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The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom World War II and Post War (1940–1949)

The following excerpt is part of a larger exhibition highlighting the complex social dynamics of the civil rights movement. Although the heading of this section foregrounds the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the discussion of the years spanning from 1940-1949 is significant.

This source details how racial discrimination shaped U.S. society, the defense industries and the war effort. This section sheds light on international perceptions of the U.S. and its treatment of Black citizens at home while simultaneously promoting freedom and democracy, and how civil rights activists, particularly A. Phillip Randolph, advocated for civil rights legislation amid this international attention.

This excerpt demonstrates the ways World War II and the Cold War informed President Roosevelt’s and President Truman’s decisions to pursue civil rights legislation (this source was paired with A. Phillip Randolph’s oral history interview (above) to demonstrate how global political issues intersected with Randolph’s domestic civil rights advocacy.).
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The Library of Congress
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