Skip to main content

tv   William Sturkey Hattiesburg  CSPAN  April 4, 2021 8:00am-9:01am EDT

8:00 am
that we can't expect companies to care about us. we can't expect the companies to suddenly make less money because they care about our health . they've already shown they don't care about our health but our government, the people that we pay and we should expect to care about our health and should send us our government to be raining in these companies. our government should be forcing them to develop things that will fit the public need and it is not. >> going with your phone calls, facebook comments, text and trees for harry washington today at noon eastern on in-depth on c-span2 and be sure to visit c-span to get your copies of harry washington's book . >> my name is jeremy collins, director of conferences and symposiums at the national
8:01 am
world war ii museum's institute for the study of war and democracy and we have a great program for you today . it is going to feature doctor williams 30 doctor jason dawson. this is continuing the rich and wonderful content the museums been providing prolonged black history month . it's a great story for this particular month but it's a great story for any month. and to lead us in this conversation it's my pleasure to hand it off to the institute's research historian doctor jason dawson . >> thank you very much. let me extend my welcome to everyone out there as well. to this webinar about african-americans and the home front and we're delighted to be joined by doctor william starkey so i wanted to say a little bit about doctor sturdy before we begin our conversation. he is a story and of the
8:02 am
modern american south and university of north carolina chapel hill where he teaches cultures on modern american history, southern history, the civil rights history and the history of america in the 1960s . his first book to write in the life of freedom, he co-editedcollection of newspapers , essays and poems produced by african-american school students during the mississippi freedom summer of 1974. his most recent book and i have a copy of it right here for those who are interested, most recent book is hattiesburg: an american city in black and white . biracial history of jim crow published by harvard university press in 2019 . with that introduction let me say welcome and thank you for joining us.
8:03 am
>> thank you so much for having me, it's a pleasure to be here. >> william and i and this is for our audience that should be aware that for william this webinar instead of reconnecting we were both teaching at the university of southern mississippi several years ago as we were heading was to finishing our phd's of our dissertations, getting close to completion at that point and we were on the same wing of the liberal arts building there and used to talk college football about teaching and about history. so this has been great william that we can resume those conversations from several years ago. for a topic like this it's a huge topic. there's so much to it. there's always the issue of what you include, what you realize you can't get to and where do you start . wheredo you wrap up . so it seems like one place to really begin or really interesting point to again
8:04 am
conversation is with african americans at pearl harbor. so what i want to start with is to ask about if you could tell our audience something in general about how black americans responded to some december 7, 1941 . were there reactions really any different from that of other groups in the us and then a final point is a political one in that african-americans begin to vote in large numbers for the democratic party and do you think that made any real difference in the way they responded to the japanese attack on pearl harbor? >> thank you. probably speaking, african-americans reacted to the attack onpearl harbor just like many other americans . this sense of shock and dismay that their country and
8:05 am
then attacked and you know, they were stunned and most people didn't know of course the inner workings of this burgeoning rivalry inthe pacific . that predated pearl harbor for decades and there was, america had been attacked by an enemy that they didn't believe we were at war with but which was technically true so black folks rushed to join the military in the wake of pearl harbor. they wanted to defend their country and one of the early heroes of pearl harbor was an african-american. that man named dori miller who was aboard the west virginia during the attack at pearl harbor and of course worked to stabilize many of his fellow soldiers. so african-americans were chomping at the bit often times to go ahead and join military service in order to help the united states in this fight after the attack. i think that it was pretty
8:06 am
universal for african-americans to be inspired to pick up this call to defend the country and not just for people who supported raichlen roosevelt and the democratic party but even for lack republicans to. in the 40s there were plenty of black republicans. there were plenty of black republicans up until 1964 elections so whether they were democrat or republican, african-americans jumped at the chance in many occasions to helpdefend their country in the wake of that attack . >> i'm glad you brought up the reference to dori miller at the museum, his story is so important and interesting. and what is interesting about 1941 prior to imperial japan's attack on pearl harbor that had been quite a year already in the african-american community
8:07 am
around issues about freedom and democracy which a person of course were going to be central to the war effort, the way the united states understood the war and the way it waged the war. how it talked about the importance of fighting and winning that war. and that this is a question here about the march on washington. and i think many americans heard those words march on washington and they automatically think about 1953 and about doctor martin luther king jr.'s famous i have a dream speech but there was an earlier plan for an earlier march on washington going back to 1941 and could you tell us about what was involved with this earlier march and what happened to it, what happened to the idea for the march? >> this is one of the more fascinating what if's in american history, what if
8:08 am
this march had actually happened? this arts was planned by this guy named a philip randolph. he was head of the union and an all-black union of armed forces and he had this union since the harlem renaissance in the 1920s so this union started off pretty small. it had been growing through the 1930s and going into the 1940s it was getting big and pretty influential. they met in harlem, that's where they were largely headquartered and they were pretty influential in terms of getting people who worked on trains into this union and fighting for increased african-american civil rights. because they were becoming so influential innew york especially , both in the city of new york, a lot of politicians stopped by their organization or at their convention to speak to pay homage because they wanted the black vote. though their union meeting in
8:09 am
1940 attracted thousands of people. among the thousands of people who came to that meeting our new york city mayor laguardia, new york state governor herbert damon, the united states secretary of labor and the first lady herself was at this union meeting. and she stays at the union meeting and speaks at the union meeting that night. she says color lines are being broken down and becoming a thing ofthe past . all the other speakers they were going to attack jim crow in the south and make sure african-americans have the right to vote. 12 days after that meeting presidents hosts the head of the naacp and randolph in the white house and a couple weeks after that it was the first black general. there's this growing sense that african-americans voting block, that the democratic party needs to do something to address their concerns especially coming out of new york. and about the same time philip randolph says i'm
8:10 am
going to flex my muscles a little bit . what we're going to do is demonstrate on washington. what they want to do is they want to desegregate the armed forces. and there also continuing this push to end jim crow in the south. so a plan this march 4, 1941 and they think by the late spring of 1941 it's going to be about 100,000 african-americans will show up to this march and of course the march 1963 was about 4 million, they think about hundred thousand people were going to come to this which would have been a large number of people to demonstrate on the mall in washington. especially at a moment where the united states has not yet entered the war but it's state made clear which side it's on. the president of the united states signed on to this atlantic charter with the british. he's also consistently calling the war a war for democracy.
8:11 am
saying the united states is on the right side of this conflict even though it's not formally any yet, it's still helping out written and russia . this would have been enormously embarrassing on the world stage if all these black people came and demonstrated over the violations to their civil rights in this countryas the united states was saying where the good guys , here across the globe so what happened basically was that a philip randolph was convinced by the roosevelt administration to call off the march. is exactly what they did. and in response to that there were some promises made that okay, after the war we're going to really take a harder line on civil rights which they did. franklin roosevelt didn't live to see that what franklin roosevelt did do was executive order 8802 which created the fair employment practices commission.
8:12 am
there's a lot of things we could say about that but the most important thing is this. that required if you got a defense contract during the war there were a lot of defense contracts going around and everybody wanted a defense contract. it said if you get one you can't segregate your factory. that was huge. so that was largely not enforced but it was huge in terms of desegregate all factories in the south although a couple were desegregated but it was the promise of the federal government coming in and saying aggregation in these southern states is wrong and we're not going to do business with companies that have segregation or with cities that have segregation so it's sort of this seed is planted and after the war a lot of people call for permanent fair employment practices but this seed is planted thatsays the federal government will step up to protect african-american civil rights in the south . i was glad you mentioned the name a philip randolph in their .
8:13 am
it's a figure that could get overlooked in the history of the later civil rights era because of the importance of figures like doctor king and others and at the lc where there's a younger leadership group there but a philip randolph was an enormous figure in the american liberal movement and then struggling against jim crow seeing his role right here in 1941 even before the us into war, that's speaking of the issue of labor and the war, it's he is already talked about african-americans signing up to fight in large numbers and obviously large numbers of black men and women will be entering the workforce. and as part of winning the war effort at home. obviously there had been a huge numbers already in the workforce who want to talk about the issue of african-americans labor and the war effort here with a couple of questions and so the first one is this, is
8:14 am
that we build this issue about black workers, what should we know about their experience of the war, what do you think is significant about that? and then a follow-up is what does a shift to war production mean for african-american women ? >> african-americans played in enormous roles in making all the goods that we use to make war. so a lot of factories still segregated in some factories despite it being a loosely enforced major industrial centers like detroit and oakland california, and los angeles and philadelphia, black folks go and apply for the jobs that are being produced by this need to make all of the bombs and attacks and planes. but once the united states starts producing warmaking materials in 1940 the economy
8:15 am
starts to boom coming out of the great depression. and african-americans get a lot of these jobs. there's about 17 million new jobs created during world war ii largely in the defense industry and wages start to go up. there's a lot more money to go around black people want to get a lot of these jobs. a lot of employment during world war ii so african-americans move places where these jobs are, this is one of the big shifts that happen and there's 1,000,000 and a half black folks that move out in the jim crow south to places like pennsylvania , california, illinois, new jersey. there's a huge great migration. that's one of the most obvious effects is this huge great migration of black people out of the state in the 1950s and in 1940 there were moreblack people in mississippi than white people . in 1950 that wasn't true. that's one of the big parts of the shift as it changes
8:16 am
the demographics of our country. all black peoplethat go to harlem and detroit and chicago, many of them are still there . that's whenmany of these families first arrived . so black folks getting better jobs. using those better wages to buy new homes where they could. to pay for rent in northern cities. not everything was peachy certainly but a lot ofafrican americans became middle-class at that time if you will because they were able to tap into these war industry jobs . for african-american women working outside in the south they were able to get jobs that were well-paying for the first time in their lives so if you are a black woman, if you live in alabama before world war ii the only job you could get wereworking as a domestic . as a maid or nanny or a cook but if you had a college to agree maybe you could be a
8:17 am
teacher so that's pretty much it but if you leave alabama and you go to oakland you could get a job as a welder. you could join a union. you could get a good hourly wage paying job that paid you 100 or 900 percent more than what you were making back in alabama, washington in their backyard. so it's enormously transformative for many african-americans. many african-americans and their family moved out of the south to take these jobs but even for the people that stayed in the south it was an enormously transformative because a lot of them worked in the defense industry, even if they didn't take a job in one of the factories in new orleans, a lot of them could take a job on an army base and if you are watching on an army base you're probably making more than if you're washing laundry in that small town of alabama so african-americans capping in and it leads to this great
8:18 am
migration and then of course it leads to an improved economic outlook, financial outlook for a lot of african-americans. >> you join our attention to how transformative the war was on the home front for african-americans. people after especially after the great depression, compounded by jim crow in the south and then now they're seeing real opportunities open up and they were part of the move but there are real cities for a better life or at least economically, even in the jim crow south which were going to get to interview questions here. >> let me add one more thing. i think people took for granted our current political do we get all of these, in the last presidential election there were all these black voters
8:19 am
in detroit and milwaukee but how did theyget there ? it's literally world war ii read as how people get to places like detroit and no walking so one of the things that happens right out of the war is we get back congressman coming out of earlham and chicago, coming out of detroit. that's all because of this great migration and we also get national presidential elections where people have to pay more attention to black voters across with when african-americans move, they move very selectively. they move almost exclusively to southern states . new york, new jersey, pennsylvania, michigan, ohio, california, illinois. you take those states you're doing pretty well. california, michigan, ohio so because of that even in 1948 1952, a lot of national politicians have to start looking more towards black voters who now live in places like ohio where they can vote and if they lived in
8:20 am
mississippi they couldn't so it's transforming our national elections in that way. >> and are still seeing as you point out the effectiveness about the enhancement of lack lyrical power in so many different states and world war ii was crucial to that. i think maybe at the end we would come back and say more about that. william, one of the things that comes up when we talk about african-americans in the home front, much of our audience is at least generally aware of this but it's definitely worth revisiting and detailing which is the double d campaign. can you tell us about how this campaign originated and how it became, i don't think it's an exaggeration to say it becamea national phenomenon . >> double v means victory at
8:21 am
home, victory abroad and it's coined by the pittsburgh courier and comes out of a response from world war i. when world war i happened newspapers said we're going to fight for the country and civil rights. and when world war ii happened, black people still couldn't vote in most of the south and they said okay, this timereally . the president is constantly talking about the war for democracy. this is a war against fascism . let's make sure we can participate in a democracy here if we're going to now have this global understanding that democracy beats fascism so it's constantly during the war saying go out, by your liberty bonds, work in the factories, serve your country but when this is over, you've got to bring that democracy home. we're constantly reminding people through this double d
8:22 am
campaign about the stakes of the war in asia and africa and europe but also providing people with the stakes back in the united states of america so that's the double v campaign coined by the pittsburgh courier used by black activists everywhere. >> it does really become this moment for not only for african-americans but when you look at other countries to aware of the black edom struggle and what that's going to mean, what kind of impact that's going to have as well which it hasn't kind of a transnational, international echo as well. that's important i think to give us some perspective on how this started and how it's going to be really transformative in the country. in terms of your own work you've already referred several times to the jim crow south and to the state of mississippi. i want to have a few questions here to connect to
8:23 am
your very important 2019 book on the city of hattiesburg and the city obviously both of us know well. when we were living and working at when we met. so a couple of things here about the city of hattiesburg and the state of mississippi. her scholarship has explored jim crow segregationthere in mississippi . how did the wartime expansion of the training center and can shelby, we're talking earlier to our audiences about 100 miles for us here in new orleans. out of the wartime expansion of the training center in camp shelby impact the deep southtown like hattiesburg ? >> there's a lot to say there and i think this is endlessly fascinating i think because this struggle about fighting this war for democracy and this issue of the jim crow south but not only that, other issue here is this total war. world war ii is the last time
8:24 am
the united states was engaged in what we might think of as being in a total war and that means just everything down, everything secondary, everything is aside and everybody's involved . little kids picking up bottles and fighting on the front lines everyone does whatever it takes. the one exception to that total war where we don't actually say okay, let's throw all this aside for now so we can fight the nazis is jim crow itself. so what happens in hattiesburg, hattiesburg at a world war i era military base and because the south had better weather the united states begins to mobilize before it even happens and it starts sending troops out to these training centers that revitalizes world war i installations like shelby and hattiesburg mississippi and starts sending a strip there but there's a problemand the problem itself is jim crow . so when they're getting african-americans and
8:25 am
training them to go fight overseas and i'm not 1 million black people served in overseas in world war ii, they can't just say we've got a base year, send them. they can't just say that because it's the jim crow south. if you're sending black troops to texas or alabama or mississippi or louisiana you've got thing okay, are they going to fit into that society because with all the things we're willing to compromise to fight this war , that is one thing and will not compromise you can't just say we got 25,000 black troops, let's send them here it's the negotiation to the local chamber of commerce, local army commanders, like community that already exists there and leaders who want to have these guys trained up. so that's one of the issues at the army constantly faced in places like hattiesburg and it's this thing where black soldiers could ride in a taxiwith white soldiers . so the taxi companies are saying if i've got the
8:26 am
capacity for four passengers, and i've got to black soldiers and two white soldiers and they both want to go to the same place, the city is like no, i'm sorry. we must have segregation so there's all these ways it's incredibly inconvenient to try to make war in a place like hattiesburg mississippi or in the south in general and then there's like, where do we put all these, where do they go and stay, how do we make sure the black troops go to the black community and the white troops only go to the white community and their several dust stopped and a couple of guys and of getting shot in downtown hattiesburg by this white,. basically they were soldiers they didn't think were acting appropriately. that's a tricky situation, all through the south and you can only imagine the nightmare and it's also this frustration where you can't just say we're in a total go do whatever we have to do. no, but the other thing is
8:27 am
the people of hattiesburg go nuts when shelby starts to mobilize. they're getting guys coming in with big government checks , getting soldiers coming in are getting paid and they also need a lot of construction group will they need a lot of workers. this is a region running out of the great depression and things were bleak across the south and when you start building mess halls and steel hospitals and that sort of thing that provides jobs. they get people when they start the construction program at camp shelby they get people from 17 different states they get a guy that hitchhiked from rhode island to take one of those jobs. it's a huge financial boon to the local economy in hattiesburg and everywhere that had a military base but also during the war , they need all sorts of things. voters need stop, they need things to do. the local farmers, what
8:28 am
happens with them. local construction crews, people that run the movie houses, it's a great financial opportunity for the city of hattiesburg and there's an issue with race i've been discussing but overall it's an incredible economic boost for the local economy in hattiesburg and elsewhere . >> it's such an important moment in that city's history i think living in their music to see you could get some remnants of that and stories about that but your research is really fill that out and it showed just in terms of the as you call it the biracial history of hattiesburg just what kind of impact the war house at this next question is an elaboration on that which is can you say more about some of the specific challenges the us army faced in hattiesburg and you noted or alluded to that already but just to develop that a bit because there were
8:29 am
interesting challenges the army encountered having such a huge operation in a place like camp shelby. >> so one of the challenges was this race issue. and one of the things that they did have going for them in hattiesburg was that hattiesburg at a vibrant black community so because of that they can work the leaders of that black community and local businessmen, teachers and clergy . and hattiesburg actually built a black uso on one of the first places in the us that built a new black uso to have a place for all the black soldiers to go. it's still to this day the only standing uso that was till eventually during world war ii. so there's this challenge of race and what do you do with all these folks that need to go to town obviously the biggest challenge the army had in hattiesburg was about price consulting so people are coming in, they got their girlfriends and their wives,
8:30 am
they want to spend time in town. they want to have a good time they're going off to war but they also want to go to church. there's a lot of people that just want to go to church on sunday, get off base with an army chaplain and go to a presbyterian church or whatever they were.but what they're doing, they're getting gouged. >> ..
8:31 am
>> incredible. we probably have more questions regarding the deep south and african-americans and the war when we get to the q&a but this next question takes us out of the south to a really crucial moment of the war, and that's detroit in 1943. there's obviously this stereotype still endures about wartime unity. and what we saw, what we see in a place like detroit in 1943 with the race riots is the limits of that unity. it's an important moment and often overlooked. can you talk about the detroit race riot of making 43 and what exactly happened there, and how we should think about this in relation to the larger war
8:32 am
effort and the homefront for african-americans? >> yeah, man. so there are two stories from world war ii that when you tell you people today, it just blows their mind. this and the soldiers vote bill which had also be talk about. but detroit 1943 had a race riot. you're right exactly. we got a total war, america's unity pulling together fighting the nazis. in the middle of all this there is a race riot. so detroit is a booming industrial center at this moment in time. between 1940 when the u.s. really start gearing up for the war in 1943, about 550,000 people moved to detroit. that's probably more people than live in detroit today. an enormous amount of people moved to detroit. about 500,000 of those people are white and about 50,000 of those people are black. many of them came from the
8:33 am
south. african-americans are there getting some of the jobs we talked about, and there's a public housing program to house all these people. you've got to do something if you're the government to make homes for all of these people pouring into the city. when black people were accepted into a public housing project that also at white people in there, this riot broke out. thousands of local whites begin attacking black people across the city in this movement to resist integrated public housing. there's some great pictures of this that you can find. said 1943 in the middle of this war, detroit has what we call a race riot. 34 people were killed during these grassroots act of violence throughout the city. several hundred others were wounded. during this major military emergency of world war ii, the united states had to call in 6000 troops.
8:34 am
not to go to burma, not to go to japan, to go to detroit to put down this race riot in the middle of this war for democracy, which is pretty mind blowing if you really think about it. >> it really is. it's one of the reasons why it is so important to not lose it when one is talking about the history of the war and the sort of spirit of democracy, the anti-fascist struggle that this happens, and it's not just any city. it's the motor city. it's detroit, the center of the american economy has been for decades where that breaks up. that's very helpful for us when we are thinking about these issues about unity and about the war effort and about the role of democracy and expectations of democracy and equality and how that plays out during the war itself.
8:35 am
this next question is, something that is been of great interest to you, it's really two bills that have a huge impact on african americans not only african-americans but certainly on them, and you think we should take them in this order, which is one that a think is also overlooked, which is the soldiers folk bill. and then have the g.i. bill, how that affects african-americans. so these two bills, they really do have a huge effect, a huge impact. >> yeah. so the soldiers boatbuilding 1944, this is the one presidential election that is squarely in the middle of world war ii. so world war ii affects many election but this is the one that's right in the middle of the conflict. of course i war for democracy.
8:36 am
so because it's a war for democracy because there are men stationed all across the globe fight in this war for democracy, a lot of politicians want to make sure the very soldiers fighting the war can vote themselves. this makes perfect sense. the guys fighting for democracy should be allowed to participate in the democracy, great. okay. so the past this soldiers vote bill or introduced this soldiers vote bill but there is a hiccups to the soldiers vote bill. you might think that all politicians would say yes, and then fighting for democracy of course they could participate in the democracy, but not everybody thinks so. what happens is that there's a deal brokered in congress which basically allowed the decision to fall back on the states. it's not going to be the federal government mandating that all states have to accept all these soldiers absentee ballots him come in from all across the globe. it falls back on states to run their own elections which is essential states do anyway.
8:37 am
some of the states decide to allow absentee ballots to come in from soldiers, okay? north carolina is one of the states. but a few states decline this opportunity. alabama, mississippi, louisiana all say no, we're not going to let absentee ballots coming from soldiers stationed overseas. a lot of your audience can probably understand why. when you get an absentee ballot you can't tell that the person who sent it all the time with black or white. and so because they didn't want to have african-american soldiers to vote because they could not actually see them, to judge of the race, they decided to reject absentee ballots and not allow american soldiers to vote during this war for democracy. this is one of the sag is with the soldiers vote bill.
8:38 am
it's just may be the most stunning contradiction of the entire book itself. the guys actually doing the fighting on the ground are not allowed to vote because of jim crow era voting restrictions. the g.i. bill, there's a lot we could say about this, okay. let me give you the basic goodness and badness. we will do bad news first. so the g.i. bill itself is not necessarily segregated but again so the federal government largely in response to what happened with the bonus army in the 1930s says we've got to do something more for these guys to help them. it's right in line with new deal era economic thinking, let's empower people to participate in the economy here so we will get soldiers opportunities to get some tuition money if you want to go to college, to get money if they want to go apprenticed as a plumber or something like that and also to buy a home. we will do low interest mortgage is to buy a home. sounds great in principle. the law can apply to people who
8:39 am
served, black or white. the problem though is that segregation prevented all people from accessing all benefits equally. for example, if you are an african-american from new york city, you go fight in the war and to try to get the g.i. deal. you might be successful in doing that. you might get your loan but guess what, there are entire neighborhoods in long island who don't allow black neighborhoods to live there. so in that regard you can use g.i. bill and family. you might be able to buy another home in the neighborhood that might not have the same sort of increase in equity over generations. so that's one way. if you are from the southcom if your medgar evers, for example, medgar evers dropped out of high school in response to pearl harbor, with an fought for his country. he couldn't go to university of mississippi. he kept the g.i. bill. he couldn't go to ole miss. he had to go to the black college and he got a great at that black college but that's one way the g.i. bill was itself
8:40 am
discriminatory because black people could not access all of the possible benefits of using the g.i. bill itself. so sorry, i couldn't call -- the g.i. bill itself was not discriminatory but when people got it could access resources was. the good news on the other hand, is that it does help a lot of people jump up in the middle class. medgar evers is a great example of that. he got to go to college because of that. he went to college. he got a job. he became middle-class. african-american at the time. one of the things we see in the wake of world war ii is the african-american economic situation improving greatly because of the work and stuff we've been talking about but also the g.i. bill. people can start businesses, get loans to get it. a lot of people can go to college. there were many benefits even though there were not the same benefits white people might be
8:41 am
able to access, and a lot of people who end up with this g.i. bill, medgar evers again, and that become involved in the civil rights movement because they were able to use it to start a business or go to college. it were not as reliant on a white employer as they might did in the past. >> thank you. that's really fascinating about how these bills, on the one hand, like the soldiers vote bill really exemplifies how tenacious segregationists are about trying to come realizing really that the war is going to empower african-americans, it's going to open doors for them and fearful of that and then trying to keep that at bay, even as this war is being fought in the name of protecting democracy, crushing fascism. and then the case of even the g.i. bill has this sort of two-sided aspect, but it does offer real opportunities for
8:42 am
african-americans. looking at her time here, we are getting into the q&a part of our presentation. there's so much more to say here and questions are already coming in, and one that's already come in is following up on your comments about medgar evers, which is, could you say something more about the role that african-american world war ii veterans like medgar evers place in the early come in this case early as in the immediate postwar years of what will come to understand as the civil rights movement or modern civil rights movement? >> there's a a bunch of diffet ways to think of this one of the more famous is the swedish sociologist who publishes this book, an american dilemma, noting the very obvious differences between our message of fighting for democracy and
8:43 am
the realities of black life in the jim crow south. there's a lot of people that observed this contradiction. that's a little overblown. black people certainly knew that there was already a contradiction way before world war ii. they didn't need a fight against the nazis to show them that. but a lot of people were essentially set up. there were people who, if you go through the process of going to boot camp, at getting on a ship and going and risking your life and fighting overseas, and you come back and they tell you you can't vote, a lot of people just simply have had it. medgar evers, many people involved in the civil rights movement come back. what the almost exclusively focused on, i know the civil rights movement is a lot of marches and sit ins and things like that, these people want to vote. that's what they are most worried about. they are not what about going to the water fountain or whatever. they want to vote, participate
8:44 am
in the democracy. that's one of the things the blacks will be focused on. a lot of them again it's just they had just had enough. just not going to live like that anymore after what they had been through. >> that's so important. in fact, one of our other audience members wanted to follow up on that very point, william, about how african-american veterans come back just resolved to not not take this anymore, that after everything that has been fought for, to come back and could not and can't be denied just basic civil rights that other americans enjoyed. this is from j. is question is, did you see a similar resolve among black workers? those would been on the home front, had been part of the common contributing to the arsenal of democracy, that when the war ends, we've talked about
8:45 am
a figure like a. philip randolph, use the in terms of black workers a similar kind of determined resolute attitude? >> yeah absolutely. the thing that is all bit tricky though is that it largely, it is best seen in the north if that's what he really want to say. i i wish i could say that you sw this groundswell of people all across the south would been working in the factories but because so many people are moved to the north, that's where you really get that groundswell. people start to join the naacp for one in places like new york and new jersey and california. naacp membership begins to skyrocket. in 1940 they had about 50,000 members. by 1946 the ncaa cp has about 500,000 members. it's one of the ways black workers begin to get involved. many of them begin to join civil
8:46 am
rights organizations like the naacp. they also begin to vote. they are very active politically. they are putting pressure on different people in places like detroit and nework and california where like people can vote, they are putting pressure on cd leaders to desegregate come to do something about the south. it happens in the south comes a little slower but you start to see some real result coming out of the north. one, treatment desegregate the military in 1948. that's one of the things that happens as a result of the pressure instigated by a. philip randolph but black voters, black workers were paying attention but also to different levels of desegregation in american life begin to occur in the the 1. jackie robinson 1947, there is no coincidence that happened right after world war ii as the
8:47 am
black community in new york grows and increases not just in its awareness but it's resolved to fight for civil rights, pressuring local leaders to say let's desegregate the brooklyn dodgers. that's where you start to this initial groundswell is outside of the south, even though it will eventually trickle into the south. in 1948 the first presidential election after world war ii, both the democratic and republican parties have civil rights as part of their life form that year, okay? we often think of sort of white southerners leaving the democratic party, but white southerners needed a place to go if there were segregationists. in 1940 they couldn't go to the democratic party or the republican party because both parties were nodding the black parties so they left the democratic party. that's a result of these black workers would move out of the south and will become more influential in politics by 1940.
8:48 am
>> that's right. actually leads to your comment about the two-party system. this next question is really about the democratic party in particular about, do you think that one of the reasons why segregation was not challenged anymore than it was during the war itself was the influence of seven democrats still had within the party and on fdr himself? would you attribute to that? do you see other factors playing a role in the unwillingness to more directly contest jim crow? >> yes. the southern democrat influence on fdr, it shapes american life in so many different ways. but you know largely through his new deal program, segregating things like social security, public housing, things like
8:49 am
that. that is a major effect. i think largely before the war. during the work i think that a lot of people are busy occupied with the war and there are limitations because of that. there is sort of a more silent fight going on for example, about who gets to live in public housing in places like detroit or laces like hattiesburg, mississippi, even. even though there is some advancement that our people who come back and have exact opposite view as african-americans. the man that killed medgar evers was also a world war ii veteran. many people thought okay, this is a war to protect our way of life. for them that way of life is directly related to racial segregation and white supremacy. these fights continue and so what happens in the late 1940s is that treatment is being pushed on one hand from the black voters to have a permit fair employment practices commission seat at the federal government does business with any of these places they need to
8:50 am
desegregate. the white south loses their mind over this. it's one of the things that's underappreciated and modern u.s. history, but that was always there during world war ii that after world war ii when african americans were like let's make this permanent, no segregation and defense industry, that never actually happened is because the enormous backlash in the dixiecrat were part of that backlash as well. it wasn't this gradual march towards progress. through many people who wanted to fight the oncoming racial desegregation that people are starting to really talk about. especially in the north in the late 1940s. >> thank you. that leads to the next question then, which is that obviously are african-americans thursday focus with a campaign on wanting victory at home and victory abroad. at this point how international
8:51 am
is african-american since about racism being an issue, not only for them but for people in africa, for people in asia, that white supremacy as a category, people raise like windows that really become such an important category for people opposing racism? and did people in the black freedom struggle? when did they start seeing themselves as part of this international problem, that racism has to be defeated really across the world? i think you have pointed a little bit of that to how many black veterans are in the pacific, they are in europe. they are seeing very different places encountering very different social and cultural institutions and situations. this is really a question about a sense of internationalism
8:52 am
coming into the civil rights movement. >> yes. so i think especially on the far left, if you will, black activists especially in the 1930s had always viewed this as their international struggle. there are some elements of african-american might that go back to booker t. washington, frederick douglass. they viewed this as an international struggle. but what most black people, where this begins to enter the consciousness especially in the 1950s, and the conversation is going both ways. the atlantic charter is key. before the united states gets into world war ii, signed onto this atlantic charter about what the world is going to look like after the united states and its allies have won this. one of those visions was for sovereignty. sovereign nations, the end of colonialism basically.
8:53 am
a system that existed for 70 years across the globe, and all these countries, many of whom you have a lot of nonwhite people in them like india, the whole continent of africa, vietnam. these folks are like great, this atlantic charter, wonderful, let's get it going. 1945, 1947 to like 1953 is this enormous weight of creations of new countries overthrowing the government started with india, moving on to french indochina, thailand, laos, vietnam, the whole continent of africa. assets happen like americans are paying attention. especially -- martin luther king, jr. when he becomes famous in the mid-\50{l1}s{l0}\'50{l1}s{l0} goes to ghana here many black leaders also spent time in india, connecting this sort of international issue and the black press especially in the 1950s, the black press was all of what's happening in africa.
8:54 am
saying the soak in africa who work overthrown the yoke of colonization, they get democracy. those are our brothers. those are our allies. if they can do it there, we want to do here, too. this is all happening in the united states. black americans are very much time into the conversation say okay, let's do it here next. we feel connected to what's happening in west africa. let's do it here. >> by bringing that in, william, you are reminding us about two events that ties the african-americans had an africanism going back at least to the 1920s, that they were playing a role in those conversations well before world war ii. that may be a place to conclude. i mean, the issue of links between world war ii and the
8:55 am
civil rights era, i think people are wanting to see, so what do we do with these or how do we think about these links as you point out it was civil rights, the struggle for freedom and equality was hardly new in 1941. that had been ongoing for decades, but is it something you might say by way of summary for us to think about, what exactly do we do with these links? the civil rights movement, there were other issues that would've helped things come about without world war ii but the war as you pointed out does have a real effect on how it came about, about opening up opportunities, et cetera, for african-americans. >> not everybody would say this. many people focus on this contradiction we've been talking about between the realities of jim crow and the progress of
8:56 am
democracy that the u.s. is engaged in this fight for democracy across the globe. but for me, and this is something that many people would say, it's about the economy. many people can make the observation that black folks are like wait a a minute we shoult democracy, too. i argue that black people already knew that. they knew it was a contradiction. it's about economic conditions, it's about moving to california, new jersey, said it. it's about getting better jobs. the american economy as as ae becomes a lot better during world war ii and after world war ii, and although black people cannot tap into the equally they do tap into that absolutely. a lot of people use the g.i. bill. people get better jobs. they moved to cities. they are more political influence. and because of that we get the 1950s which we all know, the 1950s happened. we had that hindsight. but the 1950s 50s as they were happening was a most rapid era of desegregation in history of american life.
8:57 am
until the 1960s the 1. but the 1950s were a lot more progressive racially than anything had come before that. that's a direct outgrowth of world war ii. there's many ways you can look at it. another is the warchest that the naacp gets with its membership skyrockets by a factor of ten, you get money, guess what you can do with that money. you can go fight court cases like brown v. board of education, 1954. to me at the end of the day it's about the economy. even though we get this message and idea about double v, that's all important but the resources that going to african-americans communities, their churches, their colleges, like the number of african-americans attending college doubles in the 1950s largely because of the economy. that is the most crucial factor for what then let up of course
8:58 am
to the civil rights movement. >> william, you're given us a lot to consider, and so i want to thank you very much for a terrific exchange about african-americans, the home front. obviously this deserves so many more webinars and public programs, but this is really pushed the discussion forward here. it is much appreciated. i would like to thank our online audience for joining us today and to make you aware of the fact that the museum will be hosting its international conference on friday and saturday march 5 and 6. it is entirely virtual and entirely free which is a good thing. you can find out more information about the conference at our website. we hope you will join us for that. with that we think everybody again, and we hope you will join
8:59 am
us for future events here at the national world war ii museum. >> booktv on c-span2, every weekend with the latest nonfiction books and authors. funding come from these television companies who support c-span2 as a public service. >> tv on c-span2 has top nonfiction books and authors of you weekend. today at noon eastern on "in depth" a two-hour conversation with science writer and author harriet washington whose books include carte blanche, medical apartheid and deadly monopolies. join in a conversation with your phone calls facebook comments text and tweets.
9:00 am
>> watch booktv this weekend on c-span2. ♪ >> hello. this is a commonwealth club of california. i and elizabeth carney, chair of the business and leadership forum. today's talk is entitled michael j. fox, an optimist considers mortality. thank you to the foundation for supporting the good literature program. and now it is my pleasure to introduce michael j. fox. we are delighted to have you here, michael. thanks to come to the commonwealth club business and leadership forum. michael has written a new memoir, and that is that his


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on