The Effects that World War i and World War II had on Minority Groups in America

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At the beginning of the 1900s, many problems were arising overseas that would eventually lead to the First World War. The expansion of the war happened quickly. Overall, thirty-two nations were involved. Twenty-eight of which were a part of the Associated powers (the Allies).

The Allies included the British Empire, France, Serbia, the United States of America, Italy, and Russia. The Central Powers that opposed them were Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire. In the beginning, President Woodrow Wilson pledged that the United States would remain Neutral.

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However, the US had a close relationship with Britain due to trade, who at the time was fighting Germany. Several US ships were damaged or sunken by German mines while traveling to Britain. On May 7th the Lusitania, a British ship, was torpedoed. Out of the 1,959 passengers on board, 1,198 were killed, including 128 Americans. After the sinking of the Lusitania public opinion about neutrality began to shift.

The American Housatonic liner was also sunk then in late March four more US merchant ships went down. The U.S. demanded an end to German attacks on merchant ships and unarmed vessels. Germany pledged to recognize US demands. However, in November sunk an Italian ship killing 272 people, including 27 Americans. Later the Zimmerman Telegram was discovered, this message from Germany to Mexico offered Mexico United States territory in return for joining Germany in their war effort.

On April 2nd President Wilson appeared before Congress and requested a declaration of war against Germany. Congress granted his request four days later. With men volunteering for the army an abundance of Women joined the workforce. The women’s land army was created to produce more food. Many women worked in axillary factories and took on jobs usually occupied by men. Nurses were even brought to the front lines to help treat wounded. World War I was also a transformative moment in African American history.

Although a small portion of African Americans opposed black participation in the war, most saw it as an opportunity to show patriotism. The US created two divisions for blacks, the 92nd, and 93rd. However while still discriminatory, the Army was more progressive in race relations than the other branches of the military. At the end with their service in protecting democracy, African American servicemen began to expect more equality in wages and job opportunities. These beliefs of advocating for social change and greater respect from white Americans became identified as the New Negro Movement.

When the United States joined the war, many things changed on US land. In the 1900s the US had taken in millions of immigrants, and at the start of the war, many feared that they could not serve the US loyally. Though many immigrants served honorably, they felt the hostility from other Americans on homeland, which led many to hide their heritage. Immigrants and their descendants took a more active role in public life after the war.

The First World War ultimately influenced the way immigrants and all minority groups were treated during the Second World War. The destruction of World War I had destabilized Europe, and in many ways, World War II grew out of issues left unresolved by the first War. In particular, Germany was in a state of political and economic instability, and had lingering anger over the harsh terms forced on them by the Versailles Treaty.

The Treaty of Versailles held Germany and Austria-Hungary accountable for the entire dispute and imposed on them crippling financial penalties, territorial dismemberment, and isolation. This eventually fueled Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and his National Socialist Party. Before the war began, the United States had entered a time of isolation. Americans viewed the conflict as Europe’s issue and wanted to stay away from it. Nevertheless, as the situation in Europe grew urgent, the United States began to slowly move towards the joining the war.

The war began with Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland in September 1939. However, the US officially joined the war on December 7th, 1941 after the Japanese bombed an American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Between the two incidents, President Franklin Roosevelt worked vigorously to prepare Americans for a fight he viewed as inevitable.

In November 1939, he urged Congress to repeal the arms embargo provisions of the neutrality law so arms could be marketed to Britain and France. After the fall of France, he pushed for a major military increase and began providing aid to Britain, which stood alone against the Axis powers. In order to succeed the US economy had to return to a war economy. It became essential to swiftly and efficiently build guns, ammunition, ships, planes, and tanks for the war effort.

The switch in the economy affected every individual living on US land. The war, in general, brought many changes to how wars were traditionally fought. For many African Americans, the war offered an opportunity to get out of the period of overwhelming poverty. Blacks joined the military in large numbers, escaping a decade of Depression and farming. Through this time the armed forces were still segregated. However, in the chaos of war, the separation began to break down.

The breakdown began as early as Pearl Harbor when a black man by the name Dorie Miller, fought back at the Japanese during the attack and was later rewarded with a medal. However, while one minority group was developing the start of the civil rights movement another was at war in their own home. About 74 days after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066. This order forced over 110,000 Japanese Americans to desert their homes and live in one of the ten detention camps in isolated parts of the United States. Of all the people gathered, none had been charged with a crime against the government. Their containment lay in the fact that they were Japanese and the US was at war with Japan. The majority of individuals had been born in the United States, and more than 70 percent of the people were American citizens.

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The Effects that World War I and World War II had on Minority Groups in America. (2019, Feb 08). Retrieved from