College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


Martin S. Catino


African Americans, soldiers, European descent, racism, Tuskegee Airmen, tank battalions, World War II, social experience




The service of African Americans in the United States Army during World War II shaped their perceptions regarding fighting for the same country but with different experiences than their comrades in arms of European descent due to the exposure to racism within their own forces and the harsh realities of warfare. The struggles of African Americans in the army were evident from the start of the United States’ involvement in the war and continued to pose problems even as some soldiers were able to earn the respect of both comrades of European descent and civilians back home. African Americans who participated in World War II would go on to become famous, such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the tank battalions, showing they had the courage and tenacity needed for warfare. Despite their service, African Americans returned home to an America that was more hostile to them than before the war, as their contributions during wartime were seen as a threat to the racists’ status quo. While some African Americans developed a sense of bitterness over the lack of change to racism, even abandoning the United States in favor of Europe as a result, others decided to stay in order to use their wartime experiences to improve their lives and those of others, refusing to give in to Jim Crowism. Ultimately, however, it would be nearly a decade before World War II African Americans would get the recognition that had been denied them for so long.

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