history of african americans

history of african americansCHAPTER 3 From a Raw Deal to a New Deal? 1929–1945 Joe William Trotter, Jr. Long before the stock market crash in October 1929, African Americans had experienced hard times. The “last hired and the first fired,” African Americans entered the Great Depression earlier and more deeply than other racial and ethnic groups. Sociologists St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton believed that the black community served as a “barometer sensitive to the approaching storm.” Months before the stock market crash, the Chicago Defender warned, “Something is happening… and it should no longer go unnoticed. During the past three weeks hardly a day has ended that there has not been a report of another firm discharging its employees, many of whom have been faithful workers at these places for years.” The depression brought mass suffering to the country as a whole. National income dropped by nearly fifty percent, from $81 billion in 1929 to $40 billion in 1932; unemployment rose to an estimated twenty-five percent of the labor force; and nearly twenty million Americans turned to public and private relief agencies to prevent starvation and destitution. Still, African Americans suffered more than their white counterparts, received less from their government, and got what they called a “raw deal” rather than a “new deal.” The depression took its toll on virtually every facet of African American life. As unemployment rose, membership in churches, clubs, and fraternal orders dropped. Blacks frequently related the pain of this separation from friends and acquaintances. “I don’t attend church as often as I used to. You know I am not fixed like I want to be—haven’t got the clothes I need.” Blacks in the rural South faced the most devastating impact of the Great Depression. As cotton prices dropped from eighteen cents per pound to less than six cents by early 1933, an estimated two million black farmers faced hard times. The number of black sharecroppers dropped from nearly 392,000 in 1930 to under 300,000 as the depression spread. All categories of rural black labor—landowners, cash tenants, sharecroppers, and wage laborers —suffered from declining incomes. Mechanical devices had already reduced the number of workers needed for plowing, hoeing, and weeding, but planters now experimented with mechanical cotton pickers as well. As one black woman put it, many jobs had “gone to machines, gone to white people or gone out of style.” Public and private relief efforts were virtually nonexistent in the rural South, forcing farm families to continue their trek to the city. Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. The Great Depression forced growing numbers of white women to enter the work force, where they competed with black women for jobs. Here, blacks and whites work side by side at a cannery in North Carolina. Despite declining opportunities to work in southern and northern cities, black migration continued during the depression years. The percentage of urban blacks rose from about fortyfour percent in 1930 to nearly fifty percent during the depression years. The black population in northern cities increased by nearly twenty-five percent; the number of cities with black populations of over one hundred thousand increased from one in 1930 to eleven in 1935. Public social services played an increasing role in decisions to move. As the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal noted in his classic study of black life during the period, “It was much harder for Negroes who needed it to get relief in the South than in the North.” The increasing migration of blacks to cities intensified the poverty of established residents. Before the stock market crash of 1929, urban blacks had already faced the impact of increasing mechanization, declining demand for manufactured goods, and loss of employment to whites. The stock market crash further undercut the economic position of African Americans. By 1932, black urban unemployment reached well over fifty percent, more than twice the rate of whites. In northern and southern cities, black workers faced special difficulties trying to hold on to their jobs. In Pittsburgh, for example, some black workers were fired when they refused to give kickbacks to the foreman for being permitted to keep their jobs. At the same time, unemployed whites made increasing inroads on the so-called “Negro jobs,” lower-level positions that blacks had occupied during good times. Not only in factories but in street cleaning, garbage collection, and domestic service work, whites competed for the traditionally black jobs. As the depression intensified, many white women entered the labor force for the first time. They competed with black women for jobs as maids, cooks, and housekeepers. In northern cities, unemployment and destitution forced many black women to participate in the notorious “slave market.” Congregating on the sidewalks of major cities, these women offered their Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. services to white women, who drove up in their cars seeking domestic help. Some of the employers were working-class women themselves and paid as little as five dollars weekly for full-time household workers. The work was difficult indeed. One young black woman, Millie Jones, offered a detailed description of her work for one family for five dollars a week. Each and every week, believe it or not, I had to wash every one of those windows [fifteen in a six-room apartment]. If that old hag found as much as the teeniest speck on any one of ’em, she’d make me do it over. I guess I would do anything rather than wash windows. On Mondays I washed and did as much of the ironing as I could. The rest waited over for Tuesday. There were two grown sons in the family and her husband. That meant that I would have at least twenty-one shirts to do every week. Yeah, and ten sheets and at least two blankets, besides. They all had to be done just so, too. In urban factories and commercial laundries, black women also faced difficult times. In a New York laundry, black women worked fifty hours each week. According to one employee, “it was speed up, speed up, eating lunch on the fly.” Women working in the starching department stood on their feet for ten hours each day, “sticking their hands into almost boiling starch.” When the employees complained, the boss threatened to fire and replace them with workers from the large pool of unemployed women. But black women did not accept these conditions without a fight. Racism and job competition helped to narrow the margin between bare survival and destitution. Evidence of racism abounded. In the South, white workers rallied around such slogans as, “No Jobs for Niggers Until Every White Man Has a Job” and “Niggers, back to the cotton fields—city jobs are for white folks.” The most violent efforts to displace black workers occurred on southern railroads, where the white brotherhoods, as their unions were called, intimidated, attacked, and murdered black workers in order to take their jobs. By early 1933, nearly a dozen black firemen had lost their lives in various parts of the country. Although the Ku Klux Klan had declined by the mid-1920s, it now renewed attacks on African Americans. The discriminatory policies of employers and labor unions also affected African Americans in northern cities. Employers maintained their views that African Americans were fit only for dirty, unpleasant, low-paying, and heavy work. As blacks sought employment, employers again frequently claimed that, “We don’t have a foundry in our plant and that’s the kind of work Negroes are best suited for.” In Milwaukee, one firm justified its exclusion of black workers in familial and paternalistic terms: “We just sort of work like a family here and to bring in Negro workers would cause confusion and cause white workers to feel that their jobs had lost in dignity if being done by Negroes.” White workers reinforced and frequently demanded such policies. Twenty-four unions, ten of them affiliates of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), barred blacks completely and others practiced other forms of discrimination and exclusion. Thus, disproportionately large numbers of African Americans entered the bread lines, sold their belongings, and faced eviction from their homes. It was a difficult time, but the Republican administration of Herbert Hoover did little to relieve the suffering. Hoover resisted proposals for aiding the nation’s poor and destitute. Instead, he pursued a policy of indirect relief through the establishment of agencies like the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which provided loans to relieve the credit problems of Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. huge corporations like railroads, banks, and insurance companies. By “priming the pump” of big business, Hoover believed that federal aid to corporations would stimulate production, create new jobs, and increase consumer spending—that is, that wealth would “trickle down” to the rest of the economy and end the depression. Unfortunately, these policies provided little help to African Americans. Despite their suffering under the Hoover administration, African Americans rallied to the slogan “who but Hoover” in the presidential election of 1932. Hoover had not only failed to advance effective policies for dealing with the depression; he had also offended African Americans in a variety of ways, including refusing to be photographed with black leaders. Still, he received about sixty-six percent of the black votes. Only in New York and Kansas City, Missouri, did the majority of blacks vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Republican party of Abraham Lincoln was still seen as the party of emancipation. From the black vantage point Roosevelt looked little better than Hoover. As assistant secretary of the navy during the First World War, he had supported the racial segregation of the armed forces. He had also adopted Warm Springs, Georgia, as his home and accepted the system of racial segregation in that state. Moreover, during its national convention, the Democratic party rejected an NAACP proposal for a civil rights plank that called for an end to racial discrimination. Unemployed blacks line up outside the State Employment Service in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1938. During the depression blacks received far less aid than their white counterparts. Once in office, FDR did little to build confidence among African Americans. The new president depended on Southern segregationists to pass and implement his “New Deal” programs. FDR saw the depression as an economic disaster that required massive federal aid and planning. The president formulated his New Deal programs accordingly, giving close Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. attention to the needs of big business, agriculture, and labor. Roosevelt opposed federal antilynching legislation, prevented black delegations from visiting the White House, and refused to make civil rights and racial equity a priority. FDR repeatedly justified his actions on the grounds that he needed Southern white support for his economic relief and recovery programs. In a conversation with an NAACP official, he confided that, “If I come out for the anti-lynching bill now, they will block every bill I ask Congress to pass to keep America from collapsing. I just can’t take that risk.” African-American rights were placed on hold. Each piece of New Deal legislation failed to safeguard African Americans against racial discrimination. The National Recovery Administration (NRA), Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA), the Works Progress [later Projects] Administration (WPA), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Federal Energy Relief Administration (FERA), to name only a few, all left blacks vulnerable to discriminatory employers, agency officials, and local whites. Despite the initiation of New Deal relief measures, African Americans repeatedly complained of their inability to secure relief. When a father of six lost his job and sought relief in the city of Pittsburgh, relief officials denied his request. Only when he deserted his family, his wife reported, did she and the children receive aid. According to the woman’s testimony: “He told me once that if he wasn’t living at home the welfare people would help me and the kids, and maybe he just went away on that account.” Southern state and local officials disregarded federal guidelines and paid African-American relief recipients less than their white counterparts. In Atlanta, blacks on relief received an average of $19.29 per month compared to $32.66 for whites. In Jacksonville, Florida, about five thousand whites received forty-five percent of the relief funds, while the fifteen thousand blacks on relief received the remaining fifty-five percent. Southern politicians defended the practice, arguing that the low living standard of blacks enabled them to live on less than whites. The local Federal Emergency Relief Administration was not alone in discriminating against blacks. The Agricultural Adjustment Act paid farmers to withdraw cotton land from production, create a shortage, and drive up the price of cotton on the market. Set up to administer the law at the local level, AAA county committees excluded African Americans from participation. By depriving African Americans of representation white landowners were able to institute policies that drove black landowners into the ranks of sharecroppers and forced growing numbers of sharecroppers off the land altogether. During its first year, for example, the AAA encouraged farmers to plow under cotton that was already planted. Landowners took government checks, plowed up cotton, and denied tenants a share of the government income. At the same time that planters removed increasing acres of land from cultivation, the largest landowners turned increasingly to scientific and mechanized farming. Tractors and cottonpicking machines rendered black labor more and more dispensable. Although their numbers dwindled, the remaining black sharecroppers earned less than their white counterparts. White sharecroppers received a mean net income of $417 per year compared to only $295 for blacks. Whites receiving hourly wages made $232 per year, compared to only $175 for blacks. Lower earnings aggravated other forms of racial inequality. In his survey of 612 black farm families in Macon County, Alabama, the sociologist Charles S. Johnson found that more than Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. half lived in one-and two-room weatherworn shacks. When asked if her house leaked when it rained, a black woman said, “No, it don’t leak in here, it just rains in here and leaks outdoors.” Another tenant complained that the landlord refused to provide lumber for repairs: “All he’s give us … is a few planks. … It’s nothin doin’. We just living outdoors.” Food was also difficult for farm families to come by. Black tenants had good reasons to view these early years of the New Deal with skepticism. The National Recovery Act also discriminated against black workers. Partly by exempting domestic service and unskilled laborers from its provisions, the NRA removed most blacks from its minimum wage and participatory requirements. Since over sixty percent of African Americans worked in these sectors, the measure had little meaning for most blacks, especially women. Nonetheless, other blacks who held on to their precarious footing in the industrial labor force, despite hard times, faced new pressures from employers and white workers. In 1934, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Urban League reported a strike at the Wehr Steel Foundry. The chief aim of the strike, the League reported, was the “dismissal of Negroes from the plant.” When black workers decided to cross the picket line, police joined strikers in attacks on them. The Milwaukee Urban League reported that: “The first few days of the strike brought considerable violence between the Negroes who attempted to continue on the jobs and the white pickets. … Police had been summoned [by management] to protect those who cared to enter but in turn joined with the strikers in overturning an automobile filled with Negro workers.” Even on construction projects for black institutions, white workers rallied to bar African American workers. In St. Louis, for example, when the General Tile Company hired a black tile setter on the $2 million Homer Phillips Hospital for blacks, all the white AFLunion men quit and delayed construction for two months. In Long Island and Manhattan, the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Building Service Employees’ Union pursued similar practices. When African Americans were brought under the provisions of the law in southern textile firms, employers reclassified African American jobs, in order to remove them from the protection of the NRA codes. Some firms simply argued that blacks were less efficient than whites and thus deserved low wages. In Atlanta, for example, the Scripto Manufacturing company told black workers, “This company does not base wages on color but entirely on efficiency. Our records show that the efficiency of colored help is only fifty percent of that of white help in similar plants.” Where the codes did upgrade the pay of black workers, many firms replaced their African American workforces with white employees. It is no wonder that blacks frequently called the NRA, the “Negro Run Around,” “Negroes Ruined Again”, and “Negro Rarely Allowed.” In short, NRA legislation (particularly section 7a, which gave workers the right to collective bargaining with employers) enabled labor unions to strengthen their hand at the expense of blacks in the North and South. As late as 1935, organized white labor also blocked the inclusion of a nondiscrimination clause in the National Labor Relations Act, sponsored by Senator Robert Wagner of New York. The new Wagner law gave workers and their unions extended protection in their effort to bargain collectively with management. African Americans not only faced discrimination in industrial, agricultural, and relief programs but confronted racial bias in federal housing, social security, and regional planning Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. and youth programs as well. The Federal Housing Administration refused to guarantee mortgages (homeloans) in racially integrated neighborhoods; the Social Security Act excluded farm laborers and domestic service employees; and the TVA and CCC developed along segregationist and unequal lines. Established in 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority was promoted by the Roosevelt administration as a model of social planning to improve the lives of millions of Americans in seven states in the Tennessee River Valley. It was hoped that the TVA would stimulate economic development and reduce poverty by establishing a massive program of rural electrification at dramatically reduced rates. African Americans comprised eleven percent of the two million residents of the region, and the project promised “nondiscrimination” in its official design. African Americans took heart at the promise of benefits from TVA. Yet, the project soon accepted the racial status quo for black workers and their families in the valley. The agency barred blacks from skilled and managerial positions, excluded them from vocational training programs, and reinforced patterns of segregation in housing. When queried about the exclusion of blacks from its model town of Norris, Tennessee, TVA chairman Arthur Morgan referred to a long “lilly white” waiting list and suggested that it was unlikely that blacks would be able to move to Norris. Even more important, African Americans received inadequate benefits from the reduced rates for electrical power for their homes. In an essay on the “Plight of the Negro in the Tennessee Valley,” the NAACP magazine The Crisis reported: “For Negroes the introduction of cheaper electric rates into Lee County as result of the TVA power policy has meant nothing. Landlords, whether of Negro slum dwellers in Tupelo or of Negro tenant farmers in the rural section of the county, have not found it to their advantage to wire their Negro tenants’ homes at the cost of $15 to $25, when already they are squeezing all the rent possible from these tenants.” In the face of blatant forms of discrimination during the early New Deal, African Americans found little to praise in the government’s relief efforts. They were acutely aware that they suffered disproportionately from unemployment, but faced the greatest discrimination and received the least benefits from government relief, work, housing, and social security programs. All Americans gained increasing assistance from the federal government, but such assistance would only slowly reach African Americans and help to reverse the impact of hard times on their families and communities. By the mid-1930s, however, a variety of new forces would gradually transform the “raw deal” into a “new deal.” A New Deal, 1935–1939 Between the stock market crash of 1929 and the early years of the New Deal, the condition of African Americans moved from bad to worse. Neither the Hoover administration nor the first efforts of the Democratic regime of Franklin Roosevelt did much to lessen the suffering of African Americans. By 1935, however, a variety of forces helped to transform the relationship between blacks and the New Deal. Changes in American attitudes toward race and class, the emergence of new interracial alliances, and the growing political mobilization of African Americans themselves all put pressure on the federal government to address the needs of Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. African Americans. In a nationwide radio broadcast, President Franklin D. Roosevelt symbolized the shift. In a speech before a conference of the Churches of Christ in America, he condemned lynching as murder: “Lynch law is murder, a deliberate and definite disobedience of the high command, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ We do not excuse those in high places or low who condone lynch law.” Following the president’s pronouncement, the NAACP’s Crisis magazine exclaimed that FDR was the only president to declare “frankly that lynching is murder. We all knew it, but it is unusual to have a president of the United States admit it. These things give us hope.” As the federal government increasingly affirmed its responsibility for the social welfare of all Americans, it helped to change the context of the African-American struggle for social justice. By 1939, African Americans had gradually gained a larger share of New Deal social programs and improved their economic situation. African-American income from New Deal work and relief programs—Public Works Administration, Works Progress Administration, and Civilian Conservation Corps—now nearly equaled their income from employment in agriculture and domestic service. On CCC projects, African Americans increased their percentage from less than six percent in 1935 to eleven percent in 1939. African Americans also occupied about one-third of all low-income PWA housing units, obtained a rising share of Federal Farm Security Loans, and access to a variety of new WPA educational and cultural programs. Because the government spent more money on education, including the building of new facilities, black illiteracy dropped ten percent during the 1930s. The number of African Americans on relief and the amount of money available to them rose steadily. African Americans increasingly hailed such New Deal social programs as “a godsend.” Some even suggested that God “will lead me” but relief “will feed me.” The changing relationship between blacks and the New Deal was not merely a matter of the government’s shifting attitude toward the social welfare of all Americans. The Roosevelt administration also responded to the growing importance of the black vote on national elections, the emergence of an interracial alliance of black and white New Dealers, and especially a rising core of black federal appointees. Roosevelt acted to the growing importance of the black vote by appointing increasing numbers of African Americans to federal posts. By the mid-1930s, some forty-five blacks had received appointments in various New Deal agencies and cabinet departments. The “Black Cabinet,” as these black advisers were called, included Robert L. Vann, editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, in the office of the Attorney General; William H. Hastie, a civil rights attorney, in the Department of the Interior; Robert C. Weaver, an economist, also in the Interior Department; Lawrence A. Oxley, a social worker, in the Department of Labor; Edgar Brown, president of the United Government Employees, in the Civilian Conservation Corps; and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman College, head of the Negro Division of the National Youth Administration. The “Black Cabinet” enabled African Americans to improve their position in a variety of New Deal programs. Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. President Franklin Roosevelt responded to the growing importance of the black vote in national elections by appointing increasing numbers of blacks to federal posts. Members of the “Black Cabinet,” as these appointees came to be called, gathered for a photograph in 1938. The first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, played a key role in helping these black New Dealers improve the federal response to the needs of African Americans. Although Mrs. Roosevelt had little contact with African Americans before early 1933, she soon befriended Walter White of the NAACP and Mary McLeod Bethune. Through her frequent interactions with black leaders Eleanor Roosevelt gradually increased her support of civil rights issues. Following the election of 1936, for example, she endorsed legislation designed to abolish the poll tax, make lynching a federal offense, and increase aid to black institutions, particularly schools. Historians credit Mrs. Roosevelt with helping to push FDR’s position on civil rights from one of caution and aloofness to one of significant support. FDR eventually allowed himself to be photographed with black leaders, conferred with civil rights delegations at the White House, and sent greetings to African American organizations. As the White House seemed to escalate its support for racial justice, other New Dealers took heart and advanced the cause of African Americans. The policies of Harold Ickes, Secretary of Interior and administrator of the PWA; Harry Hopkins, head of the WPA; and a few others exemplified the growing support that African Americans received in some New Deal agencies. Before taking his post as Secretary of the Interior, Ickes had served as president of the Chicago chapter of the NAACP. Upon assuming his duties, he ended segregation in the department’s rest rooms and cafeteria. Although local whites often ignored his policies, Ickes advocated the employment of skilled and unskilled black laborers on PWA construction projects. The secretary insisted that all PWA contractors agree to hire blacks in proportion to their percentage in the 1930 occupational census. Under the leadership of Harry Hopkins, the WPA established policies making it illegal for any relief official to discriminate “on account of race, creed, or color.” FDR had strengthened his hand, by issuing Executive Order 7046, which mandated that the WPA would assign persons “qualified by training and experience” to work projects without discrimination “on any grounds whatsoever.” Under Hopkins’s leadership, the WPA also promoted black adult education, hired unemployed black professionals, and stimulated the arts within the black community. The WPA Education program employed over 5,000 blacks as leaders and supervisors, taught nearly Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. 250,000 blacks to read and write, and trained many for skilled jobs. The Federal Music Project staged concerts involving the works of black composers; the Federal Art Project employed hundreds of black artists; and, under the direction of Hallie Flanagan, the Federal Theater Project (FTP) established an African American unit. Supplementing the artistic work of the FTP was the Federal Writers Project. Young writers and scholars like St. Clair Drake, Horace R. Cayton, Richard Wright, and Ralph Ellison gained opportunities and early training on the Federal Writers Project. Both the FWP and FTP developed activities designed to increase interracial understanding, which provoked an investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The HUAC helped to undercut the growth of their programs by charging them with “conspiracy and subversion” of American ideas, beliefs, and institutions. Although most southern New Dealers resisted equal treatment for blacks, others supported efforts to improve the status of African Americans. Born in Alabama, Aubrey Willis Williams, served as Deputy Works Progress Administrator and head of the National Youth Administration (NYA). At the NYA, Williams resisted the establishment of racial differentials in wages paid to blacks and whites. He repeatedly stated the belief that African American youth should be prepared for jobs that would move them beyond the usual categories of maid and janitor. Will Alexander, director of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), was another Southern white who befriended African Americans during the period. Under his leadership, the FSA appointed a larger percentage of black supervisors than any other agency and gradually improved benefits for African Americans. There were other reasons why federal policies toward blacks began to change for the better. Across the land, American attitudes toward race and class had begun to change. This was reflected in the emergence of new intellectual, cultural, and political currents. Increasing numbers of Americans criticized industrial elites—corporate executives, bankers, and Wall Street financiers—for eliminating their jobs and placing them in bread lines. Working Americans launched mass movements for greater government support of their interests during the 1930s. This increased activism could be seen in the rise of the Communist party, the resurgence of organized labor, and increasing efforts to attract African Americans to the ranks of both of these types of organizations. Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. The Farm Security Administration highlights its efforts to aid black farmers in this 1939 poster. The FSA sought to increase the number of black farmers who owned the land they worked. An unpopular minority, the Communist party was especially eager to attract black members. Although the party often used the race issue to foster its own specific ideological attacks on capitalist institutions, such as the two-party system, it nonetheless played a key role in publicizing racial injustice and placing civil rights before the nation. Few blacks joined the Communist party, but its activities on behalf of African Americans soon got their attention. The party’s most famous campaigns centered on efforts to free one of its own members, the black communist Angelo Herndon, from a Georgia chain gang and the attempt to win aquittal on rape charges for nine blacks held in Scottsboro, Alabama, known as the Scottsboro Boys. The case of the Scottsboro Boys was perhaps the most infamous instance of racial injustice in the courts of the 1930s. During the depression years, blacks and whites routinely “hoboed” the nation’s freight trains, traveling from place to place looking for work and the means to survive. In March 1931, a group of black and white youths boarded a freight train, southbound from Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Alabama. A fight eventually broke out and the blacks forced the whites off the train. The white youths reported the incident to local authorities who stopped the train near Scottsboro, Alabama. Nine young black men and two white women were removed from the train by the local sheriff. Fearing arrest, the young women accused the black youths of rape at knife point. Although the black defendants pleaded “not guilty,” the court failed to appoint Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. proper legal representation for the young men. An all-white jury ignored the different versions of events on the train given in the testimony of the two women and found the defendants guilty of rape and the court sentenced all but the youngest to death in the electric chair. The Communist party soon took up the case. The party’s Central Committee issued a statement describing the sentence as a “legal lynching,” and within a few days, launched a national and international crusade to save the young men. As protest rallies emerged in major cities across the nation, non-Communist organizations like the NAACP soon joined communists in demanding justice. At the same time, the party’s International Labor Defense pressed the legal case through the Alabama Supreme Court, which upheld the convictions. On two separate occasions the party carried the case forward to the U. S. Supreme Court, which overturned the convictions and ordered retrials, which in both cases, Powell v. Alabama (1932), and Norris v. Alabama (1935), led not to release but to new death sentences. However, the execution dates kept being postponed and eventually all defendants were cleared of the charges brought against them. After having spent more than fifteen years in jail for a crime he did not commit, the last defendant was released after the Second World War. The Communist party not only staged demonstrations and legal actions to free blacks like Herndon and the Scottsboro boys, it also carried out day-to-day activities designed to improve the economic status of African Americans. The party organized hunger marches, unemployed councils, farm labor unions, and rent strikes to aid unemployed and destitute workers. In Chicago, when families received eviction notices, mothers would sometimes shout to the children, “Run quick find the Reds!” On one occasion, when communists attempted to prevent the eviction of a black family in Chicago, police shot and killed three African Americans. The Communist party responded by distributing nearly five thousand leaflets, urging black and white workers to unite and demand justice for the deceased. During the 1930s the Socialist party also campaigned against racial injustice. In 1929, the party established the United Colored Socialists of America. Socialist party head Norman Thomas appointed a special black organizer for the South and supported a resolution condemning racial discrimination by trade unions. By 1933 the Socialist party endorsed federal anti-lynching and anti-poll tax legislation; the party also organized sharecroppers unions, and elevated blacks to leadership positions. Launched in 1934, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU) represented the Socialist party’s strongest effort to organize workers across racial lines. Founded near the town of Tyronza, Arkansas, the STFU resolved to organize black and white tenant farmers in the same union. Under the leadership of H. L. Mitchell, a white associate of Norman Thomas, and two ministers, Howard Lester and Claude Williams, the organization advocated both economic justice for all sharecroppers and racial justice for African Americans. A white organizer for the STFU emphasized the futility of separate organizations and appealed to what he called “belly hunger” to help erase the color line among farmers. “If we organize only a Union of Negro sharecroppers then the Negroes will be evicted and white sharecroppers from the hill country or the unemployed in Memphis will take their places. If on the other hand we organize only a Union of white sharecroppers then the white men will be evicted and Negro sharecroppers from Mississippi and the unemployed in Memphis will take their places.” Although the organization failed to bring landowners to the bargaining table, it demonstrated Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. how the American Left pushed the Roosevelt administration to create a “new deal.” The economic slump of the 1930s and the Roosevelt administration’s liberalized labor laws energized the organized labor movement. However, the movement split over the issue of whether to organize workers along broad industrial lines or on a narrow, craft-by-craft basis. Impatient with the exclusionary policies of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), the Committee for Industrial Organization broke from the AFLat the 1935 convention. Under the leadership of John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW), the CIO (renamed the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1938) embarked upon an aggressive organizing drive. This change was especially significant for blacks because they were disporoportionately represented in mass production industries. Learning from its failure to organize southern black miners in the coal strikes of 1927, the UMW made a firm commitment to organize black and white workers. Following the “UMW formula,” the CIO soon launched the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee (PWOC), and the United Automobile Workers (UAW). In each case, the union appealed to black organizations like the NAACP and the National Urban League; employed black organizers; placed African Americans in key union offices; and advocated an end to racially biased pay scales. Under the prodding of black labor leaders like A. Philip Randolph, competition from the emerging CIO, and the growing influence of blacks in the New Deal political coalition, the AFLalso modified its position on organizing black workers. AFLPresident William Green eventually supported the move to free Angelo Herndon and the Scottsboro Boys, to obtain federal anti-lynching legislation, and to abolish poll taxes that disfranchised black voters. By 1939, African Americans had moved into the meeting rooms of the “house of labor.” Reinforcing the lowering of racial barriers in the Labor movement were new intellectual and cultural perspectives on race in American society. Scholars, artists, and the popular media gradually changed their views on race. Social scientists rejected the notion of the inborn inferiority of races and developed a new consensus. Most intellectuals and social scientists agreed that African Americans were not inferior to whites, that racism injured its victims both psychologically and socially, and that racism itself was a mental illness that damaged the health of the individual and the nation as a whole. These views gained currency in the ongoing research of Columbia University anthropologist Franz Boas, his students, and associates, who questioned the long-held assumption that racial and ethnic group differences were inherited through the genes. Boas and his associates challenged the racists to prove that African Americans suffered a lower plane of living because they were intellectually inferior to their white counterparts. In short, he forced the social scientific community, which prided itself on attending to the “facts,” to recognize that it had little evidence to support some of its most cherished theories. As one scholar put it, “We do not yet know scientifically what the relative intellectual ability of the various races is. Some different tests, equally valid, might give the Negro a higher score that the white. Until we do know, probably the best thing is to act as if all races had equivalent mental ability.” The intellectual assault on racism reached its high point in 1937 when the Carnegie Corporation invited the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal to the United States to head “a comprehensive study of the Negro.” The Myrdal study resulted in the publication of the Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. monumental An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy (1944). Myrdal brought together numerous scholars to work on different aspects of race relations. All defined the “Negro problem” as a problem of white racism, immorality, and inequality. An American Dilemma concluded that “The American Negro problem is in the heart of the [white] American. It is there that the interracial tension has its focus. It is there that the decisive struggle goes on. This is the central viewpoint of this treatise. Though our study includes economic, social, and political race relations, at bottom our problem is the moral dilemma of the American—the conflict between his moral valuations on various levels of consciousness and generality.” Although legal change came only slowly, the U.S. Supreme Court also issued rulings that weakened the hold of racism in American society. As early as 1935, legal opinions on race started to change, Donald Murray, a black graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts, applied for admission to the University of Maryland Law School. When the school denied him admission based upon his race, he took the case to court and challenged racial discrimination in graduate education. Like most southern states, Maryland set up a tuition grant program that “assisted” blacks who sought graduate study and professional training by steering them elsewhere. But the Maryland Court of Appeals ordered the University of Maryland to set up a separate law school for blacks or admit them to the white one. Rather than contesting the court’s decision, university officials quietly admitted blacks to the law school. In the case of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938), the U.S. Supreme Court reinforced the Maryland precedent by ruling that law schools in the various states had to admit blacks or establish separate law schools. The courts reinforced these decisions with others that slowly began to help blacks achieve full protection under the law. On two occasions (1932, 1935), the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Alabama Supreme Court in the Scottsboro Case and insisted on due process of law for black defendants. In the case of Hale v. Kentucky (1938), the court noted the systematic exclusion of blacks from jury service and overturned the conviction of a black man accused of murder. Over the next three years, the U. S. Supreme Court also strengthened the economic position of African Americans. It upheld the right of African Americans to boycott businesses that discriminated in their employment practices; struck down a Georgia peonage law that permitted the virtual enslavement of blacks as sharecroppers; and upheld the elimination of unequal salaries for black and white teachers in Norfolk, Virginia. In short, by 1939 the court slowly undermined the historic Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 that permitted a “separate but equal” society for blacks and whites. Despite shifting conceptions of race and the New Deal’s growing response to the needs of blacks, by 1939 poverty, unemployment, and racial discrimination continued to affect the African American community. Even the most egalitarian programs experienced a huge gap in policy and practice. The Farm Securities Administration, which secured homeloans for farm families, for example, operated with limited funds and used a tought credit-rating system that disqualified most black tenants and sharecroppers from qualifiying for loans. Low-income federal housing programs reinforced the racial segregation of urban communities, adding federal policy to the ongoing historical forces—discriminatory real estate agents, restrictive covenants (regulations in many suburban neighborhoods that required resale of properties only Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. to whites), and white neighborhood opposition—in the rise and expansion of the black ghetto. Despite the many opportunities offered to blacks by the New Deal, this sign for a “colored waiting room” at a bus station in Durham, North Carolina, attests to the racial discrimination that was still a part of daily life for the majority of blacks. The Works Progress Administration established regulations ending racial discrimination in its programs, but southern whites continued to evade the rules and made it more difficult for blacks than whites to gain adequate public works jobs and relief. Black women faced special forms of discrimination on WPA projects in the South. They were often forced to perform “men’s jobs” at a time that white women received jobs defined as “clean” or “easy.” In a South Carolina town, a local physician reported, “The Beautification project appears to be ‘For Negro Women Only.’ This project is a type of work that should be assigned to men. Women are worked in ‘gangs’ in connection with the City’s dump pile, incinerator and ditch piles. Illnesses traced to such exposure as these women must face do not entitle them to medical aid at the expense of the WPA.” By the late 1930s, as whites returned to full-time employment in private industry in growing numbers, most blacks continued to depend on public service and relief programs. Despite the various interracial alliances and growing sensitivity to the destructive impact of class and racial inequality, white Americans continued to insist that their needs be met first. While the CIO helped to organize blacks who were fortunate enough to maintain their jobs during the depression years, as the country lifted itself out of the depression it did little to promote the equitable return of employment of black and white wokers in equal numbers. For their part, although the socialists and communists helped to change attitudes toward interracial cooperation, the benefits of these efforts remained largely symbolic rather than material. Blacks continued to suffer racial injustice. African Americans, in short, would have to attend to their own interests, unite, and wage an even stronger offensive against the barriers of racial and class inequality. Family, Community, and Politics, 1933–1939 Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. A variety of factors shaped the experiences of African Americans during the Great Depression. The impact of economic hard times, the emergence of New Deal social programs, and changing perspectives on race and class helped to define the black experience. Despite widespread deprivation and suffering, African Americans developed a variety of strategies for coping with the depression on their own. They deepened their connections with family, friends, and the African American community. At the same time, they strengthened their links with organized labor and broadened their participation in the political process, particularly the New Deal coalition of the Democratic party. As early as 1932, Robert Vann, editor of the Pittsburgh Courier had urged African Americans to abandon the party of Lincoln. “My friends, go turn Lincoln’s picture to the wall. That debt has been paid in full.” As the depression took its toll on their lives, African Americans developed a variety of strategies for making ends meet. For many black women the depression was an old experience with a new name. As black men lost jobs in increasing numbers, African-American women helped keep their families in tact by relying on black kin and friendship networks. African-American families took in boarders, cared for each other’s children, and creatively manipulated their resources. In rural areas, they maintained gardens, canned fruits and vegetables, fished, hunted, and gathered wild nuts and berries. And blacks adapted these rural responses to the realities of life in cities. In small urban spaces, for example, some continued to maintain gardens to supply certain southern staples, particularly collard greens, cabbage, potatoes, and tomatoes. Under the impact of the depression, such activities became even more important. Since the threat of eviction weighed so heavily on the minds of urban blacks, the “rent party” represented a significant source of income. Sometimes described as “chittlin’s struts,” these parties had deep roots in the rural South. “Down home” food—chittlins, corn bread, collard greens, hogmaws, pig feet, and so on—was on the menu. Sponsors charged a small admission fee and sometimes offered printed or handwritten tickets. A key component in the survival of urban blacks during the 1930s, the rent parties also served as a training ground for the next generation of black blues artists—the blues men who followed in the wake of such classical blues recording artists as Bessie Smith, LeRoy Carr, Jimmy Yancey, Cripple Clarence Lofton, Big Maceo Merriweather, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Big Bill Broonzy among others moved to the fore with lyrics familiar to the house parties. How Long, how long has that evening train been gone How long, how long, baby, how long? Standing at the station, watch my baby leaving town Feeling disgusted, nowhere could she be found. How long, how long, baby, how long? Such parties became even more lucrative when sponsors added gambling and liquor to food, music, and dancing. The “policy” or numbers game was also an adaptation to poverty that African Americans brought to the city and used to help weather the storm during the depression years. The game had its roots in the mid-nineteenth century, but it gained increasing popularity Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. among the poor because it allowed bets as low as a penny. On the South Side of Chicago, one black resident tried to imagine a world without policy. It was so important to Chicago’s black community that without it he believed, “seven thousand people would be unemployed and business in general would be crippled, especially taverns and even groceries, shoestores, and many other business enterprises who depend on the buying power of the South Side.” The church provided another arena in which African Americans sought to make ends meet. Established Baptist, Methodist, and Holiness (Church of God in Christ) churches struggled to assist their parishioners to survive hard times. New religious movements also increased their following, partly as a result of their success in feeding their parishioners. For example, the Peace Mission of Father Divine (George Baker) whose efforts on behalf of the unemployed started during the 1920s, expanded dramatically during the depression. In 1932, he moved the mission from New Jersey to Harlem and gained credit for feeding the masses and offering hope in a time of widespread despair. At the same time, Bishop Charles Emmanuel Grace, known as “Daddy Grace,” established the United House of Prayer of All People with headquarters in Washington, D.C. The organization spread to more than twenty cities and provided thousands of people respite from hard times. Black religious services featured music that sometimes resembled the music of the “rent party.” It was in 1932 that the Gospel pioneer Thomas Dorsey broke from his growing reputation as a blues pianist and dedicated himself to Gospel song writing, which led to his most popular tune, “Precious Lord.” Dorsey’s swinging, rocking, and blueslike melodies eventually caught on and stirred the entire world. Over and over again, whether in religious or secular settings, black children of the depression recalled how their families struggled, to place food on the table and clothing on their backs. The pastor of the Church of God in Christ in Washington, D.C., preaches during a service in 1942. Black churches also featured music that mirrored the growing influence of urban life. In order to improve the circumstances of their families and communities, African Americans also moved increasingly toward the Labor movement, which had dramatically expanded under Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. the impact of New Deal legislation. The new CIO increasingly displaced the older, more racially restrictive AFL. Under these new conditions, African Americans took the initiative to expand their place within labor’s ranks. In Milwaukee, for example, LeRoy Johnson, a black butcher and packinghouse worker, became a major figure in the organization of the local United Packinghouse Union. Described by an associate as an “aggressive sort of guy and quite articulate,” Johnson helped to make the CIO campaign in the city a success. Perhaps more than any other single figure during the 1930s, however, A. Philip Randolph epitomized the persistent effort of black workers to organize in their own interest. During that decade, when new federal legislation (the Railway Labor Act of 1934) recognized the rights of workers to organize, Randolph and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids (BSCP)—which he had helped form in 1925—increased their organizing drive among black porters. Randolph’s rhetoric and actions inspired the rank and file during the hard days of the depression. At one convention, he exclaimed, “The lesson that Pullman porters in particular and Negroes in general must learn is that salvation must and can only come from within.” Black pullman porters rallied to the BSCP, which, by 1933, claimed to represent some 35,000 members. Two years later the BSCP defeated a Pullman company union and gained the right to represent porters in negotiations with management, which, in 1937, signed a contract with the union. In the meantime, the AFLhad grudgingly approved a full international charter for the brotherhood, placing it upon an equal footing with other member unions. The BSCP victory had extraordinary significance: It not only helped to make blacks more union conscious, but increased their influence on national labor policy, and the larger civil rights struggle. As black workers increased their organizing activities, the major civil rights organizations also moved toward a sharper focus on the economic plight of African Americans. In 1933, the NAACP, the Urban League, and other interracial organizations formed the Joint Committee on National Recovery (JCNR). Although underfunded and ill staffed, the JCNR lobbied in Washington, D.C., on behalf of blacks and helped to publicize the plight of African Americans in the relief and recovery programs. The Urban League also formed Emergency Advisory Councils and Negro workers councils in major cities across the country and played a major role in promoting closer ties between blacks and organized labor. Although the League had earlier supported black strikebreaking activities and emphasized amicable relations with employers, it now urged black workers to organize and “get into somebody’s union and stay there.” For its part, the NAACP formed a Committee on Economic Problems Affecting the Negro; invited representatives of the CIO to serve on its board; and worked with organized labor to gain housing, wages, hours, and Social Security benefits for black workers. The major civil rights organizations also supported the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign. Aimed at white merchants who served the African American community but refused to employ blacks, “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” galvanized the black urban community. In New York, Chicago, Washington D.C., and other cities, blacks boycotted stores that refused to hire African Americans, or hired them only as low-paying domestic and common laborers. New York launched its “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign under the leadership of Reverend John H. Johnson of St. Martin’s Protestant Episcopal Church. When white Harlem Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. store owners refused to negotiate, Johnson and his supporters formed the Citizens League for Fair Play, which set up picket lines around Blumstein’s Department Store, took pictures of blacks who crossed the line, and published photos in the black newspaper, the New York Age. After six weeks, the store gave in and hired black clerical and professional staff. As a result of such actions, New York blacks obtained the nation’s first black affirmative action plan—a pattern of hiring that gave preference to previously excluded groups. In 1938, the New York Uptown Chamber of Commerce negotiated with the Greater New York Coordinating Committee for Employment and agreed to grant African Americans one-third of all retail executive, clerical, and sales jobs. The businesses would not fire whites to make room for blacks, but agreed to give blacks preference in all new openings. Although African Americans expressed their resentment toward discrimination in formally organized and peaceful group actions, they sometimes despaired and adopted violent responses. On March 25, 1935, a race riot broke out in Harlem, when a rumor spread that a black youth had been brutally beaten and nearly killed by the police. Flyers soon appeared: “Child Brutally Beaten—near death,” “One Hour Ago Negro Boy Was Brutally Beaten,” “The Boy Is Near Death.” Although the youth in question had been released unharmed, outrage had already spread and African Americans smashed buildings and looted stores, in a night of violence that resulted in at least one death, more than fifty injuries, and thousands of dollars worth of property damage. In the volatile climate of the 1930s, some blacks gravitated toward the Communist and Socialist parties. They perceived radicalism as the most appropriate response to the deepening plight of African Americans. In 1931, aided by the Communist party, blacks in rural Alabama founded the Alabama Sharecroppers Union. The organization developed an underground network of communications that enabled them to maintain secrecy. Meetings took place in black churches, where their plans were disguised as religious undertakings. The union’s membership increased to an estimated three thousand in 1934. Its efforts soon attracted the attention of local authorities and violence broke out when law officers tried to confiscate the livestock of union members, who allegedly owed money to landowners. In 1932, Ned Cobb (referred to as Nate Shaw in the published oral history of his life) joined the sharecroppers union and fought the system that oppressed him. As he recalled, he had to act because he had labored “under many rulins, just like the other Negro, that I knowed was injurious to man and displeasin to God and still I had to fall back.” One cold morning in December 1932, Shaw refused to “fall back.” When deputy sheriffs came to take his neighbor’s livestock, he took part in a shootout with local law officers. Nate Shaw’s action underscored the increasing militancy of rural black workers. Despite violence and intimidation, black workers also took an active part in the formation of the socialist Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU). A black farmer helped to inspire the organization when he spoke up at the initial meeting of the group: “For a long time now the white folks and the colored folks have been fighting each other and both of us has been getting whipped all the time. We don’t have nothing against one another but we got plenty against the landlord. The same chain that holds my people holds your people too. If we’re chained together on the outside, ought to stay chained together in the union.” When white landowners evicted sharecroppers in Arkansas, the black STFU vice president, Owen H. Whitfield, led Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. some 500 black and white farmers onto the main highway between Memphis and St. Louis and vowed to remain there until the federal government intervened. The Missouri State Highway patrol soon moved in and loaded families and their possessions on trucks and scattered them on back country roads. Although these radical actions produced few results, they highlighted the increasing activism of rural black workers in their own behalf. A small number of blacks joined the Communist party and played a role in the party’s League of Struggle for Negro Rights (LSNR). According to a recent study of the party in depression-era Alabama, blacks made up the majority of the party’s membership during most of the period. The party’s fight on behalf of the Scottsboro Boys attracted local black workers. Most African Americans, however, shunned membership in radical parties and worked hard to broaden their participation in the New Deal coalition. In 1936, African Americans formed the National Negro Congress (NNC). Spearheaded by Ralph Bunche of Howard University and John Davis, executive secretary of the Joint Committee on National Recovery, the organization aimed to unite all existing organizations—political, fraternal, and religious—and press for the full socio-economic recovery of the black community from the ravages of the depression. Nearly six hundred organizations attended the founding meeting, which selected A. Philip Randolph as its first president. The National Negro Congress demonstrated a new level of African-American political organization and mobilization. Because of the dramatic growth of the black population in most cities, black voter registration drives picked up momentum during the 1930s. The proportion of the black population that had registered to vote had risen rapidly in the major industrial cities —from less than thirty percent to sixty-six percent in Detroit. In Philadelphia the number of registered black voters rose by more than ninety percent. In Chicago the rate of black voter registration exceeded the percentage of white. In the South as well—Durham, Raleigh, Birmingham, Atlanta, Savannah, and Charleston—African Americans formed political clubs to fight for the franchise and increase the number of black voters in that region. As Republicans continued to ignore the pleas of black voters, blacks increasingly turned toward the Democratic party. In the election of 1936, African Americans voted for the Democratic party in record numbers, giving Roosevelt seventy-six percent of the Northern black vote. Following that election, African Americans used their growing support of the Democratic party to demand greater consideration from federal policymakers. African Americans placed justice before the law high on their list of priorities. In 1933, the NAACP organized a Writers League Against Lynching and launched a nationwide movement to secure a federal anti-lynching law. Sponsored in the House of Representatives by Edward Costigan of Colorado and in the Senate by Robert Wagner of New York, the anti-lynching bill gained little support from FDR and failed when Southern senators killed the measure in 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, and 1940. Despite its failure, the campaign against lynchings produced results. The number of lynchings dropped from eighteen in 1935 to two in 1939. Under the leadership of black attorneys William Hastie, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Thurgood Marshall, African Americans won important cases before the U.S. Supreme Court: selection of blacks for jury duty; admission to previously all-white law schools; and greater access to employment, housing, and public accommodations. Houston, Marshall, and Hastie carefully planned an overall strategy, emphasizing test cases with broad implications for dismantling the Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. entire segregationist system. Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938) was one of the most celebrated of these cases. Houston’s decision to take the case represented a tactical manouver to dismantle the separate but equal principle that the Court established in an earlier case, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Lloyd Gaines, a black graduate of Lincoln University in Missouri, was denied admission to the University of Missouri Law School because the school did not accept blacks. The university advised Gaines to take advantage of state funds provided to support black legal training in other states. Supported by the St. Louis chapter of the NAACP, Gaines sued, demanding access to training at the all-white law school. Houston argued the case in the Missouri courts where Gaines lost. Then Huston argued the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Gaines won a major victory. The Court’s decision outlawed the practice of giving blacks subsidies to receive legal training at out-of-state schools. It also supported the admission of blacks to all-white schools in the absence of fully equal facilities for blacks. As black lawyers attacked the system of legalized racial segregation, black social scientists and artists assaulted its intellectual underpinnings. E. Franklin Frazier, W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and other black social scientists and historians had worked for years counteracting racist stereotypes. Under the leadership of Carter G. Woodson, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (founded in 1915) continued to promote the study of African-American history, emphasizing the role of blacks in the development of the nation. While the organization continued to publish the scholarly Journal of Negro History founded in 1916, in 1933 it added the Negro History Bulletin as a publication designed for broader circulation. Launched in 1926, Negro History Week also became a regular feature of AfricanAmerican community life across the country. E. Franklin Frazier conducted seminal studies of black community and family life, which culminated in the publication of his The Negro Family in the United States (1939). Although he underestimated the role that poor and working-class blacks played in shaping their own experience, Frazier emphasized environmental over racial factors in explaining poverty. In his scholarship on African-American history, W.E.B Du Bois also called attention to the impact of class and racial discrimination in his massive reinterpretation of the emancipation period, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860–1880 (1935). Gunnar Myrdal’s An American Dilemma built upon the scholarship of some thirty black scholars, including young men like Charles S. Johnson, St. Clair Drake, Horace R. Cayton, and Ralph Bunche among others. Reinforcing the work of black social scientists and historians were the contributions of black artists. Concert singers Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson, and Marian Anderson frequently appeared on stage and on national radio broadcasts. Born to a working-class family in Philadelphia in 1902, Marian Anderson had pursued advanced musical training in Europe and had performed widely in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. As a result of her growing success in Europe, Anderson returned to the United States in 1935. The New York Times reported, “Marian Anderson has returned to her native land one of the great singers of our time.” In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution, who owned Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., barred Anderson from giving a concert there. For her part, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR over the incident. In her popular newspaper column, “My Day,” she explained that she could no longer belong to an organization that maintained the Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. color line. African Americans and their white allies formed a committee of protest and got permission from Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes to hold the concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Nearly 75,000 people stood in the cold open air to hear her sing, and millions more heard her on radio. Her repertoire included Negro spirituals, bringing them to a wide audience for the first time, along with the works of classical European composers. Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, William Attaway, and others expressed the experiences of African Americans through novels and plays. In 1938, Richard Wright won a WPA writing prize for his book Uncle Tom’s Children, a collection of short stories on black life in the rural South. Two years later he published his most famous novel Native Son, which characterized the Great Migration of blacks to American cities and the destructive impact of racism on their lives. One observer later recalled, “The day Native Son appeared, American culture was changed forever.” Wright’s book was a phenomenal success. It set a sales record for Harper and Brothers and soon surpassed John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath on the bestseller lists. Born on a plantation near Natchez, Mississippi in 1908, Wright later wrote that his head was “full of a hazy notion that life could be lived with dignity, that the personalities of others should not be violated.” The Mississippi-born writer William Attaway expressed similar sentiments in his powerful portrayal of black site workers in his novel, Blood on the Forge (1941). Adding to the artistic portrayal of black life were the dramatic productions of black theater groups like the Rose McClendon players, the Harlem Players, and the Negro People’s Theatre; the music of jazz artists like Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, and Jimmie Lunceford; the paintings of Romare Bearden; and the films of the pioneer black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. African Americans also gained greater access to mainstream radio and film and gradually used these media to project more positive images of themselves than was previously possible. The blues singer Ethel Waters had her own radio show and the film industry broke new ground by giving Paul Robeson the lead role in the movie version of the stage play The Emperor Jones, with whites serving as supporting cast. African Americans developed a variety of responses to life during the Great Depression. The depression offered different problems and prospects for educated black professional people on the one hand and the masses of working-class and poor people on the other. Yet all were linked to each other through the persistence of racial inequality. The emergence of prizefighter Joe Louis as a folk hero for all African Americans is perhaps the most potent evidence of their sense of a common plight, kinship, and future. Indeed, Joe Louis helped to unify black people during the period and gave them hope that they could topple the segregationist system. When he lost they cried, as in his first bout against the German Max Schmeling in 1936. They were especially heartbroken because Hitler preached the doctrine of Aryan supremacy, which claimed the physical and intellectual superiority of all white people, and the German people in particular. Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Lying Lips, a 1939 movie produced and directed by the pioneering black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, featured an all-black cast. On the other hand, when Joe Louis won, black people celebrated. After he knocked out Schmeling in the first round of their rematch, black people everywhere applauded, celebrated, and danced in the streets. Similarly, when Louis knocked out the Italian heavyweight Primo Camera, black people were also elated and felt that they had to some degree avenged Benito Mussolini’s invasion and bombing of Ethiopia in 1935. The singer Lena Home offers a powerful statement on Joe Louis as a black folk hero: “Joe was the one invincible Negro, the one who stood up to the white man and beat him down with his fists. He in a sense carried so many of our hopes, maybe even dreams of vengeance.” The depression, New Deal, and social change sent a mixed message to African Americans. On the one hand, they experienced the gradual growth of new and more egalitarian ideas and practices on race; on the other, they suffered persistent economic deprivation and discrimination. Because they faced a dual process of poverty and progress, African-American responses were likewise complex and varied. At times, they despaired and exploded into violence, as in the Harlem riot of 1935. At other times, they gave up on mainstream institutions and turned toward alternative visions and strategies, as reflected in their growing connections with the Communist and Socialist parties. Their music also reflected a similar range of responses—blues, gospel, and jazz. Above all, however, as symbolized in the boxing career of Joe Louis, they deepened their struggle to break down barriers to their full participation in American society. They launched movements to break the back of Jim Crow and broaden their Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. access to the larger economic, political, social, and cultural life of the nation. Their struggle would gain even greater fruits during the crisis of the Second World War, another epic fight that lay only a few years ahead. The Second World War, 1940–1945 Under the impact of the Second World War, African Americans gained new industrial opportunities as the nation mobilized for war and called men into the military in rising numbers. It was during this period that African Americans regained a foothold in the industrial economy and broke the unskilled “job ceiling,” moving into semiskilled and skilled jobs. Yet, the movement of African Americans into defense industry jobs was a slow process. Employers, labor unions, and government agencies, all discriminated against blacks and undermined their participation in the war effort. The Chicago Defender captured the frustrations of many African Americans in an editorial. “Why die for democracy for some foreign country when we don’t even have it here?” Most African Americans nonetheless supported the nation’s declaration of war against Germany and Japan. Black servicemen and women fought in the European, Pacific, and Mediterranean theaters of war. Unlike the First World War, however, African Americans refused to simply “close ranks” and postpone their own struggle for full citizenship and recognition of their rights at home. They now used the war emergency, as well as their growing influence in the Democratic party and the new unions, to wage a “Double V” campaign—for victory at home as well as abroad. Their campaign received its most powerful expression in the militant March on Washington, which led to the federal Fair Employment Practices Committee. By war’s end African Americans and their white allies had set the stage for the emergence of the modern Civil Rights movement. As the nation edged toward war in the years after 1939, African Americans continued to face a pattern of racial discrimination. Despite growing U. S. protests against the racism of Nazi Germany, African Americans confronted racial injustice at home and abroad. In the defense industries and armed services, African Americans complained of racial bias. In 1940 blacks made up less than two percent of employees in the nation’s expanding aircraft industry, and management officials in that industry often stated overtly their determination to keep blacks out. At the large North American Aviation firm, for example, the company’s president reported that black applicants would be considered only for janitorial jobs. In Milwaukee, the A. O. Smith Company, producer of auto frames and tanks for the military, stated that they “never did and didn’t intend to employ Negroes.” Black women confronted even greater difficulties gaining defense jobs than black men did. Employers expressed the belief that black women were peculiarly suited for domestic service but not for industrial jobs. Thus many AfricanAmerican men and women believed that it was a waste of time to seek work in all-white defense plants. Craft unions reinforced discrimination against black workers in defense work. Skilled black workers—plumbers, bricklayers, carpenters, electricians, cement finishers, and painters— faced exclusion from labor unions either by provisions of their bylaws or by some form of “ritual,” or gentleman’s agreement that blacks would not be proposed for membership. In a Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. resolution introduced at the 1941 convention of the AFL, A. Philip Randolph pinpointed labor union discrimination against black workers in a broad range of jobs in different parts of the country. He cited the International Association of Machinists (IAM) as the union with the most conspicuous record of labor union discrimination against African Americans. By accepting only white members, the IAM reinforced the exclusion of blacks from the metal trades and the aircraft industry, including the huge Boeing Aircraft Corporation in Seattle. Since many defense industry jobs required additional training for large numbers of white as well as black workers, the U. S. Office of Education financed such programs under the Vocational Education National Defense (VEND) Training Program. In his study of black labor during the period, economist and New Dealer Robert Weaver documented racial discrimination in the implementation of such programs. According to Weaver, such discrimination had deep roots in earlier patterns of discrimination in federal educational programs. During the 1930s, the federal government had established a precedent for discrimination, by awarding blacks less than $4.75 per capita of federal funds, compared to $8 for whites. When the government established VEND, it continued the same practices. As Weaver put it, “This discrimination was in reality a projection of past practices. Most vocational education officials at the national, state, and local levels were not prepared to champion new policies relative to minority groups’ training.” Vocational training programs reinforced a vicious cycle of black exclusion from defense jobs. When asked why blacks were not trained and employed in defense industry jobs, training school supervisors, unions, and employers conveniently blamed each other, thus passing the buck back and forth and assuring that nothing was done about their discrimination practices. Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Blacks continued to struggle against racial discrimination at home, even as African-American soldiers fought and died overseas during the Second World War. Cadets in the U.S. Army’s first all-black air unit, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, were trained at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. More than 600 black pilots were trained there during the war. African Americans fared little better in the armed services. During the early 1940s, as the government trained white pilots to fly warplanes, the War Department barred African Americans from the U. S. Air Corps. Blacks were admitted to the U. S. Army in large numbers, but were placed in segregated service and labor units, responsible for building, maintenance, and supplies. In 1940, there were an estimated five thousand blacks in the Army, but only four black units were up to full strength and there were fewer than twelve officers in a corps of over twenty-three hundred thousand enlisted men and officers. At the war’s outset, the Marine Corps and Air Corps barred blacks completely, while the Department of the Navy and Coast Guard accepted them only as messmen or laborers. Despite the existence of racial discrimination in the defense program, African Americans played a key role in the war effort. The number of blacks selected for military service increased from 2,069 in 1940 to about 370,000 in 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the official entry of the United States into the Second World War. By the end of the war, nearly one million black men and women had served in the armed forces, nearly three-quarters in the U. S. Army, followed in numbers by the Navy (and Coast Guard), Marine Corps, and the Air Corps, in which only a few blacks served. At the same time, black civilians supported the war effort by purchasing war bonds and launching vigorous bond campaigns in their churches, schools, and community organizations. Despite the poverty of many, they also cooperated with the government’s food conservation program and staffed United Service Organizations (USO) to boost the morale of black service men and women. The USO coordinated the social service activities of a wide range of organizations, including the YWCA, YMCA, and the Salvation Army, to name a few. In addition, African Americans Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. served as nurses’ aides, drivers in motor corps, and other voluntary but vital jobs in the Red Cross. Nearly 500,000 African Americans saw service overseas. Most served in transportation corps, port battalions, and construction units. They moved troops and supplies, built and repaired roads and fortifications, and cleared battle zones of debris and dead and wounded soldiers. They also engaged the enemy in combat in the European, Mediterranean, and Pacific theaters, and gained recognition for their outstanding services. The 761st Tank Battalion, which served in six European countries and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, received several commendations for its bravery on the battlefield. By war’s end, many of these units received the Presidential Citation for their contributions to winning the war. The Air Corps awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross to eighty-two African American pilots and several blacks received the Navy Cross. Messman Dorie Miller became perhaps the most renowned of these seamen. “Without previous experience [he] … manned a machine gun in the face of serious fire during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, on the Battleship Arizona shooting down four enemy planes.” The significant number of Distinguished Flying Crosses was made possible by the training of black airmen at segregated institutions, like Tuskegee Institute. Although some black leaders resisted the training of blacks in segregated facilities, others accepted the arrangement as an opportunity to expand their war-and-peace-time opportunities. Tuskegee trained some six hundred black pilots who flew missions in Africa, France, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Germany. Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, became the highest ranking black officer. He flew sixty missions and won several medals for distinguished service. Other African Americans received medals of honor from the governments of France, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. African Americans served and achieved against great odds. On and off military bases, black service personnel often did not receive courteous treatment and recognition of their human and civil rights. In Durham, North Carolina, for example, a local jury acquitted a white bus driver who murdered a black soldier following an altercation on his route. When German prisoners of war arrived in the United States, they often received service in white establishments that denied service to African Americans. Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. African-American women service a truck at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. During the war, black women, perhaps even more so than white women, performed traditionally male jobs. No less than black men, black women in the military were also subject to brutality in the Jim Crow South. When they failed to move along fast enough, three black Women in the Women’s Army Corps (WACS) were brutally assaulted by civilian police in a Kentucky railroad station. When African Americans resisted such treatment, racial violence erupted at Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Dix, N.J., and other military bases. Racial discrimination in the military was part of a broader pattern of hostility toward blacks in American society. Attracted by new jobs created by the war effort, nearly 1.6 million blacks moved into the nation’s cities. The percentage of blacks living in urban areas rose from less than fifty percent in 1940 to nearly sixty percent in 1945. Western cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle now joined established northern and southern cities as major centers of black urban population growth. Between 1940 and 1945, the black population of Los Angeles county rose from about 75,000 to 150,000. Seattle’s black population leaped from 3,800 to nearly 10,000. At the same time, established midwestern and northeastern cities attracted large numbers of new blacks. In the three year period between 1940 and 1943, Detroit’s black population increased by fifty thousand. As the black urban population increased, race relations deteriorated and violence broke out in several cities. One example was the so-called “zoot suit” riots in which white sailors and civilians attacked African Americans and Latino residents. Marked by their dress as well as their color—broad felt hats, pegged trousers, and pocket knives on gold chains—African American and Latino youth were assaulted in Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Racial violence went well beyond the “zoot suit” confrontations. The most serious conflicts occurred in Harlem and Detroit. In 1943, a policeman shot a black soldier and touched off the Harlem riot, which resulted in at least five deaths, five hundred injuries, hundreds of arrests, Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. and five million dollars in property damage. The actor Sidney Poitier later recalled his experience of the riot: “In a restaurant down-town where I was working I heard that there was trouble in Harlem. After work I took a train uptown, came up out of the subway, and there was chaos everywhere—cops, guns, debris and broken glass all over the street. Many stores had been set on fire, and the commercial district on 125th Street looked as if it had been bombed.” The confrontation in Detroit left behind even more deaths, injuries, and arrests. On June 20, 1943, more than 100,000 Detroiters crowded the city’s Belle Isle Amusement Park to escape the sweltering summer heat. Before long, violence between blacks and whites broke out at the park’s casino, ferry dock, playgrounds, and bus stops. The violence soon spilled over into the black Paradise Valley area. At a local club, a patron took the microphone and announced: “There’s a riot at Belle Isle! The whites have killed a colored lady and her baby. Thrown them over a bridge. Everybody come on! There’s free transportation outside!” Although the report of the death of a black woman and her child was false, by early morning African Americans had smashed windows and looted numerous white-owned stores on Hastings Avenue. Only the arrival of federal troops put down the violence, which resulted in 34 deaths, 675 injuries, nearly 1,900 arrests, and an estimated $2 million in property damage. In both the Harlem and Detroit riots, most of those killed, injured, or arrested were blacks, while the damaged property belonged almost exclusively to whites. Racial violence in Detroit and elsewhere was intertwined with the growing residential segregation of African Americans in the urban environment. As it had during the depression years, federal housing policy reinforced patterns of residential segregation. For example, in 1941, the Federal Public Housing Authority (FPHA) approved the Sojourner Truth Housing Project. Although the project was designated for black occupancy, it was located in a predominantly white working-class neighborhood. When local residents protested, federal authorities rescinded its decision and handed the project over to whites. Only the vigorous protests of the black community, organized in the Sojourner Truth Citizens Committee and supported by the United Auto Workers union, regained for African Americans their right to live in the project. On the other hand, the federal government soon established an all-white project at the Ford Motor Company’s new Willow Run factory. Although blacks and their CIO allies tried to persuade federal officials to permit blacks and whites to occupy the units, the FPHA insisted on a policy of racial segregation. Such housing policies, along with restrictive employment practices and discrimination in the military, embittered black-white relations in the city of Detroit and fueled the underlying forces leading to the 1943 race riot. African Americans did not passively accept racial discrimination in the defense program. They waged a militant “Double V” campaign against social injustice at home and abroad. Popularized by the Pittsburgh Courier, the “Double V” campaign enabled African Americans to declare their loyalty to the war effort without abandoning their thrust for equal rights at home. As early as summer 1940, the NAACP criticized the navy’s policy of recruiting blacks as messmen only. The organization emphasized the injustice of using black tax dollars to finance opportunities for whites, while denying such opportunities to blacks. The fight against discrimination in the military was not limited to male branches of the service. Under the leadership of Mabel K. Staupers, executive director of the National Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. Association of Colored Graduate Nurses, African Americans waged a vigorous fight to integrate the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. The army established a quota on the number of black women accepted for service, while the navy barred them altogether. In her campaign to end such discrimination, Staupers tried to enlist the support of white nurses groups. Only the acute shortage of white nurses by early 1945 helped to end the army’s quota system and break the barriers on black women in the navy. African Americans also attacked racial discrimination in war industries with government contracts. On its July 1940 cover, the NAACP’s Crisis featured an airplane factory marked, “For Whites Only,” with the caption, “Warplanes—Negro Americans may not build them, repair them, or fly them, but they must help pay for them.” The African-American quest for social justice gained its most potent expression in the emergence of the militant March on Washington Movement (MOWM). Spearheaded by A. Philip Randolph, the MOWM was launched in 1941 following a meeting of civil rights groups in Chicago. The critical moment came when a black woman angrily addressed the chair: “Mr. Chairman … we ought to throw fifty thousand Negroes around the White House, bring them from all over the country, in jalopies, in trains and any way they can get there, and throw them around the White House and keep them there until we can get some action from the White House.” Randolph not only seconded the proposal but offered himself and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters as leaders: “I agree with the sister. I will be very happy to throw [in] my organization’s resources and offer myself as a leader of such a movement.” By early June, the MOWM had established march headquarters in Harlem, Brooklyn, Washington, D. C, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and San Francisco. The movement spread through the major rail centers and soon joined forces with local NAACP and Urban League chapters, churches, and fraternal orders. The MOWM helped to mobilize the masses of black working people as well as the middle and upper classes. According to Randolph, “It was apparent … that some unusual, bold and gigantic effort must be made to awaken the American people and the President of the Nation to the realization that the Negroes were the victims of sharp and unbearable oppression, and that the fires of resentment were flaming higher and higher.” Although the MOWM welcomed liberal white support, Randolph insisted that African Americans lead the movement. Randolph was wary of the labor movement, the major political parties, and the growing Communist influence in black organizations like the National Negro Congress (NNC). When the Communist party gained control of the NNC in early 1940, for example, Randolph resigned from the presidency and soon left the organization. Although Roosevelt resisted the movement as long as he could, the threat of a march on Washington finally produced results. Roosevelt met with leaders A. Philip Randolph and Walter White of the NAACP on June 18, 1941. A week later, on June 24, 1941, FDR issued Executive Order 8802, banning racial discrimination in government employment, defense industries, and training programs. The order also established the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to implement its provisions. The FEPC was empowered to receive, investigate, and address complaints of racial discrimination in the defense program. Executive order 8802 proved to be a turning point in African-American history. It linked the Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. struggle of African Americans even more closely to the Democratic party and helped to transform the federal government into a significant ally. African Americans used the FEPC to broaden their participation in the war effort, but it proved to be a slow process. Although an estimated 118,000 blacks were trained for industrial, professional, and clerical jobs in 1941, by the end of 1942 only a small percentage had obtained employment in defense industries. Industrial firms in the North and South dragged their feet on the putting of fair employment practices into effect. In January 1942, the FEPC cited five Milwaukee firms for racial discrimination against the city’s black workers, and directed them “to give written notice” that they would end such practices. Shipyard companies in Houston, Galveston, Mobile, New Orleans, and Tampa widely advertised for white women and boys to pursue training as welders, but they resisted the FEPC’s push to place black welders. Southern colleges also barred blacks from training programs supported by federal money, forcing African Americans to travel to a limited number of black training centers. In Mobile, when the FEPC pressured the Alabama Drydock and Shipbuilders Company to upgrade some black workers to the job of welder, the company supported the walkout and a riot of some twenty thousand white workers, who quit in protest against the employment of black workers. Southeastern railroads offered even stronger evidence of white resistance. In 1940, with the support of the National Mediation Board, the southeastern railroads and the exclusively white unions signed the notorious “Washington Agreement,” designed to eliminate black firemen from employment. Black workers soon challenged the Washington Agreement under the new FEPC guidelines. The FEPC ordered the companies and unions to adjust their policies “so that all needed workers shall be hired and all company employees shall be promoted without regard to race, creed, color or national origin.” When the roads and unions defied the order, African Americans took their case to court, but nothing was determined until 1944 when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Bester William Steelev. The Louisville and Nashville Company Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers, upheld their claims. Every year, at the annual meetings of the AFL, A. Philip Randolph exhorted white workers to end racial bias. Despite the persistence of discrimination, as the wartime labor shortages increased, the FEPC played a key role in helping black workers find jobs in defense plants. The number of blacks in war production increased from less than three percent in March 1942 to over eight percent in 1944. And unlike what happened during the First World War, substantial numbers now moved into semiskilled and skilled positions. As St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton noted in their study of Chicago during the period, “The Second World War broke the ceiling at the level of semiskilled work and integrated thousands of Negroes as skilled laborers in the electrical and light manufacturing industries, from which they had been barred by custom, and in the vast new airplane-engine factories … They also began to filter into minor managerial and clerical positions in increasing numbers.” While the AFLunions and the railroad brotherhoods did much to hamper this process, the unions of the Congress of Industrial Organizations often supported the FEPC claims of black workers and helped them to break the job ceiling. At its annual convention in 1941, for example, the CIO denounced racially discriminatory hiring policies as a “direct attack against our nation’s policy to build democracy in our fight against Hitlerism.” A year later, the organization established its own Committee to Abolish Racial Discrimination and urged its Kelley, R. D. G., & Lewis, E. (Eds.). (2014). To make our world anew : a history of african americans. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from apus on 2017-09-04 09:56:18. Copyright © 2014. Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. affiliates to support national policy against discrimination. Although black workers faced ongoing obstacles in their struggle for skilled, managerial, and clerical positions, by the end of the Second World War they claimed the CIO, the Democratic party, and the federal government as important allies in their struggle for social change. The “Double V” campaign for victory at home and abroad, the March on Washington Movement, and the growing use of the federal government to secure their aims helped to write a new chapter in the history of African Americans and set the stage for the modern Civil Rights movement of the postwar years.

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