Year of Publication

2015

Season of Publication

Spring

Paper Type

Master's Thesis

College

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Department

History

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of History

First Advisor

Dr. Gregory Domber

Second Advisor

Dr. James Broomall

Third Advisor

Dr. Alan Bliss

Department Chair

Dr. Charles Closmann

College Dean

Dr. Barbara Hetrick

Abstract

This research explores the role of returning African American veterans in the Civil Rights Movement in Jacksonville from 1945-1960. Black World War II veterans not only faced the typical challenges of returning to civilian life, but took up the fight for equality as well. While this work acknowledges existing arguments about black veterans in the Civil Rights Movement, it emphasizes and analyzes the importance of their military benefits and experience. The mechanizing revolution that occurred in the United States military in this era had a lasting impact on the soldiers fighting as well as communities back home, Jacksonville included. This changing military dynamic necessitated an increase in support positions, meaning African American soldiers received training in various fields like combat, supply, and intelligence. This training translated into useful skills in the postwar period. The experiences of black soldiers while overseas also played a pivotal role, especially their interaction with foreign cultures. Often foreigners referred to black soldiers as "American" leaving off any racial distinction. Additionally, black veterans were able to attend college in unprecedented numbers because of their GI Bill benefits. Ernest Jackson earned undergraduate and legal degrees, and led the attack on segregation in Jacksonville. Elcee Lucas also went to school after exiting the service but used his military skills to orchestrate voter registration drives, and organize political campaigns. With their new skills and education, these men were not only able to organize and lead others but were equipped with the tools necessary to challenge the institutions that subverted their equality, greatly influencing the path of the Civil Rights Movement. Through their efforts, black veterans helped expose inadequacies with the existing structures and laws, thus adding to the justification for the later civil rights tactics that intentionally challenged and broke Jim Crow laws.

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