How did World War II affect African Americans economically?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As for many Americans, the Second World War boosted the economic prospects of many African Americans. In particular, war industries created a demand for labor, which many black workers, including black women, were able to fill. Thousands of African Americans moved north to industrial centers, but also to places like California, which saw tremendous population growth during the war due to the war industries that developed there.

Many black Southerners also moved from their farms to cities like Birmingham, Nashville, and Atlanta to take jobs created by the war. Their presence there was a big reason why lunch counters, city buses, and other municipal spaces and services became the early battlegrounds of the civil rights movement.

Black workers faced discrimination during the war, however, and it was only by a threatened march on Washington by labor leader A. Philip Randolph that the Roosevelt administration agreed to act to eliminate racial bias in hiring in the defense industries. The war opened opportunities for African Americans, and their eagerness to take advantage of them was a driving force behind the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

World War II generally had a positive economic impact on African-Americans. There are several reasons for this.

The first is that the economic activity associated with the war generally revived the United States economy through a massive infusion of government money to military projects. This meant a massive growth in job opportunities for all Americans.

Second, African Americans participated in large numbers in the military forces, often quite heroically. Not only was there an immediate impact from military salaries, but it served to reduce racism.

Third, the GI bill enabled many African American to attend university, something that they could not have done otherwise.