The word ‘catalyst’ usually refers to something that speed’s up a reaction, or speeds up change. World War two was one of the most important events the world has ever seen, America was involved in this. At the time of World War two people who weren’t white Americans living there were always treated with disrespect.
I think that World War two did act as a catalyst for change with regard to race relations and civil rights in the United States because people who weren’t white Americans served their country even though they weren’t always appreciated, The War meant more black people got jobs (according to figures around seven million) and I believe the civil rights movement came around more quickly because of the War. After the outbreak of World War 2, Philip Randolph (A leading black American union leader) tried to make the military a fairer place for black people to work in.
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This was left unanswered and was the most likely cause for the Executive Order 8802 which helped with job discrimination in war mobilisation. Owing to this order million’s more black people then found jobs, about a million of these getting jobs in the military. Even though there was still segregation in some of the military sections (for example they had all-black units for black soldiers and Marine Corps) this was an improvement to before the War when it was very difficult for Black people to get a job in the army except for labouring and service tasks. 940 was a turning point for black Americans; Black leaders met with the Secretary of the Navy and the Assistant Secretary of War to present program for the mobilization of black people in America, this included demands for flight training, the admission of black women into Red Cross and military nursing units, and desegregation of the armed forces. President Roosevelt issued a statement that argued against the latter demand on the basis that it would impact national defence.
Although he promised to ensure that the services enlisted blacks in proportion to white Americans, Roosevelt basically continued policies dating back to WWI where segregation was very bad. World War two saw many changes to the way black people were treated, some were good, some were not so good and some were fought for many times until they were changed. Some things during the War did take time, for example the training of African Americans to become pilots was an issue which was observed more than once. General Henry Ford was someone who tried on many occasions throughout the War to reduce the training of African American pilots.
Throughout WW2 (mainly around the early 1940’s) there were some campaigns and groups formed who wanted to help and improve the rights of black people and increase equality. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) tried to help segregation problems in places such as restaurants and cinemas in Northern America (Using techniques such as sit-ins) as at this time the South seemed a more dangerous to reform place. Another campaign, called the ‘Double V’ campaign were more about discrimination and fascism, they stood for victory (the V stands for victory).
According to the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancements of Coloured People), the War had given black people the opportunity to ‘compel and shame a nation… into a more enlightened attitude towards one tenth of its people’ they were basically saying that the whole Nazi idea of having a perfect community without certain people with religious or ethnic beliefs would maybe let people of America see that being discriminative to black people was in ways like the Nazi’s because they were treated so bad that they saw a connection with America wanting them to be taken out and not treated fairly.
In Southern States of America such as Alabama and Mississippi this was particularly an issue. Another thing that was introduced during the years of WW2 was the G. I Bill. This Bill mapped out college and education which was available to veterans returning from fighting in the War, some of these who were black. This meant black people becoming involved with new professions and would benefit from the skills they learned later on.
It also helped with peoples financial difficulties which were high still after the depression as they received weekly money payments (about $20 per week). Only three years after the War, Harry S Truman (President Franklin Roosevelt’s successor) was the one who finally asked Congress to legislate against racial discrimination. He integrated the armed services. And when the Supreme Court was asked to rule the legality of segregated schools, the government sided with the NAACP, not with the white South.
This was a very crucial factor for showing how much progress had been made over the years of War. The Civil Rights movement of 1964 was influenced by all of these things; campaigns, new demands for equality and rights and ultimately by World War 2. The Civil Rights movement mapped out the abolishment of discrimination to African Americans in the USA, particularly in the South (where it was worse). It also wanted to sort issues of freedom, respect, dignity, and economic and social equality. I do ot think the act would have been as successful in 1964 without the issues raised and the issues conquered during the war in the first place that is why I believe it acted as a catalyst for change with regards to race relations and civil rights in America. Without the courage of the NAACP, CORE and various individuals I do not think that the rights gained by African Americans would have happened as quickly as they did if it hadn’t have been for the War, as in a crisis time like that people living in the same country need each other and should unite together to help them through, that is what was displayed in WW2.