Prior to World War II, racial discrimination in the armed forces was severe, official, and widespread. The Army imposed a quota to keep the number of African Americans low and effectuated a policy that attempted to avoid situations in which a black service member could dictate orders to whites. The Navy limited African Americans to menial positions. The Marines excluded them altogether. However, by the mid-1950s, the desegregation of the armed forces was well underway, considerably ahead of similar developments in other sectors of society. Discover this important but oft-neglected chapter in American history.
Randall Kennedy is Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the author of the forthcoming book From Protest to Law: Triumphs and Defeats of the Black Revolts, 1948–1968.
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