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Old April 12th, 2009, 04:00 PM   #1
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In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


"In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence both the origin and the trajectory of the civil rights movement?


This is a prompt for my paper and im so lost. I can seem to think of anything to write on. Any ideas? i have been brainstorming all day and i can't think of one thing.
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Old April 12th, 2009, 04:58 PM   #2

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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


Well, young black men served in WWII, so maybe one aspect of the Civil Rights movment was that if black men were allowed to die for their country, then they were certinally allowed to vote just like the white folks. You could say it all started when Truman desegregated the military around the time of the Korean War.

It became an influence for the Civil Rights Movement because it gave people like MLK an idea that if we could desegregate our military, then we could desegregate all aspect of society (schools, resturants ect).
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Old April 12th, 2009, 05:05 PM   #3

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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


Quote:
Originally Posted by trdueweke View Post
"In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence both the origin and the trajectory of the civil rights movement?


This is a prompt for my paper and im so lost. I can seem to think of anything to write on. Any ideas? i have been brainstorming all day and i can't think of one thing.
Welcome to Historum. I have moved your thread to the Homework Help section of our site. If you would, please familiarize yourself with our homework policies.

http://www.historum.com/showthread.php?t=5275

As for your question, I really wouldn't know where to begin. I think Historyfreak has a good start, but I think we need more information from you. What do you know of the Cold War or WWII that would make connections to the Civil Rights movement?
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Old April 12th, 2009, 07:20 PM   #4

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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


The Tuskegee airmen did a lot to advance the civil rights movement. To see an African-American fighter outfit fly and fight against the Luftwaffe and score a really good record opened a lot of eyes. We can thank Eleonor Roosevelt for that one.

And then Truman signed the National Defence Act of 1947, which started integrating the armed forces just in time for Korea. The army performed well in Korea, and thus another advance. So we might include that the military was a fertile field for the civil rights movement in those days.

One thing is for sure, if Hitler and co had won the war, the civil rights movement would have faced a much more serious challenge!
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Old April 13th, 2009, 08:00 AM   #5

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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


WW2 threw together lots of people from various backgrounds who might not have met if not for the war. Working class and middle class, black and white, different religions and ethnic groups. In the UK, it is popularly believed that for the first time, wealthy middle class country dwellers actually got to see the state of poor town children who were evacuated out of the town because of threat of bombing. By 1945, a Welfare State and National Health Service (free healthcare) was happening. Some believe that ignorance was the cause of neglect before this, and the war opened the eyes of the wealthy to the plight of the poor. (Personally, I do not believe this, but it is a common view).

Women, also, had been forced to do former men's work: munitions, farming, factory work etc. It is a common mistake to read modern feminist notions and motives into this, but feel free! What DID become apparent was that these women were paid less than the semi- skilled men they often replaced, worked hours generally as long, and had little time for being housewives, mothers etc. Plainly, they wanted either to not have to work, or to work less hours, or at least the be paid the same as men who did the same job. Feminist motives, such as wanting to compete with men, wanting independence, or striking a blow against male oppression- or even wanting a "career" are as ridiculous as they are analogous. Working on a production line wasn't a "career" for the men who did it, no more than working on the checkout at the local superstore.

In the US, the same happened for women, whilst servicemen mixed with others who were not so fortunate: Mexicans, for example, were (are?) still treated badly by Americans, yet there were plenty in the US army.

Plus, at the end of the war, there was perhaps a genuine move to improve the world, to make a "good" peace, to throw away 19th century notions such as racism, empire building and extremes of capitalism- notions that had created both WW1 and WW2.

The Cold War, I would aver, actually undidmuch of this, being rooted in paranoia, suspicion, downright fear for an apocalypse, and increasing government interference, e.g Joe McCarthy, John Birch, Commie witch hunts, Vietnam (which had fear of Communism at its root), and the widespread anti-government feelings this engendered. After WW2, we wanted a better, safer, fairer world: the Cold War made the world infinitely more dangerous, peace more fragile, and hence any movements that run counter to Government's established thoughts are treated with deep suspicion. It was easy to be called a Commie in them days!
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Old April 13th, 2009, 09:22 AM   #6

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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


I agree with all the posts, each has been well put. Good stuff.
I would add (from my contemporary witness) that one effect of women moving into war production was to create vacancies in work traditionally held by women. Especially store clerks. These jobs were filled by teenagers which gave them disposable income. I remember how, by the fifties, it flipped the music market from adult to teens. And then came the fashions and the sick sixties. I don't think it too far out of line to lay much of the blame on the new youth culture at Hitler's feet.
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Old April 13th, 2009, 11:06 AM   #7

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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


The world, after WWII, was ready for everything & everyone to return to their status qua. There had been many 'firsts' for African-Americans since Jupiter Hammon's poetry was published in 1760. Race relations <Mexican, Indian, Asian etc> were no better after WWII. But, the world was a different place after 1945 & there was a ground swelling seed planted that came to fruition in the 60s. As with any new sudden upheaval that cannot be stopped, there had to be violent birthing pains that gave life to a betterment for all.
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Old April 13th, 2009, 11:29 AM   #8

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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


Agreed: it didn't happen overnight. But before WW2, there was an acceptance that racism was "normal", that empires were necessary and good, and that inequalities brought about by accident of birth (one's colour, sex or race or social class) were a fact of life and nothing should be done about it. America was already ahead with egalitarian principles, if not egalitarian practice, and no doubt American involvement in the war and America's central role in deciding what kind of world should there be, post victory, had a considerable effect on Europe and the rest of the world. I don't doubt that many- including Churchill- did want to return to how the world was before WW2, and to this day, there are plenty in Britain who decry and forget that we don't have an empire anymore.
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Old April 13th, 2009, 02:13 PM   #9

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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Black Dog View Post
WW2 threw together lots of people from various backgrounds who might not have met if not for the war. ... By 1945, a Welfare State and National Health Service (free healthcare) was happening. Some believe that ignorance was the cause of neglect before this, and the war opened the eyes of the wealthy to the plight of the poor. (Personally, I do not believe this, but it is a common view).

...

The Cold War, I would aver, actually undidmuch of this, being rooted in paranoia, suspicion, downright fear for an apocalypse, and increasing government interference, e.g Joe McCarthy, John Birch, Commie witch hunts, Vietnam (which had fear of Communism at its root), and the widespread anti-government feelings this engendered. After WW2, we wanted a better, safer, fairer world: the Cold War made the world infinitely more dangerous, peace more fragile, and hence any movements that run counter to Government's established thoughts are treated with deep suspicion. It was easy to be called a Commie in them days!
i would beg to differ, black dog. the british health service was an invention (at least on the notional level) of the british medical association who forwarded the scheme (for the benefit of those that worked for a living) as a means of avoiding governmental interference. the plan pre-dates the baldwin and chamberlain governments and was then taken up by harold macmillan (ever the radical Tory). the attlee government then pushed the idea as if it was some kind of recompense for the british public's efforts during the war even though they were, in truth, largely committed to the scheme by the previous Tory government (the Beveridge Report coming in 1942).

as for the cold war, personally, i tend to view the rise of a consumerist society through the lense of cold war competitiveness. by highlighting the availability of commercial goods the US attempted to put pressure in the soviets to deliver. in response, the Khrushchev government highlighted economic growth and the availability of commercial goods. this mantra was taken up by the Brezhnev regime in the form of high (guaranteed) wages. economically based propaganda that runs along the lines of 'our society is better than their's ...'. and so it is consumerism that i think provided the main shift towards civil rights.

the consumerist society highlighted the disparity of rich whites against poor blacks (not to deny the existence of poor whites and rich blacks). malcolm x draws that comparison almost physchotically. 'why was it that black communities couldn't afford to have washing machines and television sets?' i think that this then reinforced all other civil crimes against blacks (can't use this restraunt or that water font ... can't sit in this seat, can't go in through that door ... ... can't afford the same living as those folks.'
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Old April 14th, 2009, 06:42 AM   #10
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Re: In what ways did WWII and the Cold War influence the Civil Rights Movement?


Black GIís in WWII were still segregated and held in low esteem by their white colleges, the U.S. forces were as susceptible to the race divides that were prevalent in American society. When stationed in Briton and later on the continent, the Black GI was presented to a European society that was not segregated, where black and white travelled on the same buses, eat in the same restaurants and drank in the same bars. This is not to deny that there was racism in Briton and Europe, but it was not of the same nature or as virulent as in America. When the black servicemen returned home they had experienced social acceptance within a white European culture, they would have been more questioning and intolerant of the blatant racism within American society, leading to the rise of the Civil Rights Movement.

The following extract from an interview with a former Jamaican service man is taken from the book Windrush: the irresistible rise of multi-racial Britain by Mike Phillips and Trevor Phillips.
Now, the Americans did not believe in their black troops enjoying the same things that they had in exactly the same way. They have ate the same food, but not in the same mess. You know, they'd see the same movies but I remember going to one of their cinemas once and I said, "Well this is very strange, I don't see any black people here." So they said, "Look behind you", and there they were up in a kind of crow's nest, all of them, all the black troops. And yet here were I, sitting in the front with American officers. Huh? Hard to explain. They have funny ideas. They would treat me as a human being, but their own, they'd probably kick him out if he came into where they were. Hard to understand how people behave like that, but naturally it is something with which you grow up and I suppose it's hard to get rid of....
William Natley from Jamaica who joined the RAF in 1943 and stayed on after the war to work in the Civil Service.

Somerset was taken over by the American government for use as a military prison. Eighteen American servicemen were executed there of whom 11 were black. Six of those executed had been found guilty of rape, a crime which did not carry the death sentence under British law. One black GI who escaped execution was Private Leroy Henry. He was accused of raping a woman from Bath but his life was saved when over 30,000 local people wrote to President Eisenhower to protest his innocence
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