Here’s an interesting read.
In this short ebook, Race Goes To War, Antero Pietila and Stacy Spaulding offer a fascinating glimpse into black newspaper journalism in World War II and black reporters’ struggles for racial equality:
In World War II, thirty black reporters were allowed to follow black armed forces units in Africa, the Mediterranean, Italy, England, France, Alaska, China-Burma-India, and the Pacific in WWII, but they never went to the front. Black soldiers were confined to non-combat roles—supply, maintenance, and engineering and were kept out of battle until near the end of the war. “Blacks were not trusted with front line duty.”* (The end of the war eventually saw heroic performances by the Tuskegee Airmen, 761st Tank Battalion, 452nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, and other black units.)
Perhaps the most famous black reporter was Ollie Stewart, who wrote for the Afro-American in Baltimore. Ollie’s “journalistic forte was writing” and storytelling, “not newsgathering,” and “he frequently quoted unnamed persons he met.”* He was widely read and appreciated at home. In 1945 he gave a brief account of Tuskegee fliers bombing Italy and later witnessed the Allied landing at Normandy and the push through the countryside.
Black newspapers at home were the Afro-American in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, and Newark – as well as the Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, and Norfolk Journal and Guide. These papers juxtaposed articles from their overseas correspondents with descriptions of race riots in Detroit and Texas, unrest, segregation, and racist behavior by whites at home, in a continuing effort to end segregation and Jim Crow in the U.S. armed forces and wider society.
Race Goes To War is a part of WWII history that has not yet come to light. It is written by experienced journalists. Antero Pietila worked for the Baltimore Sun from 1969 to 2004 and served as the paper’s bureau chief in South Africa and Moscow. He is the author of Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City (2010), which was part of my background reading for Canoedling in Cleveland. Stacy Spaulding teaches journalism and new media at Towson University. They coauthored a prize-winning 2013 paper on the Afro-American’s World War II correspondents. Race Goes To War is a great read for those interested in WWII and African-Americans’ role in it. Those who like it may also enjoy my satire of Vietnam War reporting in Cologne No. 10 For Men.
*Quotes from the book