What social conditions did blacks experience in America?
Did these experiences vary by location (rural vs. urban, for example)?
Did these experiences vary by region of the country?
During the war:
What social experiences did black soldiers have during the war?
How did the social experiences black soldiers had in Europe & Japan differ from their experiences in America?
After the war:
How did military service change the immediate opportunities available to black veterans?
Did these opportunities differ from those available to whites?
How could changed expectations affect interaction between races?
Pick at least one question from each section to answer.
Use the information your team develops to answer the essential question.
Present your responses in one of the following formats...
Select a format:
Present an on-the-scene radio or TV news report.
Create a triptych using text and illustrations to present your information.
Create a song, poem, rap or dance that shows what you’ve learned.
The African American National Biography
A. Phillip Randolph (1889 - 1979)
Randolph joined the Socialist Party in 1916 and organized black labor force.
Threatened to march on Washington in 1941 to protest discrimination in defense industries, prompting President Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8806, banning defense industry discrimination.
The threat also led to the creation of the Fair Employment Practice Commission.
He worked with Bayard Rustin to convince President Truman to issue an order desegregating the military.
Wiley A. Branton (1923 - 1988)
Branton was drafted into the US Army in 1943.
He became disgusted at segregation and hard working conditions black soldiers encountered.
Branston and another soldier wrote to President Roosevelt condemning the treatment of black soldiers.
He went to college on the G.I. Bill, then got a law degree.
Branton gained national prominence in the 1957, Central High School integration crisis in Little Rock, Arkansas
Vernon J. Baker (1919 - ?)
Following HS, Baker worked at an army depot in Cheyenne, WY doing maintenance, repairs and cleaning jobs.
He was rejected in his first attempt to join the Army.
He finally enlisted in June, 1942, and shipped to Fort Walters in Texas.
His commanding officer noticed his ability and assigned him to officer school.
In 1943, Baker was assigned as platoon leader of a combat team and sent to Italy.
He received the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Cross for his actions and injuries.
After the war, Baker’s commission as an officer was removed because he lacked a college degree; he remained in the Army anyway and joined an all-black division.
President Truman had ordered the desegregation of the military in 1948, and Baker was re-commissioned to go to Korea where he was one of the first officers to command an integrated company.
At the end of the Korean war his officer rank was taken away for the second time. He retired from the military in 1968.
Baker was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Clinton in 1977, for his actions in Italy during WWII.
He was one of only seven blacks to receive this honor for their WWII service, and the only one living at the time the medal was awarded.
African American Women in World War II
African American women also faced discrimination and segregation in the military. Of the 350,000 women who served in World War II, only 4,000 were African American.
Segregated and limited in their assignments in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), they were excluded totally from the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) in the Navy until late in 1944.
Outside pressure as well as that from civil rights groups, the WAVES started enlisting black nurses in 1944. WAACs eliminated racially based assignments for nurses in January 1945.
Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Harriet Ida Pickens (left) and Ensign Frances Wills Photographed after graduation from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School (WR) at Northampton, Massachusetts, in December 1944. They were members of the school's final class, and were the Navy's first African-American "WAVES" officers.
Black U.S. Army nurses waiting to disembark in Greenock, Scotland, 15 August 1944.
Charity Adams Earley – 1917 - 2002
She was the commander of the only black unit of the Woman’s Army Corps in Europe during WWII.
In July 1942, Earley was the first of an eventual 4,000 African American women to join what became the Women’s Army Corp (WAC).
She was one of 39 black women enrolled in the 1st officer candidate class at Fort Des Moines in Iowa. She later attained the rank of major.
Earley battled occupational segregation within the army. She worked at the pentagon with Major Harriet West, another African American, to increase the number of blacks in motor transport and other support jobs. They received some support, but the problem remained.
In 1989, Earley published One Woman’s Army , a memoir of her wartime service.
Dorie Miller (1919 - 1943) Navy hero of WWII
Due to family hardships had to drop out of Moore High School (segregated)
In 1939 he enlisted in the segregated US Navy as a mess attendant, his duties restricted to non-combat, non-military training. Instead, he received an eight-week basic training course for mess attendants.
After a brief stint on an ammunition ship, he was assigned to the battleship West Virginia berthed at Pearl Harbor.
December 7 th , 1941 began as a ‘normal’ day on duty.
While engaged in his normal duties, a call to battle stations was issued.
When he arrived at his station in the antiaircraft battery magazine amidships, it was aflame.
The Japanese had torpedoed the West Virginia and hit this section of the ship.
Dorie and his supervisory officer fled to the bridge of the ship.
In the midst of enemy fire, Dorie bravely carried the ship’s mortally wounded captain to a safer place.
Dorie, an untrained enlisted mess worker, was ordered by the officer to man one of the 50 millimeter bridge guns.
He successfully fired at the Japanese until ordered to abandon the burning bridge, held his position and continued firing for about 15 minutes.
It is believed that he managed to hit one of Japanese airplanes.
This heroic feat was noted by naval dispatches, but was unheralded by the powers that be.
This feat was mentioned in navy dispatches, but was not otherwise recognized.
On March 14 th , 1942 the Pittsburgh Courier, a black newspaper, broke the story.
Secretary of Navy Frank Knox gave Dorie a letter of commendation.
This caused an outcry and a demand for public recognition.
Dorie’s deeds were recognized by the National Negro Council and they urged Congress to call upon the President to intervene.
The Secretary of Navy, Frank Knox, did not believe there was any need or cause for further commendation (he was not a supporter of the Negro).
President Roosevelt, in response to widespread charges of racism in the navy, decided to recognize Dorie’s bravery.
President Roosevelt ordered Dorie Miller be awarded the navy’s 2 nd highest award.
In May, 1942, Dorie Miller was awarded the Navy Cross. Dorie achieved the rank of petty officer (cook, 3 rd class).
On November 24 th , 1943, Dorie Miller died when his ship, the Liscome Bay, sank during the battle for Makin.
The navy has attempted to rectify its racial inequalities.
June 1973 a Knox-class destroyer escort, the USS Miller and the Service School Command barracks at Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois were named in his honor.
Military Service and the fight for civil rights Many of the black men and women who served overseas noticed that they were treated better by the citizens of the countries in which they were stationed than they had been at home. This realization motivated them to increase their activity in the fight for equal rights for African Americans.
Mr. Rayfield Johnson Jr.
Riverside University High School, Milwaukee WI
Middle School 127, Bronx NY
Edison High School, Minneapolis MN
Park Vista Community High School, Lake Worth FL
J.A. Fair Systems Magnet High School, Little Rock AR