Louisiana during World War II: Politics and Society, 1939-1945

Article excerpt

Louisiana During World War II: Politics and Society, 1939-1945. By Jerry Purvis Sanson. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, c. 1999. Pp. xvi, 323. $60.00, ISBN 0-8071-2308-0.)

Jerry Purvis Sanson draws on a diverse array of primary sources to explain what happened in Louisiana during World War II. He concludes that the experiences of the war left the state's politics, society, and economy "recognizably different in 1945 from what they had been in 1939," even though such changes "occurred amid the continuity that remained" (p. 7). Louisiana moved from the corrupt Long political machine of the 1930s to the anti-Long reformist administrations of Governors Sam Jones and Jimmie Davis. The reformers proved that they could administer the state efficiently. The anti-Long reformers' short-lived tenure produced an "effective bifactionalism" that increasingly defined state and national politics. Sanson describes both a society disrupted by rural labor shortages, agricultural mechanization, and unprecedented expansion and diversification of industry, and an economy changed by increased incomes and tax revenue. The war years ended "the economic doldrums of the Great Depression" (p. 239).

New residents flooded into the state during the war, and job opportunities diversified for both African Americans and women. Political activities by both groups helped to elect the reform administrations. However, Louisiana's black citizens remained "trapped in a segregated society" (p. 269) while economic achievements for women diminished with the war's end. Both groups nonetheless remembered "their wartime forays into prosperity and equality" (p. …