Why World War 2 was so Important to the Civil Rights Movement

Civil rights movement WWII
Via WikiMedia Commons

When we think of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1960s are probably the first thing to come to mind. It’s important, however, to not forget the hard work and sacrifice of those who came along much earlier. In fact, much of the progress of the 1960s grew from seeds planted during World War Two.

In 1941, the United States entered the Second World War, but the military was still heavily segregated. Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph brought national attention to this issue leading to President Roosevelt issuing Executive Order 8802.

This order prohibited, “discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries and in government because of race, creed, color, or national origin.” While this was an important step, opportunities for African-Americans were still very limited.

Black military personnel were restricted to mostly service-related duty. However, the actions of a few brought light to the importance of these neglected heroes. From the life-saving bravery of Doris Miller at Pearl Harbor to the groundbreaking Tuskegee Airmen, African-American heroes made a statement that this was their America too, and they were willing to fight for it.

Beyond military victories, these brave men helped to re-frame the way we looked at race in this country. Learn more about how WWII contributed to the Civil Rights Movement here.

The members of the greatest generation did so much for America — they earned financial security during retirement. That’s why Congress must pass the bill we call The Greatest Generation Benefits Act. It’s the least we can do for those who sacrificed so much.

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