Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

May 6, 1943

Guest post by Niccolo Peterson, undergraduate student at Iowa State University.

California Eagle, “Local Industry Accused of Discrimination,” May 6, 1943 (view page 1 PDF; view page 2 PDF)

The year was 1943—May was fast approaching. As the summer drew near, the Allied powers saw victories in Stalingrad in the rearview mirror, with an upcoming victory in their future that would take place in Northern Africa. These series of months in 1943 presented the first initial sign that the war had reached its peak, and the Allied powers knew that in order to completely end the war, they would need to keep stomping on the throats of the Axis powers. To accomplish this, the United States would need to start increasing its number of troops infiltrating Europe and Northern Africa and upping the manufacturing of wartime goods.

During World War II, the United States did not have enough men lined up to send across the sea. In fact, the United States had to implement a draft in order to have the necessary numbers for war. Back home, the war industry suffered equally, by either not allowing African-American people to fill necessary positions in the manufacturing world or severely segregating these individuals in the workforce. In late April of 1943, California officials were made aware of Jim Crow practices in the manufacturing world across the entire United States.

The article discusses how the war effort by the United States was handicapped greatly by not allowing black workers to integrate in miscellaneous ways in the manufacturing industry with their white counterparts. At a time in which the hour had come, and the need for the United States to stand together as a single entity had become a priority, it is a shame that race in American cities could not be ignored to allow for the focus to be centralized on beating the Axis powers. I cannot say I found this surprising at all, considering the time period. I wish that the article went into a more thorough range of depth discussing in what specific ways African-American laborers were segregated and/or neglected. I did, however, find it surprising that the United States did not almost force African Americans into the workforce. Considering the desperate measures being taken during these years, it seems that the United States should have taken more aggressive measures to force these individuals to work.

Based on our studies of African-American culture in American cities, we have not spent a substantial amount of time discussing black demographics of Los Angeles, as the area had a much more dense concentration of Asian individuals than blacks. It would have been interesting to compare the density of African Americans in Los Angeles to a larger area of industrialized manufacturing, like Detroit, in which the African-American demographic was much more centralized. If this problem was extreme in Los Angeles, a city not very popular for industrialized manufacturing, it seems as though it would be exponentially bigger in a city like Detroit. This comparison might have allowed us to quantify the problem, discussing how big of a problem it was, not only in Los Angeles but all over the United States, at the time this article was written.

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