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

By Christine Knauer | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Mass Civil Disobedience

People all across the nation tried to make sense of the new and radical approach to integration. The call for disobedience made it into the pages of major national newspapers, when news on black issues rarely appeared in white publications.1 The civil disobedience campaign was a serious enough issue that reflections on its implication for the country and national security were considered necessary. Even Southern papers reported on Randolph’s radical step in the quest for full civil rights.2Newsweek published a three-page article on the issue, expressing understanding for the impatience and frustration Randolph and Reynolds experienced. It reasoned that Randolph’s radical attitude resulted from the humiliation and denial of manhood that African American males had suffered from due to white treatment for so long. “A large mass of Negro veterans of the recent war, with their scars and humiliations still fresh upon them, regard it even more as a matter of outraged manhood and self-respect.”3 Clearly differentiating between Walter White’s NAACP, and Randolph’s more radical approach to civil rights, Newsweek described White’s method as “careful and cautious.” White was so incensed by the characterization that he wrote to the editors of Newsweek, keen on bolstering his self-proclaimed status as a “dangerous radical.”4 He considered it necessary to justify his objection to civil disobedience in order to dissuade the impression of ‘having gone soft’ in comparison to Randolph. The NAACP and he, White emphasized, had not stopped their fight against military segregation, but there was “no obligation on my part to accept unquestionably that proposal.”5

While White felt that the article questioned his dedication to civil rights, Reynolds thanked Newsweek for its “fair and objective” reporting and further noted that, “the daily press” had otherwise “failed to grasp the significance of this movement and has little conception of the widespread

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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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