What were the impact of World War II on African-Americans, Native Americans (Indians), Mexican Americans, and women within the United States?   

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brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

African Americans -- During World War II, tens of thousands of African-Americans served in a still segregated US military, serving in transport and armored units in Europe, and performing well in battle, with the famous Tuskegee Airmen squadron as an example.  Unfortunately, this participation did not gain them much on the road to civil rights.  African-Americans on the Home Front filled industrial jobs vacated by whites who had been drafted, and played an important part in production for the war.  We also see the emergence of a recognizable, though small, black middle class in America after the war.

Native Americans - Native peoples enlisted and were drafted in greater proportion than other populations, and served honorably in all branches of the military.  Most famous would be the Navajo Code Talkers, who baffled Japanese intelligence for the entire war, but there were thousands of others who go unheralded and unmentioned, even in the modern day.  Unfortunately for Natives in America at that time, little was done to improve life on the reservations, and poverty and cultural dislocation was still widespread.

Mexican-Americans - deported in large numbers during the Great Depression to free up agricultural jobs for white Americans, the US reversed this policy during World War II as a labor shortage quickly became a problem.  They instituted the Bracero guest worker program, and allowed temporary immigrant status to thousands of people from Mexico.  Those who lived in the US also served in the military, though they faced widespread discrimination and received little credit for their service.

Women -- Women were both powerful and integral to the Home Front effort.  They worked long shifts in the factories (my own 95lb Grandmother was a welder in a Portland shipyard) and actually boosted production over the time when men were the dominant segment of the workforce.  Idolized and rewarded through popular heroes like Rosie the Riveter, the government realized both how much they needed women, and what their political potential was.  Women also volunteered in large numbers for as WAVES and WACS and served overseas and at home in hospitals as nurses.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I read someone say the other day that although it was President Truman who ordered the integration of the armed forces, it was actually President Eisenhower who got it done. I wonder this this may have had anything to do with his leadership of the military during WWII. I also remember reading, in the same article, that he was tough on race in other ways, as well. Again, I wonder if his experience as a wartime leader helped him take these stands.

Here is the link to the article, and below is one relevant section:


In 1942, when Australia desperately sought U.S. troops but said a law prohibited blacks from entering the country, Gen. Eisenhower said, “All right. No troops.” Australia quickly saw the light.




shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

World War II was the first war to be fought completely with machinery, and so it was a time of explosion in industry.  Workers were needed to build everything used and driven by the soldiers.  And since war was mostly a man's occupation, it was the women who went to work to make this industry hum.  There is a famous documentary, Rose the Riveter, that tells the story of women going to work in droves.  Of course, men were leaving other jobs to fight in the war as well, and those had to be filled too.

The upshot is that women were in the workplace in full force, and though some saw it as their civic duty and returned to their non-working civilian life after the war, many liked working and earning their own money, so they wanted to stay in the work force.  This had a huge impact on the lives of American women.  Post WWII, American women became a much stronger and more equal (over time) presence in the work force.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is no question that U.S. citizens were greatly affected by World War II.  Women became more assertive after having worked in the factories, realizing that they could leave the home and be successful.  However, when they returned to their roles as housewives, some were unresigned.  Minority soldiers who had been heroes returned to much the same lives that had lived before being drafted, but readjusting was difficult for them.  For instance, one hero immortalized in the iconic photograpah at Iwo Jima, and in the statues in Washington, D.C., Ira Hayes, a Pima Native American, became disassociated with his former life after being made a war hero; he descended into alcoholism and died tragically.  Mexican workers who had been illegally in the country as laborers were rounded up in Eisenhower's Operation Wetback and returned to Mexico in 1954.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I must admit I found #3 very interesting in its ending - WWII certainly had the bonus of improving minority rights and showing the nation the importance of these forgotten elements of the country that in some ways had played such a crucial role. I would question though whether this was quite the boost to minority rights that is suggested. At the end of the war, did not the large numbers of returning males need the jobs that their womenfolk had been responsible for?

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think that it's right to say that WWII had little impact on minorities.  Minorities, like whites, were able to benefit from the GI Bill after the war.  The rhetoric of the war also promoted the idea of racial equality after the war.  Historians tend to argue that the anti-Nazi rhetoric of WWII helped to launch the Civil Rights Movement as it gave African Americans more of a sense that there was an opening that would allow them to demand rights.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Other than creating some comraerie between races that never would have gotten along before, World War II didn't have much of an impact on minorities. Women did take jobs they had not taken before, however, and some were unwilling to leave them after the war.
lrwilliams eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Post number 5 is correct, after the war the returning soldiers came back and needed jobs. This pushed the women out of the factories and back home. World War II really did not have an effect on minority rights once the war was over.

shaketeach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because of the enormity and global nature of WW II, minorities were involved in a number of ways.  As mentioned, women entered the work force since the men were in uniform.

Perhaps the best example of the contribution of Native Americans were the code talkers. The most famous code talkers were Navajo although native men from other tribes were also involved.  Since these men were speaking in their native languages, they were able to communicate without fear of being understood by the listening enemy.

Unfortunately, African American soldiers for the most part, were not used as effectively.  Rather than integrate them into combat units, they were often used as "unskilled" labor, ie loading supplies or burying the dead.

At the end of the war, the face of the labor force in America changed greatly.  The seeds had been sown for the economic growth of the 50s and the various civil rights movements which began to gain momentum in the 60s and continues to this day.

At the beginning of the 20th century minorities were treated as second class citizens.

For example, women were brainwashed into believing that their role was in the home.  If they did have to work, it was girls are nurses and boys are doctors or women are secretaries, not bosses, etc.  WW II changed all that and the role of women changed.

The doctrine of separate but equal ruled African American education.  The races were definitely separate but were not, for the most part, equal.  School districts were carefully gerrymandered to keep all the minorities in the same schools.  White students attended white schools and black students attended black schools.  Black schools, especially in the south were given the cast off books and other materials from white schools.  The Civil rights movement and integration changed all that.

For many Native Americans, it was back to the reservation although some escaped via the G.I. Bill.  As the country looked at itself internally with the emergence of the Hippies, a new pride for native people was born with the rebirth of their culture.  Groups like AIM put a light on the plight of the native people in this country.  More Americans became aware of pre-European American and the contributions of the native people.  Since the various treaties made with numerous tribes of people recognise them as nations,  reservation are sovereign.    In a sense, Native Americans are dual citizens.  Although many tribes support themselves with the "new buffalo", gambling, and have become rich, other tribes live in extreme poverty.  Progress has been made for Native Americans but more is necessary.

One must admit that WW II changed American for the better.  By the beginning of the 21st century, minorities had gained rights denied their relatives in the 20th century.

For more information on how WWII affected the U.S. domestically, check out this video:

etotheeyepi | Student

One day I went the a library in Chin Lee, Arizona.  The Navajo Nation has a community college there.  I met a lady who told me about the Navajo code talkers.


From what the lady told me, I think that the men who served as code talkers and the Navajo Nation as a whole find pride in their service.  They may think of themselves as citizens of the Navajo Nation, but clearly they have duel citizenship.  They find pride in being American citizens as well.

I don't know when the Navajo people decided to become Americans.  Maybe it happened in World War II.

taras1 | Student

The minority groups were highly infuluence during WWII. Native Americans were used a code messengers, which would allow US to transmit information without the fear of it beeing intercepted and used as intel by the enemy against American government. Women found many jobs in post offices and newly established phone companies. Also, they replaced men at the factories as the male population were subjugated to the selective service that was adopted during WWII. Finally, African-Americans were fighting the "Double-V" war, meaning a war againg Nazism overseas and a fight agains racism and segregation laws, knows as Jim Crow. Their involvment in the war affected the actions of President "Ike" and his policies, which intergrated the millitary.

samiaa1 | Student

i love all these posts.