How did World War II help bring about the Civil Rights Movement?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There are at least three ways in which World War II helped to lead to the Civil Rights Movement.

First, the rhetoric of America’s involvement in WWII helped to make it seem more important to give equal rights to African Americans.  During WWII, the US played up the fact that it was an inclusive democracy that was fighting against a racist, fascist, dictatorship in Nazi Germany.  US propaganda emphasized the multi-ethnic nature of the United States and its inclusive democracy.  By emphasizing this aspect of our country, the government was implying that it was important to allow all people to have equal rights.  After the war, African Americans did not simply forget this idea.

Second, World War II involved large numbers of African Americans fighting for their country.  They were often treated very poorly while in uniform, but they still served.  These people, as well as many of their fellow African Americans, came to feel that they had paid their dues for the country and deserved to be treated well.

Finally, WWII brought about changes in the geography of the US.  Blacks had been moving north ever since WWI, but the pace picked up during WWII.  This meant that, after the war, there were many more African Americans in parts of the country where they were allowed to vote.  Their votes became important to some politicians and those politicians came to be more sympathetic to their needs.  This helped to push the Civil Rights Movement forward.

In these ways, WWII sent messages to African Americans that they should be free and it encouraged them to move to places where they had more political influence.  These things helped the Civil Rights Movement to emerge.

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