How Americas armed forces came to mix black and white with Army Green (Shade 44) is the meat of The Double V, subtitled, How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated Americas Military.
The author is Washington lawyer Rawn James Jr., who wrote an earlier book on civil rights, Root and Branch, about the legal struggle to desegregate schools. The battle to desegregate barracks made fewer headlines but stirred many a hard feeling.
The title, The Double V, refers to victory over aggression abroad and racism at home. James concentrates heavily on the years from World War I until the Korean War. He says that when the United States entered WWI, black Americans backed the war effort wholeheartedly, even though the Army segregated them, while the Navy restricted them to serving as mess stewards and laborers.
When black veterans mustered out after WWI, society failed to salute their call to duty. Indeed, racism seemed to grow in its toxicity. As James writes, That they had fought for freedom abroad only to be denied it at home awakened African Americans to the fact that only a collective, nationwide effort would secure their basic constitutional rights. In time this effort would come to be known as the civil rights movement, but it began with the struggle to desegregate Americas military.
The book has some heroes rarely associated with civil rights for example, Wendell Willkie, the GOP presidential candidate in 1940, who won the endorsement of boxer …