Harlem at War: The Black Experience in WWII

Synopsis

By the spring of 1943 more than a half million blacks were in the U.S. Army, but only 79,000 of them were overseas. Most were repeating the experience of their fathers in World War I - serving chiefly in labor battalions. Domestically, clashes between blacks and whites vying for the same jobs in boomtown defense-plant cities and the wretched treatment of northern black draftees in the South - where Jim Crow discrimination was prevalent - were all too common. In Harlem at War, Nat Brandt vividly recreates the desolation of black communities during World War II and examines the nation-wide conditions that led up to the Harlem riot of 1943. Wherever black troops were trained or stationed, Brandt explains, "rage surfaced frequently, was suppressed, but was not extinguished". Using eyewitness accounts, he describes the rage Harlemites felt, the discrimination and humiliation they shared with blacks across the country. The collective anger erupted one day in Harlem when a young black soldier was shot by a white police officer. The riot, in which six blacks were killed, seven hundred injured, and six arrested, became a turning point in America's race relations and a precursor to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

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