? >> the only thing that would be new within the discussion is whether the houses should be temporary or permanent. that was a very specific war effort phenomenon. whereas the previous and then 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, and that's really revolving around this question of housing for defense workers. you mentioned the increases in migration. this is the second great migration. so we're seeing through similar patterns that were set off by the first great migration, similar responses. but now there is -- now there a war on a war for democracy. that shifts the way that the
rhetoric has to be employed. because of the restrictions and housing that we've been talking about over the last several class meetings, the fact that 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 nine -- tiny neighborhoods. many were defense, going off to work, contributing to the war effort, the federal government said we need to get involved in the housing market, we need to offer 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, well, where would this community go became incredibly problematic. the sodjournor truth, surrounding the location for the truth homes to house black defense workers, why did they respond like this? >> what we discussed last class, houses usually, the biggest investment is somebody will make and people usually want their investments to appreciate rather than depreciate and a lot of people viewed 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 just couldn't happen to their neighborhood. >> not in my backyard, the sentiment that is ageless, i think. >> we also talked about this, i think, like the architecture discussion, you were telling us about plantation architecture, where they put the slave housing behind the road of trees, on the edge of the propertiment 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 -- not, again, not in my backyard, but also out of sight, out of mind. >> i think another part of it too was that there was this white fear that existed that, well, we can't have these people here. it is like 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 mind set back in this period. >> everything is seen as a zero sum game, resources taken away from whites who were believed by many whites to be more inherently deserving of those resources. so when the truth homes are proposed, white homeowners in the surrounding neighborhoods complained so loudly about this that congress got involved, and hulac ended up investigating the groups that were doing nor more than calling for the original policy of this being a black complex to be continued. and in the face of this kind of outcry, housing officials flip flopped, like danielle said, back and forth. first a black complex, and then
after the outcry from the whites, no, white workers. then after more outcry from african-americans, no, 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. so what happened when african-american families start moving? inn to the sodjuorner truth home as soon as. >> they blockaded the new homes and reacted violently, setting fires, throwing stones and attacking. a tacking a man in his truck, as he is trying to ask the police for help to get to his new house. the police attacked -- once the riot started, the police attacked black protesters as opposed to the white protesters.
>> yeah, yeah, this becomes an all-out fight. but i think about 100 people were arrested. i think all about five of them were black. those who were beaten, 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 worker, and gave the order that the black workers would be allowed to continue moving on in, the police continued to block them for several more weeks, saying we don't have the resoa resources to protect you, thus, you can't move into 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 blow up the u.s. things really came to a head in the city in the summer of 1943, june, when fights between white and black teenagers at the park 135rk sparked rumors of a race war. it is the same dynamic that corwin mentioned about the homes. as the race riot broke out over the course of three days, rioters looted stores and homes, attacked passer byes. 34 people were killed, 25 were black. hundreds were injured. detroit police openly sympathized with the white right otte -- rioters. over the course of the riot,
police killed 17 african-americans, but not a single white was harmed. that's a quick overview. some of the ways that this tension between change and resistance during the war years was playing out on the home front. 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, by patriotmen iism full citizenship. a small number of aafrican-amers 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 drafties during the war year 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, vast majority of black registers, including nation of islam. i mentioned at the beginning of the period that joe lewis and dorie miller were used as symbols to a track black recruits to a military that was still segregated. this was an approach that took some time to evolve. black recruitment was not high on the list of priorities of military owe military officials. probably 10% of the military during the war would be african-american.
and when the numbers rose beyond that, they started turning black enlisties away at the door, on the grounds that they didn't have facilities to train them and their presence would demoralise white troops. 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 face discrimination at every turn. they were forced to train and fight largely in segregated units. they face substandard conditions in their camps, and were often barred from using post facilities like the movie theater, the post exchange. black soldiers who traveled by railroad were often forced in uniform to sit in a jim crow car, eat a lunch they brought
with them. and sometimes germans served in the dining cars. over the majority of black units were assigned to supply engineering and transportation roles. these are certainly important roles, but black troops were disproporti disproportionally represented in them while most when they signed up envisioned serving in combat. only about 12% service men did so. discontent within army ranks was widespread. black members of the women's army corps, who were station at a base in campus complained to the naacp that their company commander, who was a former prison guard treated them like prisoners. not soldiers. tallahassee wrote the chicago defender that they hadn't had a
square meal in weeks, and being refused medical care. i'm going to quote their letter. as citizens of america, we want too serve our country. we're willing to sacrifice our lives in order protect our loved ones back home. s after all, fweel 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 soldier whose were stationed there. the naacp, the national office, received so many complaints from glak black soldi black soldiers, about lack of food, discrimination, brutality. from all around the country, that they -- by the end of 1944, they asked branches, that were located near military bases to undertake a systematic 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? >> there are a lot of examples of how the white southerners did not appreciate the black soldiers and felt the black soldiers felt they were equal to the white and the whites really were taken aback by that. where are they coming from with this, and they didn't understand how black cs could consider themselves on the same level. >> many were incredibly upset when they simply went out of town and they were accused of doing things, such as flirting with white women, or doing other things. many of the senators of the state required that the army
take investigations into this, and for nearly almost all of them, they were found to be completely falsified, and that for the most part, black troops were like one of the most well behaved units in all of the army. >> yeah, yeah. a lot of company commanders on particularly on bases in the deep south tried to avoid these problems, by refusing requests for local leave. by trying to keep black troops confined to the base. black soldier whos who did leav their based, they were attacked. they were brought up on false charges. there were a few cases of black soldiers being lynched, still in uniform. some of those who were attacked, drew attention threw taking bold stands. threw refusing to sit on the back of a bus. through using a white restroom,
defending a black woman being harassed by whites. or going out with a white woman. others were attacked solely because they were black men and women walking around in the 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 café, a restaurant in oxford, a small town that wasn't too far from the post. as they sort of stomped out the door one of them called the proprietor a poor white son of a bitch. overheard what the soldier said and followed them outside. clubbed one of them over the head. dragged the other one off to jail. the man who had been clubbed
over the head ran back to the base. he told his friends, his comrades what 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 comrade out. they chose two men to go inside and negotiate for them. they go up the steps. they meet the police chief at the top of the steps. he slaps one of them. he drags one, throws one to the ground. points his gun at him. the soldiers refuse to disburse. so the police start firing teargas into the -- they found the entire town's police force lined up behind a mountain machine gun that had been 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 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. buses were huge points of confrontation between black soldiers and white southerners during the war years. on july 8th, 1944, private booker spicely 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 spicely and the handful of other black passengers on board to get up and move to the back of the bus. spicely 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, spicely appealed to them as camarades in uniform, why should he have to give up his seat. according to witnesses, spicely said to the soldiers i thought i was fighting this war for democracy. aren't i just as good to stop a bullet as you are? 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 enraging 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 need 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 to have power
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 very 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 spicely gets up to go to the back of the bus with the 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 passengers who 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, spicely 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. spicely 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 to 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 deliberates 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 marine, one of the first black noncoms 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, desegregate 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 patton through france and belgium, germany.
and the men in this 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 priortize 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 segregate plasma. it was done top placate outspoken members of congress who abhorred any kind of racial mixing. the naacp fought really, 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 during world war ii is that many white americans including some northerners also were embracing a form of 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 conspiracy 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 stake in this? 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 nazism
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 knew new dealism as almost anti-americanism and started combining new dealism with europe fascist totalitarianism. so a victory abroad would need to have a victory at home against franklin roosevelt. >> yeah. these two things are very, 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 effective live in keeping 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 actually 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 turnout rating. >> yeah, people are disenfranchised remove from the political process. people do not have a say. that's the antithesis 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 reforms 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 state elections 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 being, 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 ames 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 history-graph cal 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 prelude 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 graphically speaking if it's easier to explain an interpretation of you give something a 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 things 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, 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 kraemer 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 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 chris makowski discusses the battle of spotsylvania courthouse which pitted ulysses grant against robert e. lee's confederate army. he details the movements and military tactics employed by lee and grant and gives special attention to the union assaults at parts of the battlefield known as the mule shoe and bloody angle. after two weeks of fighting the armies disengaged without a clear victor. lee failed to stop grant's drive south toward richmond. this talk was part of a symposium hosted by the emerging civil war blog. >> i'm delighted to be able to share with you the story of