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Chocolate CityA History of Race and Democracy in the Nation's Capital$
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Chris Myers Asch and George Derek Musgrove

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469635866

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469635866.001.0001

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Washington Is a Giant Awakened

Washington Is a Giant Awakened

Community Organizing in a Booming City, 1932–1945

(p.249) Nine Washington Is a Giant Awakened
Chocolate City

Chris Myers Asch

George Derek Musgrove

University of North Carolina Press

As the city boomed during the New Deal and World War II, a new generation of black activists and their allies arose to challenge Jim Crow, find decent housing, and fight for economic survival. They used new forms of protest, including boycotts, union organizing, and sit-ins, and they formed interracial alliances with a growing number of white people, in Washington and around the country, who saw racial inequality in the nation’s capital as a stain on America’s reputation. This experimentation produced mixed results at the time, but the community activism and interracial organizing of the 1930s and 1940s helped lay the foundation for the postwar civil rights movement. Nonetheless, determined white resistance at the local and federal levels largely preserved segregation in the nation’s capital during the war years. In fights against employment discrimination, segregated public spaces, and inadequate housing, racial egalitarians often achieved symbolic or small-scale victories but ultimately failed to defeat Jim Crow. Despite the sweeping rhetoric about freedom, democracy, and the “American Way” that accompanied the U.S. war effort, World War II stalled racial progress in D.C.

Keywords:   Jim Crow, Housing, Unions, Sit-ins, Civil rights, World War II, Democracy, Freedom

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