The Role of Black WW II Veterans in Launching the Freedom/Civil Rights Movement

In this video by Daymon J. Hartley, posted 13 years ago, Nelson Peery, founder of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America, speaks about his evolution from “second-class citizen to first-class soldier” during his time in World War II (the Pacific Theatre, including Burma).

“When I came home from that war, I had three campaign ribbons; I had four battle stars. And I was a first-class soldier. And like a million other African-Americans who were discharged at that period of time, I had no intention of going back and becoming a second-class citizen. Because the journey of the African-American soldier was from second-class citizen to first-class soldier; and then the question was: Were you going to go back to become second-class citizens, or were you going to become first-class citizens?”

“And the civil rights movement that exploded in 1945-1946 was precisely because the refusal of the veterans to go back to where they were in 1940, or 1941, when they went into the army. So the foundation of the freedom movement that developed in that period of time was precisely led by the veterans, fueled by the very local situations. And nobody, to my knowledge, has adequately chronicled, adequately described and discussed, that period of time.”