Bitter Fruit: African American Women in World War II

By Maureen Honey | Go to book overview

A Note on the Text

All material is reproduced here as it was originally published except for typographical errors, which have been corrected. In a few cases, extraneous passages have been excised from articles, with the missing sections indicated by ellipses. Also, I have occasionally added or deleted paragraph breaks where it seemed logical and helpful to do so. I have added notes to clarify allusions to events, personages, and slang of the period. Certain terms used by these writers no longer carry the connotation they did during the war period. The use of colored or Negro to signify African Americans, for example, was acceptable at the time, but not today. Jim Crow was a common reference to segregation, but it too has fallen out of the lexicon. The term was taken from a nineteenth-century white minstrel character in blackface who danced, sang, and made jokes about African American culture in demeaning ways.

The volume is arranged in four thematic sections, with pieces arranged such that reading them in sequence enhances their impact. Although it does not reflect publishing chronology, this arrangement makes clearer the correspondences between essays, fiction, and poetry illuminating women's roles. African American—authored poetry and fiction begin and end each section. The section introductions provide the reader with background information placing each piece into perspective. The volume begins with “War Work, since that was the subject under which women were given the most prominence. “Racism on the Home Front” concentrates on the military, the race riots of 1943, and segregation in housing and transportation, while giving a sense of how racist American society was during World War II. “The Double Victory Campaign” focuses on African American pride in black soldiers, resistance to racism, and hope for the future, while showcasing women as political activists. The collection ends with “Popular Culture and the Arts” because women were at the heart of African American discourse about culture during the war, and this material leaves the reader with positive images of female strength.

While the anthology favors African American women writers, I have included male and white writers when the subject matter illuminated issues of concern to or helped contextualize the status of black women. Stories reprinted here by Chester Himes, an African American man, for example, either feature black female characters or fictionalize racist situations with

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