On April 6, 1909, history was made when two men, one black and one white, planted the American flag at the North Pole. Thus, Matthew A. Henson, a black man, became one of the first Americans to reach the top of the world. Yet, due to his race, for years his role in this discovery was denied recognition.
World War I (1914–1918)
In 1917 the United States entered World War I under the slogan “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” Within a week after the United States entered the war, the War Department stopped accepting black volunteers because colored army quotas had been filled. No black men were allowed in the Marines, Coast Guard or Air Force. They were allowed in the Navy only as messmen. When drafting began, of the more than two million blacks registered, thirty-one percent were accepted compared to twenty six percent of the white men being accepted. Blacks, then comprising ten percent of the population, furnished thirteen percent of the inductees.
World War I was a turning point in black U.S. history. The small number of blacks moving out of the South after 1877 increased enormously as war industries and the decline of European immigration combined to produce demands for labor in northern cities.
The crowding of blacks into formerly white areas of the North created new problems. As the war drew to a close, whites became alarmed at the rising rate of unemployment caused by the war’s end and the influx of blacks eager to work. Riots broke out in many cities. They were ugly and cruel. They focused northern attention on the injustices still being inflicted on black Americans.
The coming together of a large number of blacks in urban areas, the exposure of some blacks to European whites who did not hold the same racial attitude as American whites, and the war propaganda to make the world safe for democracy all combined to raise the hopes, dreams, and aspiration of blacks in the United States.
Increasingly, blacks perceived city hall, the state capital and the federal government as appropriate targets for their efforts. They sought ways to harness and use their political strength to encourage government at all levels to do more for black America. In northern cities, blacks were urged to vote. Even in the South they became more active politically—but always under severe restraint and sometimes under the threat of violence.
Interracial reform, even with the help of activist white liberals, moved very slowly, and it took the extensive disruptions of World War II to shatter established patterns of segregation. Thoughtful whites became painfully aware of the contradiction in fighting the racist philosophy of Nazism in Europe while permitting racial discrimination at home.
In this context of changing international trends and shifting American opinion, the campaign for black rights broadened. The NAACP piled up victory upon victory in the courts. It successfully attacked racially restrictive covenants in housing, segregation in interstate transportation, and discrimination in publicly owned recreational facilities.
1. Which of the following was true about the period between 1909 and 1940?
a. European whites were less racially accepting of blacks than American whites.
b. European whites were indifferent to race in America.
c. European whites were more racially accepting of blacks than American whites.
d. European and American whites shared the same attitudes about race in America.
2. Which of the following is not a reason that blacks left the South after 1877?
a. War industries were booming.
b. Slavery was still legal in some areas of the South at this time.
c. A significant decrease in European immigration had occurred.
d. Northerners were typically more tolerant that southerners.
3. The campaign for black rights gained momentum during the early part of the twentieth century as a result of
a. an increase in the size of African-American urban populations in the North.b.improved racial tolerance in the North.c. the growing popularity of democracy worldwide.d.all of the above.
4. Which of the following best explains the primary difference between African-American political involvement in the North and in the South?
a. There was no difference.
b. African Americans in the South were not interested in political activity.
c. African Americans were unable to become politically active in the South because it was far too dangerous.
d. It was more dangerous for African Americans to be active in the South.
5. As a result of World War I,
a. African Americans were finally able to stop flocking to the North.
b. more African Americans found paying work in the South.
c. the newfound campaign for black rights gained momentum.
d. African Americans finally gained equality.
6. Explain why many riots broke out as a result of the influx of African Americans to the northern states.