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May 19, 2019

Life of African-Americans During WWII Through Stunning Color Photos

During the Second World War, African-Americans faced considerable obstacles in their everyday lives due to Jim Crow laws and unwritten, racially biased social codes. These laws and behaviors created strictly segregated barriers, and discrimination pervaded most areas of life. Despite these ongoing hardships, this period was a time of creativity, increased economic opportunity and the beginning of the modern civil rights movement.

In the South, Jim Crow laws existed to disenfranchise black Americans. Due to these laws, African-Americans were forced to use segregated schools, public restrooms, neighborhoods, transportation, and even separate, inferior hospitals. Failure to abide by explicit laws and accepted cultural norms resulted in fines, jail time, harassment, and even outright violence against blacks who sought to challenge this inequitable system.

From the early 1940s, saw an increase in activism and opportunities: The black press spoke out about unfair and unjust treatment, while nonprofit organizations and social groups worked to further social reforms. For example, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1940 to protect the legal rights of black Americans.

These stunning color photos that give us a glimpse of African-American life during the Second World War.

Black people fishing close to the cotton plantations in Belzoni, Mississippi, October 1939. (Library of Congress)

A black family portrait in Natchitoches, Louisiana, August 1940. (Library of Congress)

A store with live fish for sale, vicinity of Natchitoches, Louisiana, July 1940. (U.S. Office of War Information)

Tenant house with a mud chimney and cotton growing up to its door, occupied by mulattoes, Melrose, Louisiana, June 1940. (U.S. Office of War Information)

Transporting farm workers in Southern Mississippi, Summer 1940. (Library of Congress)

African-American patriotism - Black woman standing by building with Georgia State And United States flags, circa 1941. (Photo by Marion Post Wolcott)

Black migratory workers by a shack in Belle Glade, Florida, February 1941. (Library of Congress)

Color guard Of Negro engineers, Ft. Belvoir in Virginia, circa 1941. (Library of Congress)

Condemned houses still occupied by Negro migratory workers, Belle Glade, Florida, January 1941. (U.S. Office of War Information)

Going to town on Saturday afternoon, Greene County, Georgia, May 1941. (Library of Congress)

Living quarters and juke joint for migratory workers, a slack season, Belle Glade, Florida, February 1941. (U.S. Office of War Information)

Negro tenant's home beside the Mississippi River Levee, near Lake Providence, Louisiana, circa 1941. (Library of Congress)

Shacks of Negro migratory workers in Belle Glade, Florida, circa 1941. (Library of Congress)

Colored mechanic, motor maintenance section, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June 1942. (Library of Congress)

Negro boy near Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1942. (Photo by John Vachon)

TVA chemical plant in the vicinity of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, June 1942. (U.S. Office of War Information)

Two little girls in a park near Union Station, Washington, DC, 1943. (Transfer from U.S. Office of War Information)




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