|Date(s):||June 22, 1944 to June 24, 1944|
|Location(s):||BALTIMORE, Maryland | Washington D.C.|
|Tag(s):||african americans, Civil Rights, WWII, Jim Crow, Segregation, G. I. Bill|
|Course:||“History of U.S. Presidential Elections,” Wayne State University|
|Rating:||5 (2 votes)|
In June of 1944, J. Saunders Redding published an opinion piece on the G. I. Bill of Rights in a column he wrote for The Baltimore Afro-American newspaper. African Americans who served in the segregated Armed Forces returned home from WWII to an equally segregated American society. Redding worried whether “colored men and woman would take advantage of its [G. I. Bill] provisions" because military officials were discouraging black veterans from applyiing for benefits or not telling them about the benefits at all. Redding’s fears reflected segregation in the South, where African Americans could not use the same bathrooms, dine with, or attend leisure events with white people. When white veterans discussed the newly passed G. I. Bill, African American veterans were not present. African Americans could not begin to receive veteran’s aid without the knowledge that such a program existed and how to apply for it.
The G. I. Bill did not have any explicit language in it that prevented African Americans from receiving its aid, but the segregation of American society made it likely that African American veterans would not get their share of veteran’s benefits. The bill offered four main benefits to veterans: business and home loans, education, unemployment compensation, and job placement. Policy makers designed these aspects of the bill to help veterans returning from WWII acclimate into society. However, when informed African American veterans went to local Veteran’s Administration centers for their G. I. Bill benefits, the administrators denied them their rights. The administrators covered up the racist denials with excuses that African American veterans did not qualify for veteran’s benefits based on the type of discharge order they received from the army. Only dishonorably discharged soldiers could not receive aid, but racist clerks at V. A. centers told African Americans their “general” or “blue” discharges were considered dishonorable.
In order to combat this inequality of civil rights, Redding urged newspapers and organizations to “put out a statement of what the bill means” so Americans, not just African American veterans, would understand that there was an aid bill and that the bill should apply to African Americans in addition to all other veterans. Denying African Americans the G. I. Bill aid would be harder for the local V. A. centers if more people knew about the bill and vocalized equality for African Americans.
Redding was an educated African American man with a degree in philosophy and held a respected opinion on contemporary African American thought. Redding supported WWII and hoped that it would change America in a way that would further the fight for African American’s civil rights. Redding’s column – A Second Look - vocalized his opinions on the problems and concerns of the common African American person and how to take action against them. Redding wanted to spread knowledge to help gain civil rights for African Americans.