Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Pete Daniel


This study examines the scope, intensity, and complexity of the interracial violence in the ex-Confederate states from 1940 through 1946. Employing a survey and analysis approach, with the major peaks of violence during May 1943-August 1944 and August 1945-September 1946 as the most significant periods, this work will demonstrate that blacks in the South underwent a generally oppressive, not uplifting, experience during the war. While northern blacks and northern-based civil rights groups seemed to utilize the war era as a springboard for the "Second Reconstruction," most of the positive changes in fact emanated from political, economic, and military necessity rather than any great humanitarian impulse. Three forms of violence--lynchings, civilian riots, and military-related conflicts--confirm and illustrate the overall thesis. From 1940 through the spring of 1943 both lynching and military violence escalated in direct response to the exigencies of war, black attempts to break down the color line, and white attempts to preserve it. During mid-1943 major civilian riots erupted in Mobile and Beaumont, together with an alarming rise in mutinies by black soldiers in southern camps and bases. From then to the end of the war mutinies and lynchings continued, but with the end of the conflict came a resurgence of violence as the nation reconverted to a peacetime footing. Riots in Columbia, Tennessee, and Athens, Alabama, along with a serious increase in lynching, showed white reaction to wartime gains for blacks and a general fear of the changes returning black veterans might bring. In the end, blacks remained in as separate and unequal a society in 1946 as they had in 1940 below the Mason-Dixon Line. Thus, the wartime experience for southern blacks proved to be different from that of their counterparts elsewhere.

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