American Labor in the Era of World War II

By Sally M. Miller; Daniel A. Cornford | Go to book overview

8
African-American Migrant Women in the San Francisco East Bay Area

Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo

For much of this century, African-Americans have been highly mobile, moving from farm to farm, from the rural South to southern towns and cities, and from southern cities to northern and western metropolitan areas. For migrants, these journeys have served as imagined or actual passages to something better. As such, they provide examples of African-American agency and resistance and offer insight into how new communities are established and maintained. Historians, long recognizing the incredible drama and poignancy of these mass population movements, have produced a rich and varied migration literature.

A number of excellent studies document black migration during the first two decades of the twentieth century and describe the impact of male migrants on the communities that received them. 1 However, migration during World War II and the particular experience and contributions of black women migrants have received little attention. Similarly, the literature on women and World War II, although discussing labor force participation, employment discrimination, and shifting gender roles, only partially reconstructs how African-American women experienced the war. 2

In defense centers across the nation, most black women were workers and migrants. As they made the transition from field and domestic work

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