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The Real Reasons Why 1 Million African Americans Fought in World War II

World War II, which lasted from 1939-1945, was the most costly war in terms of human life. The total number of fatalities, including battle deaths and civilians of all countries, is estimated to have been 56.4 million. And many people don't know that 1 million Black men served! But why did so many Black men serve in this war, especially when the armed services were segregated?
Well, according to 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., "Black leaders have historically felt that African Americans could make the strongest case for freedom and citizenship if they demonstrated their heroism and commitment to the country on the battlefield."

For this reason, more than 200,000 Black men served during the Civil War. And in all actuality, 2.5 million African Americans registered for the draft when World War II began... but only 1 million actually served.

But why?

There was no doubt that African Americans saw the hypocrisy in fighting a war on behalf of a country that tolerated racism. However, the Pittsburgh Courier, the most popular African American newspaper at the time, launched a national campaign encouraging Black people to not only support the war... but to "give their all."

There had been quite a bit of stir from civil rights leaders about discrimination and segregation in the armed services, and the American Red Cross's refusal to accept blood in donor drives. But in a frontpage article published on February 7, 1942, the Pittsburgh Courier declared, "WE HAVE A STAKE IN THIS FIGHT... WE ARE AMERICANS TOO!"

Although quite a few Blacks opposed this viewpoint, the majority were motivated to become more patriotic and support the war. But the newspaper, which served as a voice for the African American community, also encouraged Black soldiers to fight for their equal rights... both abroad and at home.

And some of those rights were eventually addressed. For example, in 1948, just three years after World War II ended, President Harry Truman issued an Executive Order to desegregate the U.S. armed forces.

Watch the video below to learn about what some of the segregated units in WWII were able to accomplish:



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