Introduction: History is not simply what happened in the past but how people make sense of it. As a result, historians often disagree with each other or even change their own opinions about the meaning of particular historical events, such as World War II’s impact upon African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement. Since primary and secondary sources – and the evidence contained within them - are the building blocks upon which historians construct their interpretations, students will examine events and sources in order to look at the role WWII had in the emergence of the civil rights movement.
Objective: Students will gain an understanding of the context in which African Americans were living in within the U.S. and how this, combined with their efforts during WWII led to an increased call for action in regards to civil rights.
Key terms/People: Plessy v. Ferguson, Jim Crow Laws, 15th amendment, Segregation, Executive Order 8802, A. Phillip Randolph, The Great Migration, James Thompson, Pittsburgh Courier, Double V campaign, Executive Order 9981, G.I. Bill of Rights, Redlining, Restrictive Covenants, Racial Steering, Blockbusting
National Center for History in the Schools’ National Standards for History Content
Era 8, Standard 3C The student is able to evaluate how minorities organized to gain access to wartime jobs and how they confronted discrimination.
Historical Thinking Standard 4 – The student is able to interrogate historical data by uncovering the social, political, and economic context in which it was created; testing the data source for its credibility, authority, authenticity, internal consistency and completeness; and detecting and evaluating bias, distortion, and propaganda by omission, suppression, or invention of facts.
11.12: The civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s spurred a period of social turmoil and reform, resulting in the expansion of rights and opportunities for individuals and groups previously discriminated against; this movement helped energize other social reform efforts
1) Bellringer: discuss the role of African Americans in WWII
2) Activate prior knowledge and discuss what restrictions African Americans were subjected to
3) Discuss segregation on a federal level, as well as North v. South and individual states.
4) Discuss segregation during the war effort and efforts by civil rights leaders (including A. Phillip Randolph) to eliminate segregation and individual citizens (including James Thompson and his letter to the Pittsburgh Courier) which led to the Double V campaign
5) Discuss after the war and how, even though they contributed immensely during the war, few things changed in the U.S.
6) Discuss the G.I. Bill of Rights and how this impacted African Americans returning home from the war. Were the promises of it kept?
Research propaganda posters during the war and how they emphasized cooperation between the races.
Write a journal entry home from the perspective of an African American soldier serving in WWII.
Students can research other African Americans’ experiences with segregation and their attitudes about joining the military by searching the WWII Museum’s digital collections at www.ww2online.org/ advanced and selecting the “Race Relations” and “Ethnic/Racial Identity” tags. Students can also explore wartime segregation and race relations through the Museum’s “See You Next Year! High School Yearbooks from WWII” digital collection at www.ww2yearbooks.org.