Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle against White Supremacy in the Postwar South

Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle against White Supremacy in the Postwar South

Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle against White Supremacy in the Postwar South

Fighting for Democracy: Black Veterans and the Struggle against White Supremacy in the Postwar South

Synopsis


Fighting for Democracy shows how the experiences of African American soldiers during World War II and the Korean War influenced many of them to challenge white supremacy in the South when they returned home. Focusing on the motivations of individual black veterans, this groundbreaking book explores the relationship between military service and political activism. Christopher Parker draws on unique sources of evidence, including interviews and survey data, to illustrate how and why black servicemen who fought for their country in wartime returned to America prepared to fight for their own equality.


Parker discusses the history of African American military service and how the wartime experiences of black veterans inspired them to contest Jim Crow. Black veterans gained courage and confidence by fighting their nation's enemies on the battlefield and racism in the ranks. Viewing their military service as patriotic sacrifice in the defense of democracy, these veterans returned home with the determination and commitment to pursue equality and social reform in the South. Just as they had risked their lives to protect democratic rights while abroad, they risked their lives to demand those same rights on the domestic front.


Providing a sophisticated understanding of how war abroad impacts efforts for social change at home, Fighting for Democracy recovers a vital story about black veterans and demonstrates their distinct contributions to the American political landscape.

Excerpt

This is the country to which we soldiers of Democracy re
turn. …But by the God of Heaven, we are cowards and
jackasses if now that the war is over, we do not marshal every
ounce of our brain and brawn to fight a sterner, longer, more
unbending battle against the forces of hell in our own land.

We return.

We return from fighting.

We return fighting.

—W.E.B. DuBois, “Returning Soldiers”

I have always had a feeling that I was just as much entitled to
register to vote as anybody. This thinking seemed to take on
momentum after getting out of the service, knowing the price I
paid …my life had been at stake …why shouldn't I have the
rights and privileges of any citizen? …If I could go over there
and make a sacrifice with my life, I was willing to do it here,
[even] if it meant death.

—William Bailey, World War II veteran,
quoted in Adam Fairclough, Race and Democracy:
The Civil Rights Struggle in Louisiana, 1915–1972

Beginning in the late 1940s, black Southerners grew increasing forceful in their rejection of white supremacy. Consider 1946, a year in which black Mississippians publicly challenged white dominance on at least two occasions. First, they contested the legitimacy of one of Mississippi's most popular politicians, U.S. senator Theodore Bilbo. Bilbo, who was seeking a third term in the Senate, was accused of scaring black Mississippians from the polls during the 1946 campaign. Upon lodging a complaint, the local chapter of the NAACP, along with other black organizations, looked forward to ousting from the Senate a man who had opined on the campaign trail that “the best way to keep the nigger from voting [was] to do it the night before the election,” hinting that, “'Red blooded men know what I mean'” (quoted in Dittmer 1994, 2). Faced with a court house packed with whites who shared Bilbo's sentiment, two hundred black Southerners from throughout the state testified, at great personal risk, to the obstacles they had encountered while trying to vote. Bilbo agreed not to take his seat in the upper . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.