Photo credits: The Library of Congress
The year 1940 marked a pivotal time in history — for America’s racial politics. A key area of focus was the U.S. National Defense Program.
During World War I (WW1), the U.S. did not over-indulge militarily. It served as a global interventionist power. However, military conflicts increased. Countries overseas were forming alliances based on WW1’s 1933 end result. Inevitably, World War 2 (WW2) began in 1939. America’s global military role shifted — from a novice interventionist to a more aggressive role militarily.
Such a paradigm shift was eventually going to call for increased national defense personnel members. By 1940, this caused labor shortage concerns in the U.S. government’s Defense Department divisions. In August of that same year, the National Defense Advisory Commission (NDAC) released a referendum on labor policy.
The NDAC’s decree took the prohibition of racial discrimination in America’s defense industries to a new level.
According to BlackFacts.com, on October 25, 1940, the delegated Committee on the Participation of Negroes in the National Defense Program held a landmark meeting with U.S. President F.D. Roosevelt. This delegation was organized to forge ahead with a progressive era — concerning blacks and their place within the nation’s defense industries.
Also in October 1940, President Roosevelt urgently echoed the NDAC’s sentiment in an address to the U.S. Congress.
After Congress acted legislatively, funding for the implementation of the government’s new defense program-centered race policy was eventually approved. Other discriminatory practices (which were being enforced against blacks in American defense industry settings before 1940) were also eradicated.
Black Americans have always been the backbone of the U.S. military — for its strength in numbers, as well as the enhancers of its frequently referenced firepower.