Segregation in the 1940s
- The 1940s was an era of widespread racial discrimination and segregation. After Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court case in which segregation was deemed constitutional, a series of laws were passed that designated public facilities for white or African American usage. These ordinances, referred to as, “Jim Crow laws," implied that African Americans were an inferior race. Supporters of the laws argued that blacks were “separate but equal” in an attempt to justify the blatant racism affecting the nation. The term “equal,” however, was an overstatement, as recreational facilities and public transportation reserved for African Americans was far from adequate. Government officials went to great lengths to ensure that blacks and white would have as little social interaction as possible. Although schools and different foundations were receiving equal payment and funding, being separate was still a blow to African Americans, as what they wanted was to simply be equal with whites.
Fortunately, opinions of African Americans began to evolve during World War II. African Americans had served the United States in battle since the 1700s. When it came to their combat skills, they were equally as capable as whites. They fought and died for their country, just like white soldiers did. Many people began to question racism and segregation as the war against Nazism raged on. Nevertheless, the army was segregated and the two races served in their respective units. Though President Roosevelt ordered that African American and white soldiers be treated equally, this was not always the case.
While racism was a major obstacle for the airmen, it was also a source of motivation. The Tuskegee Airmen did their best to prove themselves worthy of participating in the war, and they showcased their military and flying skills to do so. They worked hard to earn the honor and respect that is still attributed to them today.