Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights

By Christine Knauer | Go to book overview

Chapter 2
Coming Home

For African American soldiers, the return home came with the harsh realization that not much had changed in the United States. Well aware of their special position in the African American community, white supremacists used the defamation of black soldiers as a powerful strategy to disfranchise and degrade the black community. By May 1945, with the war in Europe over, many white Southerners felt more than ever that a “second Reconstruction” was taking place that had to be stalled. Regardless of a certain amount of social and economic progress for blacks and growing support among some white Americans for their needs, white supremacy survived the war, and in the eyes of many whites it was time to put African Americans “‘into their place.’”1 Moreover, white Southerners feared that white supremacy was seriously in danger and black social equality in all areas of life inevitably loomed. White segregationists saw the most blatant sign of change in African American soldiers and veterans, who returned from war impatient and ready to fight.2 White fears of black equality and demands for civil rights aroused outbursts of defamation and violence against black soldiers.


“White Anglo-Saxon Is the Forgotten Man
in America Today”

Always opposed to Roosevelt’s Fair Employment Practice Committee, the white South balked at its postwar extension.3 They initiated a general condemnation of African Americans and especially black soldiers. Starting at the end of June 1945, Mississippi senators Theodore G. Bilbo and James Eastland filibustered the extension of the FEPC by implementing racial

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Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Fighting for Respect 13
  • Chapter 2 - Coming Home 33
  • Chapter 3 - Stepping Up the Fight 55
  • Chapter 4 - Mass Civil Disobedience 82
  • Chapter 5 - Truman’s Order 112
  • Chapter 6 - A Country They Never Knew 130
  • Chapter 7 - Black Men at War 163
  • Chapter 8 - A Mixed Army 195
  • Epilogue 224
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms 231
  • Notes 235
  • Index 329
  • Acknowledgments 339
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