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"First a Negro... Incidentally a Veteran": Black World War Two Veterans and the G. I. Bill of Rights in the Deep South, 1944-1948

David H. Onkst
Journal of Social History
Vol. 31, No. 3 (Spring, 1998), pp. 517-543
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3789713
Page Count: 27
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"First a Negro... Incidentally a Veteran": Black World War Two Veterans and the G. I. Bill of Rights in the Deep South, 1944-1948
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Abstract

This study questions several historical perceptions about the G.I. Bill of Rights, particularly the amount of impact the Bill had on a key portion of America's African American population. It does so by analyzing what happened to black World War Two veterans in the Deep South when they tried to obtain their G.I. entitlements from 1944 through 1948. The author argues that when former black servicemen in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi tried to use the G.I. Bill's four major entitlements (special job placement services, unemployment compensation, home and business loans, and educational subsidies) to improve their socioeconomic conditions and status, they could not do so because of a combination of racial discrimination and the poor administration of the bill's benefits. Ultimately, the article suggests that World War Two and the immediate postwar period did not represent the beginning of a new era of socioeconomic opportunity and change, or a watershed, for black veterans in the Deep South, at least not as far as their socioeconomic conditions were concerned. Southern black World War Two veterans had to return home to the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder and could not use the G.I. Bill to lift themselves above it.

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