Race, Jobs and the War

Race, Jobs and the War : The FEPC in the Midwest, 1941-46

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The President's Committee on Fair Employment Practice (FEPC) was established by Franklin Roosevelt in response to an intense lobbying campaign led by black leaders who challenged his administration to eliminate racial discrimination in U.S. defense plants. In this rigorous and thoroughly documented examination of the FEPC's work, focusing on the pivotal Midwest, Andrew Edmund Kersten shows how this tiny government agency influenced the course of civil rights reform and moved the United States closer to a national fair employment policy. "Race, Jobs, and the War" looks across the Midwest at the accomplishments and failures of a New Deal organization that laid the foundation for today's contested affirmative action practices. Rejecting claims that black advancement during the war was due primarily to shortages of labor, Kersten contends that the FEPC made significant strides in allaying discrimination, especially when local authorities cooperated.Efforts to foster racial equality in the southern region of the Midwest suffered from managerial stonewalling and white hostility, Kersten finds, while areas farther north saw more support from government officials and community and union activists and correspondingly greater success in reversing discriminatory patterns. Events such as the infamous Cincinnati 'D-Day' Strike - a wildcat strike by nine thousand white UAW-CIO workers in protest of the upgrading of seven black machinists - signal the depth of racial animosity on the home front. Fighting an uphill battle to dismantle such deep-seated and virulent racism, the FEPC succeeded in breaking some racial barriers, settling complaints, and pursuing a vigorous education campaign to foster more harmonious industrial relations between white and minority workers. The FEPC also acted as a catalyst, inspiring midwestern local communities to rejuvenate and transform their own fights against employment discrimination.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 158.5 x 235.7 x 20.3mm | 821.12g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252025636
  • 9780252025631

Review quote

"Challenges prevailing arguments that labor shortages attenuated workplace discrimination and that the efforts of the FEPC remained negligible... Solid research. Choice "Kersten deserves praise for his contribution to the history of civil rights, liberalism, and public policy in a crucial agency of government." -- John Hinshaw, Labor History "Well written, meticulously footnoted and detailed, this study will be valuable to both specialists and those with more casual interest in the subject." -- Kevin Yuill, History "A lively, readable, and well-documented history of the FEPC in the Midwest." -- EH.NET "A detailed and compelling examination of the FEPC's ground operations in the midwestern states... An important contribution to the literature on employment discrimination, African American protest, antidiscrimination policitics, and the federal role in managing wartime race relations." -- Eric Arnesen, The Annals of Iowa ADVANCE PRAISE "By moving policy history to the neighborhoods and states, this well-researched study illuminates the possibilities and limits of wartime liberalism. The FEPC emerges in all its complexity as a facilitator of black protest. Essential reading for understanding the pre-history of both equal opportunity and affirmative action." -- Eileen Boris, author of Home to Work: Motherhood and the Politics of Industrial Homework in the United States "Race, Jobs, and the War is a superb book, one that deftly illuminates the turbulent history of the FEPC... [Kersten] not only succeeds masterfully in demonstrating how regional political, social, and racial sensibilities influenced the FEPC's work in the Midwest but also greatly facilitates our understanding of the critical ways in which a wartime expedient both informed and inspired the bolder civil rights movement that transformed postwar America." -- Clete Daniel, author of Chicano Workers and the Politics of Fairness: The FEPC in the Southwest, 1941-1945show more

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