Other Demographics Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

World War II served to further racial integration at home even while traditional disparities continued and ethnic and racial discrimination still occurred. African Americans, for example, were forced into separate military units and treated unfairly upon their return from the front, yet they also enjoyed increased mobility and employment as they, along with other groups, headed to industrial centers and areas around military bases to capitalize on the changing economy. Despite the new, more liberal circumstances, or perhaps because of them, incidents of racial violence took place in Detroit and elsewhere in the summer of 1943. In Los Angeles that year a series of incidents known as the zoot suit riots occurred, involving military personnel and others aligned against Latino youths. Meanwhile, Latinos themselves enrolled in the military in significant numbers, as did Japanese, German, and Italian Americans, among other groups. Navajo men played an important role as “code talkers” during the war, a measure designed to frustrate efforts to intercept and translate US military communications.

World War II served to further racial integration at home even while traditional disparities continued and ethnic and racial discrimination still occurred. African Americans, for example, were forced into separate military units and treated unfairly upon their return from the front, yet they also enjoyed increased mobility and employment as they, along with other groups, headed to industrial centers and areas around military bases to capitalize on the changing economy. Despite the new, more liberal circumstances, or perhaps because of them, incidents of racial violence took place in Detroit and elsewhere in the summer of 1943. In Los Angeles that year a series of incidents known as the zoot suit riots occurred, involving military personnel and others aligned against Latino youths. Meanwhile, Latinos themselves enrolled in the military in significant numbers, as did Japanese, German, and Italian Americans, among other groups. Navajo men played an important role as “code talkers” during the war, a measure designed to frustrate efforts to intercept and translate US military communications.

The war also drew millions of women into the labor force, at least temporarily, and fostered a greater appreciation of pluralistic values in culture and society. Employment of women increased by over 50 percent, mostly in the area of manufacturing jobs. “Rosie the Riveter” became an icon of the World War II era. The gains, unfortunately, were rather short lived. Despite newfound confidence in the labor force and altered expectations regarding work and home, at war's end, women's situation largely reverted to the status quo.

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