Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII

Standing Up Against Hate: How Black Women in the Army Helped Change the Course of WWII
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Release Date
January 08, 2019
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STANDING UP AGAINST HATE is the story of black women in the World War II Women’s Army Corps. They did not have civil rights nor the full protection of the law in America. Still, thousands signed up to serve their country and help fight the fascist regimes threatening democracy around the world.

As black WACs took up posts around the country they realized they would fight the enemy at home, long before they’d get a crack at the enemy abroad. At Fort Devens, Massachusetts, black WACs protested their unfair assignments to menial jobs that were never given to white WACs. Refusing to clean kitchens and scrub floors, they risked court martial and prison. Black women assigned to posts in the south feared for their lives traveling on buses and trains. Even their army uniforms did not protect them from assault and battery due to their skin color.

This book offers a much-need perspective on the lives of women of color in WWII America, some of the bravest and most adventurous women of their time. They interrupted careers, left home and loved ones, succeeded in jobs women had never done and stood up against racism and prejudice with dignity. African American WACs served with excellence, breaking barriers to make way for black women today who serve at the highest levels of the U.S. military.

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Because of the enormous need for men to be at the front battle lines, or in one of the theaters of war waiting to go to the front lines, there were many opportunities for women to join the Women's Auxiliary Army Core. From office positions to transport to nursing and general support, thousands of young women took the opportunity to serve their country in these many roles. It was a chance for them to be involved while men they loved were off fighting, and it gave them an opportunity to be involved in careers that otherwise would have been off limits to women. Black women were recruited from colleges to go into the WAAC, but because of widespread cultural and systemic racism, the army strictly segregated black units for both men and women. Both Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune were instrumental in getting black women the right to fill positions other than general cleaning and cooking, the two occupations that the army wanted to force these women into. The 6888th division, headed by Charity Adams, was a unit devoted to sorting mail. After training, they were sent to Europe, where they often dealt with letters addressed to "Jimmy, Army" and had to sort through an enormous backlog of items.
Good Points
This book is a very comfortable length (185 pages) with a format that allows for plentiful pictures, clippings, etc. There is a good mix of information about the state of civil rights at the time and the progression of the 6888th entry into active service in the European theater. There are secondary stories, such as a military band of all black women, that help readers to understand how difficult the positions of black women was at the time. The backgrounds of a few individuals are covered in more detail, which adds to the understanding of what the life of a WAAC would have been like.

Like Farrell's Pure Grit, this is a compulsively readable and informative volume on a little known aspect of World War II that is all the more timely given the interest in the treatment of black Americans, which has not changed as much since WWII as one would have hoped. This is a great book for more focused leisure reading as well as for National History Day projects.
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