The Effect Of War On American Civil Rights

2437 words - 10 pages

With the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the racial segregation that was previously a major feature of American life, most notably in the South, was outlawed. This came after a lengthy civil rights movement that began in the 1950s, featuring contributions from activists as well as an overall change in the psyche of the American populace. However, the movement has its origins prior to the infamous Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education or the inspirational orations of Martin Luther King Jr. It was America's involvement in war which laid a base for the civil rights movement as a whole by highlighting the problematic aspects of segregation and discrimination through its impacts on those black soldiers who served, those blacks who made progress on the home front and on civil rights activists of the time who used the war Because it shed light on the severity of prejudice that black Americans suffered, the United States' participation in war played a significant role in gaining equal rights for African-Americans.A major impact that war had on the civil rights movement was that brought about by the service of approximately one million blacks in the armed forces . In World War Two, when the United States declared war, a large proportion of especially Southern blacks "rallied to the cause" mainly because it provided an escape from harsh economic and social conditions. Indeed, Gallagher quotes an unnamed black soldier who believed that "the only way I could make it out of the ghetto was to be the best soldier I...could" , while blacks in general hoped that by fighting for their nation they would be rewarded with equal rights, a belief demonstrated in the words of leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), W.E.B Du Bois.Let us, while the war lasts, forget our special grievances and close ranks, shoulder to shoulder with our white fellow citizens...fighting for democracy. We make no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and willingly.De Pennington also highlights these sentiments, citing an unnamed black soldier: "I'm glad I went. I done my part and I'm going to fight here until Uncle Sam does his." However, though the war "roused their desire to renew the fight for freedom" , blacks entered a highly discriminatory service at the beginning of World War Two. Segregation was still the policy of the federal government , and as such blacks were placed in segregated units , given menial tasks - so much so that they were dubbed "mules" - and, in the war's initial stages, were totally banned from the Marine Corps . Discrimination was most severe in the Navy , where blacks were delegated to the most dangerous of jobs, namely the loading of ammunition onto ships, in conditions under which many suffered. For example, in 1944, \ an accident claimed the lives of 300 blacks . Despite this, many blacks served with distinction, such as during the 1944 Battle of the Bulge and the 1945 Battle of Iwo Jima. This led black...

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