View Full Version : WWII homefront- crippling race-related strikes
January 29th, 2004, 03:01 PM
What factors would be required on the US homefront during WWII for there to have been racially-motivated strikes, by white workers virulently against working alongside blacks in wartime industries, to such an extent that the US war effort was significantly affected ? OTL there were such incidents as in 1943 in Mobile and Birmingham, Alabama IIRC, by Southern whites not wanting to work alongside blacks in the shipbuilding industries, and 1944 around D-Day in Philadelphia, Detroit and Cincinnatti, where many white workers staged hate strikes to protest the hiring or promotion of blacks. Of course, there was also the 1943 Detroit riot which exposed the tremendous racial tensions between blacks and whites over jobs and housing in the crowded wartime motor city. How could such racism in the wartime workforce have developed to the extent of seriously limiting American munitions production ? What about e.g. if the Nazis were able to infiltrate some sorta ABWEHR team into the country to incite and co-ordinate racist hate-motivated strikes thruout American industry ?
Michael E Johnson
January 29th, 2004, 07:38 PM
A possible way to do it would be to increase the numbers of blacks who left the South during 1910's - 1940's. I recently read a book about Nazi Germanies treatment of and views towards the blacks they came in contact with (ie Afro-Germans,Afro-Europeans and African-American soldiers). One of their more cynical propoganda goals was to blunt criticism of their treatment of Jews with the way that the US was treating black people.If this event had happened it would have given the US a terrible image internationally-but maybe this would have lead to better conditions for black soliders and civillians immediately after the war instead of another 20 years later.
January 29th, 2004, 08:52 PM
Here's a thought...
I heard the Civil Rights leadership of the time supported WWII with the expectation of rights for blacks afterwards; that's one reason why many black leaders opposed Vietnam (we didn't get our end of the bargain last time), according to what I've read. I think Mohammed Ali asked "Why should I fight for a country that doesn't guarantee my civil rights" and he DEFINITELY said, "The Viet Cong never called me n*****".
Hmmm...what if the black leadership of the time decided not to actively push blacks to support WWII (more likely), or even declared for Japan (a non-white country fighting white colonialists). Perhap we have a different President during WWI who promises reforms (Wilson, a southern segregationist, would never do that, but someone similar might). However, reforms don't go fast or far-reaching enough (like in OTL) by the time of the actual war. Sort of like the situation between WWII and Vietnam, only a generation earlier.
"Solidarity" with Japan isn't so much of a leap, at least for the more extreme people who could arise. There's an old book called "Bloods" I found at the library about black soldiers in Vietnam and on its list of injustices they suffered (in addition to being there in somewhat disproportianate #s and mistreatment by white superiors) was that they were fighting "a colored enemy." I fail to see the moral difference in that regard (I feel little racial brotherhood with the Germans who killed my great-uncle in WWII), but others may disagree.
Of course, the person who wrote "Bloods" is probably more radical than the 1940s civil rights leadership, which I imagine was largely clergymen instead of bomb-throwers like the Panthers. However, actual large-scale declaration of sympathy for Japan is unlikely except AFTER radicalization of any sort of black anti-war movement, which could be caused by repression.
Owing to the domestic situation, a black opponent of WWII might very well be lynched or imprisoned (FDR put 13 "domestic fascists," which included several isolationists and even a pacifest Quaker in addition to the boss of the Silver Shirts, on trial for sedition at one point). Plus, something larger-scale could be tried...the US DID imprison Japanese-Americans.
Now, onto a better description of the scenario...
If even ONE civil rights leader speaks out against WWII (even in the context of Christian pacifism instead of sympathy for the Axis, just as King condemned the Viet Cong's terrorism as well as the US policy in Vietnam), all hell is likely to come down on blacks, esp. in the South.
This'll radicalize them and they'll fight back and THAT will radicalize whites and then things'll get really ugly. The Nazis could send some people to stir up whites and the Japanese could send some agents to stir up blacks and things will get REALLY REALLY ugly. It might end up like the New York Draft Riots, where soldiers have to be pulled back from the front to keep peace at home.
If it gets bad enough, you might be able to drag out the war for years or even have an Axis victory (assuming Lend-Lease is significantly affected enough to get Britain or the Soviets to make separate peaces with Germany).
I bet that's different than Nazis allying with the Klan, now is it?
No offense intended, Michael. I'm not claiming blacks are disloyal to the US or anything similar; I'm just wondering if something like the African-American opposition to Vietnam could occur (in a much less friendly and thus more radicalizing environment) during WWII.
January 29th, 2004, 08:54 PM
"someone similar might"
By someone similar, I meant an internationalist, not a Southern segregationist.
Think of a less racist Wilson...perhaps we can have a minor POD (Wilson as a child is helped out in some situation by blacks) that has NO major changes until Wilson becomes President.
January 29th, 2004, 09:02 PM
Hmmm....I have that book, "Bloods". Some of the men in the book supported the war in Vietnam, but believed it wasn't fought correctly. Others, however, saw it as a waste of time for the reasons mentioned above.
I don't know if all of the blacks could get riled up for this, though. Keep in mind that many wanted to prove their loyalty to the country to gain equal rights. It would take someone important, like A. Philip Randolph or W.E.B. DuBois, speaking out against the war.
Wait a minute....what if FDR doesn't cave in to Randolph's demands for better treatment of black workers, and Randolph starts up the original "March on Washington" in 1942 or 1943? Maybe the elements are there for a HUGE race riot in D.C., crippling race relations.
January 29th, 2004, 09:10 PM
"Keep in mind that many wanted to prove their loyalty to the country to gain equal rights."
True. One proposal for my scenario involves them proving their loyalty to the US during World War I and then being disappointed. Thus, you've got the anti-Vietnam dynamic a generation early.
"Some of the men in the book supported the war in Vietnam, but believed it wasn't fought correctly. Others, however, saw it as a waste of time for the reasons mentioned above."
I didn't read the book; I just flipped through it a little bit. The stuff about "fighting a colored enemy" as an "injustice" is on the back. That shows the writer's bias more so than the bias of the black soldiers interviewed. All I remember is blacks being put into all-black units in one case to discourage the VC from sniping at all the whites in the unit and sparing the blacks for political purposes and a bit by one black soldier about why he joined the military.
By the way, is "Bloods" a good book? It might be better for intellectual development than any pro- or anti- Vietnam literature written by whites, veterans or not.
"Wait a minute....what if FDR doesn't cave in to Randolph's demands for better treatment of black workers, and Randolph starts up the original "March on Washington" in 1942 or 1943? Maybe the elements are there for a HUGE race riot in D.C., crippling race relations."
Now THAT'S a good scenario. Plus it's less radical than having the 1940s equivalent of MLK proclaiming support for Japan's alleged "anti-imperialism."
However, my scenario also involves inaction by black leaders (ie them NOT pushing black support for the war), not an action so radical as supporting Japan.
January 29th, 2004, 09:59 PM
"Bloods" is pretty good, although I haven't finished it. The book is actually more of an anthology of stories told by African American men who served in the war at different times. Its great if you want to see the war from the perspective of those drafted, enlisted, and even some officers. Its interesting to see how the same conflict can be seen differently by people who served in it in different ranks and who held different beliefs.
The anti-Vietnam generation is a great idea. That is very plausible. I also read a TL on alternatehistory.com about what if FDR died in 1941. It's very long, and it has greater hatred for blacks than OTL due to their defeat at this TL's version of D-Day. Check it out; it may not make sense now, but then I read it and went "Wow".
The lack of support by black leaders is very plausible. Maybe a POD for this is a worse WWI, where more Americans are killed, and African American casualties are especially heavy. Seeing that the "mess in Europe" hasn't been fixed by the losses of their fathers and grandfathers, they may be leery of supporting another European war.
Abdul Hadi Pasha
January 29th, 2004, 10:29 PM
I think the performance of black units in WWII was likely a prerequisite for the Civil Rights movement...
February 1st, 2004, 06:04 AM
Hey guys I have read BLOODS- got my own copy at a big bookshop in Brisbane called BORDERS. I agree with PM Nixon's assessment of the book- it is a very interesting anthology of individual black servicemen's experiences of the VW, including Col Fred Cherry, shot down over NVN in Oct 1965 and the highest-ranking black POW to be captured by the Commies, who never broke under interrogation and refused to denounce America's war effort based on his strong faith in God, and his realisation that he represented all black Americans and couldn't let them down by speaking out against his country. I'd highly recommend this book, I've lent it to a mate now.
Matt, I think I recall that particular incident you mentioned in your post about the formation of an all-black unit, despite the US armed forces' VW racial integration, with 1 all-black LRRP team. This struck me as strange, since other VW sources have indicated that there weren't all that many African-American soldiers who served as LRRPs compared to other minorities, although there were some quite prominent Bloods as described in the works of Gary Linderer and others.
BTW, everybody else has provided some very interesting scenarios of how much more intense racism could've damaged the US during WWII. Another possible scenario for worse race relations: WI there were some very significant racially-related disturbances, which somehow became highly publicised, at a single of no. of US military installation/s in CONUS involving disillusioned, angry black soldiers oppressed by local Jim Crow laws and segregationist attitudes, against local bigoted white cops, civilians and soldiers who see blacks in uniform as a threat, resulting in large nos. of dead on both sides ? How bad an impact on race relations would such a WWII equivalent of the 1917 Houston mutiny (by irate members of the 24th Inf Regt stationed in the Jim Crow city) have had on US wartime society, politics and economy ? I've read about some major violent race incidents at military bases during WWII which were hushed up by the authorities, such as the 1943 Camp Van Dorn race riot in Mississippi, where members of the black 364th Inf Regt became involved in a race-based gunbattle against white MPS and civvy law enforcement authorities, with apparently hundreds of black soldiers killed indiscriminately and buried in unmarked graves. There were also other racial disturbances involving American forces stationed overseas, including the 1943 Bamber Bridge incident, besides numerous pub brawls between white combat troops and black service personnel in England (where black troops were sometimes assisted by sympathetic local white British civilians and off-duty servicemen), and frequent black-white altercations in Australia and New Guinea at such places as Melbourne and outback Queensland towns like Mount Isa, Rockhampton, and Charters Towers. WI such major incidents had been somehow leaked on a wider basis to the American public ?
February 1st, 2004, 03:54 PM
"1943 Camp Van Dorn race riot in Mississippi, where members of the black 364th Inf Regt became involved in a race-based gunbattle against white MPS and civvy law enforcement authorities, with apparently hundreds of black soldiers killed indiscriminately and buried in unmarked graves."
Where did you hear about this? Something that huge would surelyt be mentioned in "Home Front" portions of WWII books. Plus, if it's a battle between armed black soldiers and MPs and civilian cops (as opposed to a massacre or "police riot"), I'd expect that lots of the latter died too and in those times, the deaths of whites at the hands of blacks would probably provoke more trouble.
Are you talking about the situation in this link?
February 1st, 2004, 03:57 PM
Of course, the site suggested the soldiers were disarmed and massacred, so there wouldn't BE many white casualties.
February 1st, 2004, 04:01 PM
Yeah right on the money, Matt. You haven't read the book yourself, have you ? I've come across it myself, but as of yet haven't read it fully in detail. Part of Secret Hist, I s'pose ?
vBulletin® v3.8.4, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.