War! What Is It Good for? Black Freedom Struggles and the U.S. Military from World War II to Iraq

By Kimberley L. Phillips | Go to book overview

4
Did the Battlefield
Kill Jim Crow?
Black Freedom Struggles, the Korean War,
and the Cold War Military

“The Korean War,” Ebony observed in late 1954, “is given real credit for hastening complete integration in the Army.” While conceding many white southerners vehemently resisted Brown v. Board of Education, the recent Supreme Court decision that mandated the integration of schools, the article also insisted “integration in the Army is having a big impact on the South’s racial patterns.” Some white-only restaurants near bases reportedly served blacks in uniform, and white and black soldiers socialized together in private homes. These changes apparently spilled beyond the military’s gates: “In Columbus, Georgia, soon after Negro and white MPs began to patrol the streets, Negroes were added to the city’s civilian police force.”1 Walter White echoed Ebony’s positive assessment and linked the military’s integration to black America’s historic quest for full citizenship. “Once again, as has been true throughout American history, armed conflict and national danger brought the Negro advancement toward his goal of full citizenship.” If black Americans lived on the outskirts of democracy, as Roi Ottley claimed in 1951, White argued that “the [integrated] armed forces of the United States of America demonstrate to the world that the di-

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