The growing black population in Northern cities provided decisive support for liberal Democratic candidates who in turn backed civil rights reforms. Race became an important issue in postwar politics. In 1947 the NAACP presented a petition to the United Nations (UN). It documented the history of racism in America and was discussed for two days by the UN Human Rights Commission. President Harry S. Truman created a Presidential Commission on Civil Rights. In response to pressure by black leaders, President Truman issued executive orders designed to eventually desegregate the armed forces and prevent discrimination in federal employment.
Southern Democrats were angered by Truman’s actions and by Northern Democrats’ adoption of a strong civil rights plank in the 1948 Democratic Party platform. They split from the Democratic Party and formed the States’ Rights Party, whose members were known as Dixiecrats. African American influence on national politics was clear in 1948 when Truman was elected president after receiving only a minority of white votes.
The Cold War, which began during the Truman administration, also became a factor in postwar race relations. During the Cold War, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) engaged in an intense economic and political struggle for the allegiance of people around the world. As part of the Cold War, the United States began a campaign against Communism, the economic system of the USSR, both at home and abroad. The anti-Communist campaign had a mixed impact on black America.
In the world arena, the United States presented itself as the champion of freedom and democracy against the totalitarianism of Soviet Communism. The United States was embarrassed by its denial of rights to African Americans. Supporting black rights and appointing African Americans to prominent governmental positions bolstered America’s claims.
At home, however, the campaign against Communism resulted in efforts to identify and prosecute Communists. From 1951 to 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Senate subcommittee investigated allegations of Communist activities. McCarthy charged many accomplished Americans with disloyalty, including black singer Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois. Such activities made it harder for people to express political dissent and to support progressive organizations for labor and black rights.
- African American History: Erosion of Black Rights (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- African American History: Early Abolitionist Efforts (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- African American Responses and Rise of Populism (egrejeen.wordpress.com)
- African American History: Conservative Backlash (egrejeen.wordpress.com)