World War II and American Racism

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World War II and American Racism

The United States was a divided nation at the time of World War II. Divided by race and racism. This Division had been much greater in the past with the institution of slavery. As the years went by the those beliefs did deteriorate slowly, but they were still present during the years of World War II. This division was lived out in two forms, legislation and social behavior. The legislation came in the form of the “Jim Crow” laws. The belief that some people were naturally superior and others inferior, scientific racism, was the accepted belief of the time These cultural traits were waning. After World War II ended they would decline even more rapidly.

In the early days of World War II the everyday people of this country already sensed the great change to come. Interviews taken from the Library of Congress, in the collection labeled “After the Day of Infamy,” offer a window into the past. Into the America that existed in the early days after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entrance into the war. Inside the collection, the pulse of the nation is revealed. Ordinary people, some of whom do not reveal their names, are given a chance to record their opinion of the war, the Japanese people, and the race relations within the union. In these open letters to the president and the “Man on the Street” interviews, the American public reveals their prejudices and their concerns in the most candid of fashion.

American society, like that of Germany, was tainted with racial bigotry and prejudice. The Japanese were thought of as especially treacherous people for the attack on Pearl Harbor. The treachery was obviously thought to reside in ...

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... it legal for non-white immigrant to become naturalized citizens. Many of those Japanese born immigrants who were held in concentration camps could now apply for citizenship status.

It would take many years for African-Americans to acquire the freedoms that they had fought for over seas. Those efforts were accelerated by the war and the prosperity that it brought. Eventually Jim Crow would fall in the south and African-Americans would take their struggle to every part of the nation. It was never an over night sensation. The civil rights movement was one long continuous effort that occurred before and after World War II. The process has been a long one and still continues.

[1] After the Day of Infamy: “Man on the Street” Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. Library of Congress, American Folk Life Center
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