The Effect of War on American Civil Rights

Essay by 39953High School, 12th gradeA, October 2009

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With the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the racial segregation that was previously a major feature of American life, most notably in the South, was outlawed. This came after a lengthy civil rights movement that began in the 1950s, featuring contributions from activists as well as an overall change in the psyche of the American populace. However, the movement has its origins prior to the infamous Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education or the inspirational orations of Martin Luther King Jr. It was America's involvement in war which laid a base for the civil rights movement as a whole by highlighting the problematic aspects of segregation and discrimination through its impacts on those black soldiers who served, those blacks who made progress on the home front and on civil rights activists of the time who used the war Because it shed light on the severity of prejudice that black Americans suffered, the United States' participation in war played a significant role in gaining equal rights for African-Americans.

A major impact that war had on the civil rights movement was that brought about by the service of approximately one million blacks in the armed forces . In World War Two, when the United States declared war, a large proportion of especially Southern blacks "rallied to the cause" mainly because it provided an escape from harsh economic and social conditions. Indeed, Gallagher quotes an unnamed black soldier who believed that "the only way I could make it out of the ghetto was to be the best soldier I...could" , while blacks in general hoped that by fighting for their nation they would be rewarded with equal rights, a belief demonstrated in the words of leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP), W.E.B Du Bois.