Readings for February 11

Reading Assignment for Monday

Before coming to class on Monday, February 11, read and prepare to discuss the following articles:

  • Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff, “Constructing G.I. Joe Louis: Cultural Solutions to the ‘Negro Problem’ during World War II,” Journal of American History (December 2002), 958–983, link to PDF.
  • Mary L. Dudziak, “Brown as a Cold War Case,” Journal of American History (June 2004), 32–42, link to PDF
  • Glenda Gilmore, excerpt from Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights (2008), pp. 409–420, link to PDF

If prompted for a password to access these articles, use your Rice NetID and password, not your username and password for this course.


Many of you used your Wednesday Reports this week to ask about how the experiences of World War II and the Cold War affected Americans views of racial minorities or policy towards African American civil rights.

This is a question that came up in our Wednesday discussion, too, particularly when one of you pointed out a seeming paradox: on the one hand, integration seemed to be on the march in the 1950s, as President Truman integrated the armed forces and the Supreme Court delivered its famous Brown v. Board of Education decision. On the other hand, the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 suggests more sluggish change.

How, then, should we view the effect of World War II and its immediate aftermath, including the Cold War, on the Civil Rights movement? Should we see World War II and the Cold War as moments of net gain and great advance? Or is the opposite possible, as suggested by alpha12:

Despite America’s involvement in World War II, the liberation of the Western world from the Nazis, and the Nuremberg Trials for Holocaust criminals, did the threat of totalitarian dictatorships from Nazi Germany and Shōwa Japan act to increase racism, discrimination, and oppression in post-War 1950s America?

The readings above help address these questions. They also deal with another topic that many of you found interesting in your Wednesday Reports: the topic of government propaganda and its effects. These articles also deal with questions about the motivations and effects of wartime propaganda, so as you read you may find answer to your questions on these topics as well.