This collection is a timely reconsideration of the intersection between two of the dominant events of twentieth-century American history, the upheaval wrought by the Second World War and the social revolution brought about by the African American struggle for equality. Scholars from a wide range of fields explore the impact of war on the longer history of African American protest from many angles: from black veterans to white segregationists, from the rural South to northern cities, from popular culture to federal politics, and from the American confrontations to international connections. It is well known that World War II gave rise to human rights rhetoric, discredited a racist regime abroad, and provided new opportunities for African Americans to fight, work, and demand equality at home. It would be all too easy to assume that the war was a key stepping stone to the modern civil rights movement. But the authors show that in reality the momentum for civil rights was not so clear cut, with activists facing setbacks as well as successes and their opponents finding ways to establish more rigid defenses for segregation.
While the war set the scene for a mass movement, it also narrowed some of the options for black activists.