From Progressivism to Prosperity: World War I and American Society

By Neil A. Wynn | Go to book overview

"new activism" were major consequences of the war and evident in a number of ways. Together with the actual shift in black population, which "made race one of the social issues of the day" on a national rather than merely southern basis, this new black mood signaled "a definite change in American race relations." 67 While disillusionment led some Afro-Americans to support the black nationalism and separatism of Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro Improvement Association in the 1920s, it also spurred others on to fight for acceptance and full integration into American society. NAACP membership had reached ten thousand by 1918 and was over sixty-two thousand by 1919, and the circulation of the Crisis exceeded 560,000. However, the postwar reaction also brought a questioning of earlier views. DuBois, for example, later suggested that perhaps "passive resistance by 12 million to war activity might have saved the world for black and white" and confessed, "I did not realize the full horror of war and its wide impotence as a method of social reform." 68 Even Emmett Scott was to express similar feelings when he addressed black veterans in 1933:

As one who recalls the assurances of 1917 and 1918, I confess personally a deep sense of disappointment, of poignant pain, that a great country in a time of need should promise so much and afterward perform so little. 69

Clearly, the experiences of the First World War were not to be forgotten, and they were remembered in 1941 by men like A. Philip Randolph, Rayford Logan, and others who vowed not to make the same mistakes again. Accommodation was discredited and never again would black Americans accept discrimination in defense industries, nor, given their place in the industrial work force, would their country be so able to ignore them. And neither would Afro-Americans provide, unquestioningly,

Black men, going to be killed like cattle,
To die while fighting, a white man's battle. 70


Notes
1.
David Gordon Nielson, Black Ethos: Northern Urban Negro Life and Thought, 1890-1930 ( Westport, Conn., and London, 1977), 101-2, 139; Allan H. Spear, Black Chicago: The Making of a Negro Ghetto, 1890‐ 1920 ( Chicago, 1967), 129; New York Times, 5 October 1919.
2.
Rayford W. Logan, The Betrayal of the Negro from Rutherford B. Hayes to Woodrow Wilson ( New York and London, 1965), chapter 5.

-191-

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From Progressivism to Prosperity: World War I and American Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • From Progressivism to Prosperity *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Note on Sources xi
  • Introduction War, Reform, and Social Change— the First World War in American History xiii
  • Notes xx
  • From Progressivism to Prosperity *
  • 1: The Progressive Era American Society, 1900-1914 1
  • Notes 23
  • 2: From Peace to War 1914-1917 26
  • Notes 38
  • 3: Mobilizing the Population for War Propaganda and Civil Liberties 41
  • Notes 61
  • 4: Organizing for War Government, Business, and the Economy 65
  • Notes 82
  • 5: Labor and the War 86
  • Notes 124
  • 6: War, Women, and the Family 133
  • Notes 163
  • 7: Black Americans and the First World War 170
  • Notes 191
  • 8: The Aftermath of War Reconstruction, Red Scare, and the 1920s 196
  • Notes 221
  • Epilogue from Progressivism to Prosperity: the First World War in Perspective 226
  • Notes 236
  • Bibliography 239
  • Index 257
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