Post wwi racial Tensions Lyle Mead

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Post WWI Racial Tensions

  • Lyle Mead

  • Yutan High School

Black Response to WWI

  • Many thought fighting a war for democracy would have an ideological affect on social equality after the war. One group led a march down 5th avenue waving banners with slogans “Mr. President, Why Not Make AMERICA Safe for Democracy?”

  • Returning Black soldiers were inspired to fight for their rights in a country they had bore arms and risked their lives for and demanded voting rights.

  • Unfortunately it didn’t help Racial Equality, the reasons the war was not a catalyst for change include:

    • American involvement was small and limited, thus political leaders didn’t see Black involvement as leading to the success of the war as was the case in the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, and thus didn’t feel there was a need for rewarding their patriotism and sacrifice.
    • The nationalistic spirit in the U.S. and the un-interest of racial equality within liberal groups didn’t present the chance to protest and use the war as leverage to social change.
    • The inability of Black leaders to use the war to fight for social change.
      • In fact, many Black leaders pressured black citizens to support the war effort and not protest for equality.
      • They hoped that showing support would gain them recognition after the war.

Great Migration

  • Most Blacks moved north during and after the war for job opportunities.

  • Between 1910 and 1930 the black population of Chicago increased from 44,000 to 233,000 and detroit from 5,700 to 120,000

  • Affects of Migration of African Americans

    • Political Power increased
      • Local level they were able to get city council members and state representatives elected, appointments of black police officers, and parks and playgrounds built in black neighborhoods
      • On the national level, there first major success was getting the House of Representatives to pass the antilynching bill in 1922.
    • Increase in Social Protesting
      • Great economic opportunities for black entrepreneurs and professionals, such as teachers, ministers, lawyers, and doctors who will become the leaders for civil rights protestors
      • improved economic status enabled blacks to use the boycott as a tool for equality.
      • Better Education
      • More accepted racial mores of the north in comparison to the south, led to protest organization like the NAACP and militant black newspapers15
      • Open ballot box

Northern White Response

  • The Migration of blacks to cities had negative consequences as well

  • Increased racial prejudice of Northern Whites who used several tactics to prevent blacks from moving into their neighborhoods

    • hostile neighborhood association
    • violence
    • housing segregation, which lead to increased school segregation
  • White Southerns to Northern cities, brought with them the KKK which only increased racial tensions

Blacks in Southern Cities

      • Migration from rural areas to Southern Cities
        • Better economic opportunities increased the black middle class and helped it become more independent from whites
        • Led to more free time to protest and ability to not worry about economic repercussions of protesting
        • Better education and the occasional opportunity to vote
        • Living in close proximity to other Blacks, better transportation and communication, and shared social networks like churches and colleges helped lead social protest movements.
        • Didn’t provide high schools for blacks till 1930’s
        • Maintained “Separate but equal” accommodations for playgrounds, parks, and beaches which usually meant none at all.
      • Whites Response
        • Many white southerners were fearful returning black soldiers would begin fighting for rights, therefore they prepared themselves for a race war.
        • Many black soldiers were attacked,
        • Resurgence of the KKK


  • Most Americans wanted a “Return to Normalcy

  • Increased “scientific” racism against blacks and other “inferior” races, such as Eastern Europeans and Asians.

  • Carl Campbell Brigham- Princeton based- Scholastic Aptitude Test

  • Red Scare

  • Fear by northern whites of blacks taking jobs, voting, and moving into their neighborhoods.

  • Many Americans lashed out at those they thought would threaten their anticipated new lifestyles after the war: leftist, blacks, unionists, and immigrants.

Red Summer

Red Summer of 1919

Red Summer Continued

  • Examples- from June to December 25 race riots broke out

    • Chicago- Race war that lasted 2 weeks, saw 38 killed and another 537 injured. Mostly blacks. Almost 1,000 black families lost their homes. All because a black youth had strayed into a whites only beach on Lake Michigan and in the ensuing comotion, a black boy drowned and the white officers refused to arrest the white man that were responsible and instead arrested a black man.
    • Washington D.C.- somewhere around 10-15 people were killed in a 4 day riot which began after a rumor of an arrest of a black man for rape. Police refused to get involved, allowing whites to riot and beat random black people. Eventually, the military was sent in to keep peace.
    • Norfolk Virginia- Whites attacked a homecoming parade for black soldiers returning from WWI, 6 were killed, the police had to call in Marines and the Navy to restore order.
    • Charleston South Carolina- Martial Law was enforced after U.S. Navy personnel led a race riot, resulting in the deaths of 4 blacks and 5 whites an additional 18 blacks were injured.
    • Phillips County, Arkansas-
    • Omaha

Omaha Riot

Omaha Continued

Marcus Garvey

A. Phillip Randolph

  • Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

    • Many blacks faced Union discrimination
    • Fought for better hours, working conditions, and wages.
    • Originally started for blacks working for the Pullman Company

Immigration Restriction Act

  • Race-based immigration law, passed in 1924

  • Many also believed immigrants were radicals and took jobs from whites

  • Originally passed in 1921, it set the quota of immigrants at 3% of the 1910 numbers of immigrants

  • The 1924 act lowered the quota to 2% of the 1890 numbers

  • Didn’t specifically exclude all immigrants, but set Japanese numbers at 100 total.

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