These twin sentiments—pride in military accomplishments and frustration that this service did not secure equality—coursed through the pages of the black press. Stories of heroism, such as those of naval aviator Jesse L. Brown and WWI switchboard operator Rufus B. Atwood, were countered by accounts of the poor treatment black veterans received at home, like Air Force veteran Harvey Clark, Jr., whose family’s apartment was destroyed by a mob of 6,000 white people in Cicero, Illinois, in 1951. The black press also lauded the important role black women played in the military, especially the WWII service of WACs (Women’s Army Corps) and WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).
So this is what I want to know:
When we see Victory’s glow,
Will you still let old Jim Crow
Hold me back?
When all those foreign folks who’ve waited—
Italians, Chinese, Danes—are liberated.
Will I still be ill-fated
Because I’m black?